A close aide to Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan will face sedition charges, accused of inciting mutiny in the military, the interior minister has said.
The charges were related to comments made by Khan adviser Shahbaz Gill and aired on ARY TV on Monday night, which the minister, Rana Sanaullah, said was a planned move to malign the military.
He said the accused would face sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military. “We’ve set up a special team to probe it,” he told reporters in Islamabad on Wednesday, adding, “It was a planned move to malign our institutions.”
According to the related police report, ARY owner Salman Iqbal, company vice president Ammad Yousaf and three other station staff are accused of “sedition”, “abetting mutiny” and “conspiracy”, the AFP news agency reported.
The arrests came late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, a day after a state-run media regulator said it had ordered ARY News to be taken off air for airing “false, hateful and seditious” content.
Khan said Gill was mistreated during his “abduction” and called for a fair trial, adding the charges were a conspiracy to pit his party against the military.
“If he has done something wrong, something that’s illegal, charge him, and give him a chance to defend himself in a court,” he said in a recorded video statement aired by local TV channels.
He also wrote in a tweet: “This is an abduction, not an arrest. Can such shameful acts take place in any democracy? Political workers (are) treated as enemies. And all to make us accept (a) foreign-backed government of crooks.”
Gill had said in the TV appearance that there were attempts to create hatred against Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice, PTI) party among the middle and lower ranks of the military, whom he said loved the party.
He suggested the junior ranks were being pressured by the top brass and that these orders were against the wishes of the majority, and that the junior ranks should reconsider following orders that were against their principles.
Salman Iqbal had said in a tweet that the comments were Gill’s personal opinion, which his media house had nothing to do with.
Both Khan’s party and the media house were considered pro-military until he was removed in a confidence vote in April by an opposition alliance.
ARY is a longtime supporter of Khan. The former prime minister has been critical of the military since losing his seat.
Pakistan has been ruled by the military for roughly half its 74-year history and criticism of the country’s powerful security establishment has long been seen as a red line.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES