ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday vowed to take legal action against former premier Imran Khan for “challenging” Pakistan’s state, constitution and institutions in a speech at a public rally in Abbottabad.
Khan has been holding rallies since last month when he was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote. He has repeatedly described the downfall of his administration as the result of a foreign conspiracy hatched in the United State and implemented in Pakistan by local actors. The US denies the charge.
Since his ouster, Khan and his supporters have also variously expressed disappointment in the all-powerful military and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for not siding with his government or blocking the success of the no confidence motion filed by a joint opposition.
In an address in Abbottabad on Sunday, Khan referred to Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq, two leaders in the 18th century who have become symbols of treachery in subcontinental history for siding with the British as they colonized the region. Narrating their stories, Khan reminded his supporters that Mir Jaffar had joined hands with the British despite being the commander-in-chief of a governor of the Mughal emperor while Mir Sadiq betrayed Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore.
It was unclear if he was using the metaphors to refer to the Pakistan army, or the opposition parties that ousted him.
“Those concocting a narrative against national institutions were the real Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq,” a statement released by Sharif on Sunday night said. “The state of Pakistan, constitution of Pakistan, and the respected institutions of Pakistan were challenged by Imran Khan in Abbottabad on Sunday.”
The PM said legal action would be taken against the “anti-state” speech.
Soon after Khan’s removal from office last month, top trending hashtags on Twitter targeted the army, the judiciary and the new government, with tweets using those hashtags garnering over five million posts. One hashtag that remained the top trend in Pakistan for days was #BajwaSurrender.
On Sunday, the media wing of the army issued a statement urging journalists and politicians to stop making “direct, insinuated or nuanced references to the armed forces as well as their senior leaders.”
“This practice of unsubstantiated, defamatory and provocative statements /remarks is extremely damaging,” the statement said. “Pakistan Armed Forces take strong exception to such unlawful and unethical practice and expect all to abide by the law and keep the Armed Forces out of political discourse in the best interest of the country.”