Pakistan’s deep state is furious with the events of the last few days that have challenged its primacy in Pakistan. The strong statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) after the Corps Commanders conference held on May 15 demonstrated that.
In an editorial the Dawn noted “Past attacks on the institution on a much smaller scale have elicited similar responses; this time, the scale of the attack was much larger. The images of the gates to GHQ being forced open, monuments to heroes being defaced, citizens pelting army vehicles with stones, and the burning down of a corps commander’s residence will not be easy to scrub away from public memory. Hence, a decision appears to have been made to replace them with a memory of abiding dread.”
The ISPR statement referred to the violence by Imran Khan’s supporters as “a well coordinated arson plan involving desecration of Shuhada pictures, monuments, burning down of historical buildings and vandalism of military installations” that “was executed to malign the institution and provoke it towards giving an impulsive reaction.” The ISPR stated that “those involved in these heinous crimes against the military installations and personal/ equipment will be brought to justice through trials under relevant laws of Pakistan including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secret Act.”
The statement that any perpetrators and collaborators will be prosecuted under the Army Act led to strong condemnation by human rights groups. In a statement the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan “strongly opposed the use of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and Official Secrets Act 1923 to try civilians. While those responsible for arson and damaging public and private property during the recent protests should be held to account, they remain entitled to due process. All those civilians tried under these acts in the past should also have their cases transferred to civil courts.” However, the military must bear in mind that laws governing the armed forces were meant to maintain discipline and perpetuate control, not punish citizens.