Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said the government is mulling a possible ban on Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party following the attacks by his supporters on military installations after the former prime minister's arrest.
On May 9, violent protests erupted after the arrest of 70-year-old Khan by paramilitary Rangers. His party workers vandalised a dozen military installations, including the Lahore Corps Commander house, Mianwali airbase and the ISI building in Faisalabad. The Army headquarters in Rawalpindi was also attacked by the mob for the first time. Police put the death toll in violent clashes to 10.
Talking to the media here, Asif said that Khan was still reluctant to condemn the attacks by his supporters on military and civilian installations.
"A decision (to ban PTI) has not been taken yet, but a review is surely underway,” he told reporters.
He, however, said that the matter will be referred to the Parliament for approval if the government finally decides to ban the former ruling party.
The minister said that the former premier considered the army as his adversary. "His (Khan's) entire politics was done in the lap of the army and today he has suddenly decided to stand against it," Asif said.
The minister said that Khan’s own leaders who had quit the party were saying the same thing. "Whatever I am saying is being said by all the people leaving PTI," he said. “They have said that everything happened with planning. In fact, they were facilitated.”
He also criticized Khan for not condemning the attacks on the military facilities.
"Till now, he (Imran) has not condemned [the violence] in clear words. He says that he did not know, he was [in custody]. He had his phone […] he repeated that this reaction was expected and will happen again if he is arrested,” said Asif.
Asif claimed that the vandalism of military installations across the country on May 9 was “coordinated attacks" planned by Khan.
"There is a lot of evidence and their people are telling themselves that they were briefed about this beforehand,” he said. "I feel that his struggle of a year … all his plans failed and this was his last move against the armed forces.”
The minister said that Khan's party challenged the foundation of the state by “challenging the defence installations” on May 9.
"Is there any crime that was not committed on May 9? The ISI office was attacked, they tried to enter the Cantonment in Sialkot but that attack was repulsed … they also set fire to the Lahore Corps Commander’s house,” he claimed.
However, PTI leader Barrister Ali Zafar said that the party would challenge the ban in the court as a political party cannot be banned. He told the media that when a ban was imposed on the Jamaat-i-Islami in the 1960s, it was set aside by then-chief justice Alvin Robert Cornelius.
"Efforts were made to put a ban on Jamaat-i-Islami long ago. The SC had said that you cannot ban a political party and it is everyone’s right to form a political party,” Zafar said.
He further said that vandalism was an individual act and “a political party cannot be banned”.
The defence minister also said that the coalition government would take every such step to prevent others from targeting the armed forces in the future. He also said that May 25 will be celebrated to pay tribute to the country's slain soldiers.
Khan's party said that he will address the nation at 7pm tonight.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.