Imran Khan masterminded May 9 violence to remove Army chief: Close aide
Pakistan's jailed former prime minister Imran Khan masterminded the May 9 violence and planned the attacks on sensitive military installations with an aim to remove Army Chief General Asim Munir, his close aide Usman Dar has said.
Dar, regarded as one of Khan's trusted aides, had reportedly gone underground after unrest broke out in Pakistan following the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief's arrest by paramilitary Rangers on May 9, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Dozens of military and state buildings, including the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the ISI building in Faisalabad, were torched and vandalised by many PTI activists during the unprecedented violence that broke out after Khan's arrest. Dar, who served as the head of the PTI's Tiger Force, an organisation comprising young volunteers, reemerged on Wednesday and levelled serious allegations against Khan on a TV programme.
Dar claimed that the planning to target sensitive installations in the May 9 violence was done in a meeting chaired by Khan, and instructions to attack these were passed in case of the former premier's arrest. "[At the meetings at Khan's Lahore residence-- Zaman Park] it was discussed that we should attack state institutions if needed in order to put pressure on them," Dar said during the interview. Dar said that the purpose of the May 9 violence was to exert pressure on the military and remove Gen Munir from his position.
He added that May 9 was merely a date, and the conspiracy against the military had been brewing for a long period, the report said. Khan, who turned 71 on Thursday, is currently jailed in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail in the cipher case for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by disclosing a cable sent by the country’s embassy in Washington last year in March. He has since remained behind bars on judicial remand, which has been extended until October 10.
Dar also alleged that the long march of October 2022 led by Khan to force the government to announce a date for early general elections was organised to prevent General Munir's appointment as the army chief. Dar, who announced his decision to quit the PTI party and politics during the interview, said that a narrative was built in the party that the arrest of the party chairman should be thwarted at all costs.
Subsequently, party workers swarmed at Khan's residence to prevent his arrest. Pointing out that there were two camps in the party, one of which called for adopting a reconciliatory approach towards state institutions and the other in favour of taking the state institution head-on, Dar said that the former premier was inclined towards the latter's narrative. "Imran Khan presided over a meeting where the planning and implementation of the events of May 9 took place, and he endorsed an anti-state narrative," Dar was quoted as saying by Samaa TV.
Khan's Special Assistant on Youth Affairs added that the PTI chief was himself responsible for the situation of the PTI party, which, he said, "is in the state of disintegration". He also blamed the PTI chief for using the party workers as "a human shield to avoid facing arrest," according to the report.
Meanwhile, in a strongly worded reaction, the PTI party said Dar's interview had neither any significance in the public eye nor legal status, according to the Nation newspaper. After spending 24 days in the custody of unknown kidnappers, Dar's appearance on a private TV channel undoubtedly exposed the kidnappers themselves, a spokesperson of the party said in a statement.
Last month, a joint investigation team constituted to probe the violence in Punjab province following Khan's arrest informed an anti-terrorism court that the PTI chief and several top leaders of his party were directly involved in orchestrating the unprecedented anti-government violence on May 9. According to Lahore police, Khan and over 900 other party leaders and activists named in the May 9 cases have been "declared guilty of serious offences", the report said.
In the chargesheets filed before the court, the prosecution alleged that the violent protests led by the suspects on May 9 were part of a planned conspiracy against the state.