Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto urges Imran Khan’s party ‘not to make matters worse’, over party ban

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday urged Imran Khan’s party “not to make matters worse” and end its violent protest over his arrest, saying he was not not in favor of banning Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) despite the party attacking sensitive state facilities.
Addressing a press conference here, Bilawal, also chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said the PTI’s reaction to Khan’s arrest in a corruption case was “completely unwarranted”.
He advised the PTI leadership not to “make things worse [and] call for an end to violent protests,” the Dawn newspaper reported.
Khan, 70, was arrested on Tuesday on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) by paramilitary Rangers, who broke into a room in Islamabad’s high court where the head of the PTI was present for biometrics before the hearing of a corruption case.
His dramatic arrest sparked widespread violent protests across Pakistan, leaving at least eight people dead and nearly 300 others injured in clashes between protesters and law enforcement.
“It (the protest) is violent and has created a situation where serious conversations need to take place,” Bilawal said, adding that “those involved (in the violence) will be held accountable.”
He called on PTI supporters to “declare that you will respect the rule of law and the Constitution”, and asked them to accept that they will engage with the NAB as citizens and not as terrorists.
“What happened, happened. Don’t make it harder for yourself,” he said, quoted by The Express Tribune newspaper.
The army has been deployed in the country’s capital as well as in the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to maintain public order after Khan’s supporters stormed the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and set fire to the Lahore Corps Commander’s residence while attacking military vehicles. and facilities.
“I think the events show that the Pakistani state has shown extreme restraint, but also the Pakistani military,” Bilawal said, pointing out that if a general’s house was invaded or the headquarters of the armed forces attacked in any other country they would. be greeted with “a direct shot immediately”.
He said there were only two examples of attacks on the Pakistan Army Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi – once by the outlawed terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and then by the Khan’s supporters.
Bilawal stressed that he was “mainly opposed to the banning of any political party”, but added that “such decisions are taken in view of the circumstances”.
“If such a decision is made, it will be because there will be no other choice,” he said, adding that he would be the “last person” to approve such a decision.
Reprimanding Khan’s party, the foreign minister said that as a political party it would have limited its reaction to politics. “But the PTI had already decided that its reaction would not be political and that it would become a militant organization, that it would pick up stones and guns and attack the state,” he said.
“Any organization should have faced the music after yesterday’s terrorist activities,” he added.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said tough action would be taken against ‘enemies of the state’ as he criticized Khan’s party for the violence that gripped the country after his arrest.
“The disbelievers will be dealt with with iron hands. They will be punished according to law,” the prime minister said, and urged Khan’s supporters to immediately cease their “anti-state activities.”
Khan was remanded to the anti-corruption watchdog for eight days on Wednesday, while a magistrate court charged him in a separate corruption case amid violent protests.
Separately, the District and Sessions Court indicted Khan in the Toshakhana case.
The Toshakhana case was filed last year by the Election Commission of Pakistan, and Khan had skipped several hearings in recent months. The charges relate to the allegation that Khan concealed proceeds from the sale of state gifts.
Khan was present in court and pleaded not guilty when the charges were read. He also refused to sign court documents, according to Geo News.
The PTI leader was ousted in April after losing a vote of no confidence in his leadership, which he said was part of a US-led plot targeting him over his decisions independent foreign policy statements on Russia, China and Afghanistan.


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