Pakistan's Imran Khan moves top court against military trial of civilians

People shower rose petals on Pakistan's paramilitary soldiers during a rally to show solidarity with Pakistan's army in Karachi on May 19, 2023. (Photo/AFP)

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan has approached the country's top court against the trial of his supporters in military courts and deployment of armed forces in parts of the country, requesting the apex court to term the move unconstitutional.

Calling it "undeclared martial law," the embattled former premier petitioned that the arrests, investigations, and trials under the Army Act of 1952 "amount to negation of the Constitution, rule of law and independence of the judiciary."

He said the arrests of members, supporters and workers of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf [PTI] party under the Maintenance of Public Order law are "illegal," and all those detained should be set free.

Pakistan's government invoking Article 245 deployed military in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the capital Islamabad over violence after Khan's controversial arrest on May 9.

His brief detention, which was later declared illegal, had sparked protests and attacks on state and military installations.

People chant slogans as they observe the "Day of Honoring Martyrs" to show solidarity with the Pakistan Armed Forces, during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan, on May 25, 2023. (Photo/Reuters)

Since then, thousands of suspects, including top PTI leaders, have been detained, and the army says it will try the rioters under military laws.

Khan, who challenged the deployment of troops in civilian areas earlier this week as well, also called for a judicial commission to probe the incidents.

Under pressure to denounce the violence, several former parliamentarians and leaders have quit Khan's party or politics. Khan said the top court should declare forced separation of the PTI leaders from the party as "unconstitutional."

Government defends military trials

Since being removed from power, he has been campaigning for snap general elections, which are due later this year.

On Wednesday however, Khan softened his year-long demand for early elections and said he is forming a committee for talks with the government to end the country's lingering political turmoil.

Meanwhile, General Asim Munir, Pakistan's army chief, addressing a ceremony marking Martyrs Reverence Day in Rawalpindi, said the nation will "neither forgive nor forget" those involved in "desecrating memorials of martyrs and harming their dignity."

Separately, an anti-terrorism court in Lahore directed police to hand over 16 suspects arrested in connection with vandalism at Lahore Corps Commander's House to the military.

One of the 16 suspects is a member of Khan's political party and had been chosen by Khan to run in the next provincial elections, a senior member of Khan's legal team, Azhar Siddique, told the Reuters news agency.

"The 16 will be investigated by the military and tried in military courts," he said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif defended the military trials, saying "the gravity of the offence" demanded such measures.

"There is going to be absolute transparency in these cases," he promised. "There are three layers of appeals that go through the army chief, the high court and then the Supreme Court."

Military courts operate under a separate system from the civilian legal system. Trials are closed to outsiders, and no media is allowed. Rights groups have criticised the secretive nature of the process.

The protests coincided with Pakistan's worst economic crisis in decades, with record high inflation, anaemic growth and IMF funding delayed for months, prompting concerns that the country could default on its external payment obligations.

The military has ruled the South Asian nation for almost half its history through three coups.


Source: TRT World