May 9 anniversary: President Zardari remembers ‘dark day’ as PM Shehbaz laments treachery

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DNA

ISLAMABAD: As the country observes the first anniversary of the May 9 riots, President Asif Ali Zardari termed the incident as a “dark day” in the country’s history which severely tarnished the country’s image.

Lamenting the riots for serving the interests of Pakistan’s enemies, President Zardari said that politically instigated attacks by mobs on military installations were an “attempt to challenge the writ of the state, undermine the rule of law and weaken the institutions”.

The president’s remarks refer to the riots that broke out after the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest in the £190 million settlement case and saw hundreds of protestors storming and vandalising military installations and government buildings across the country.

During the protests, the miscreants targeted the civil and military installations including — Jinnah House and the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. The military termed May 9 “Black Day” and decided to try the protesters under the Army Act.

The incident resulted in a nationwide crackdown against the PTI which saw hundreds of people being arrested, some of whom are being tried by military courts, for their alleged involvement in the riots.

Moreover, dozens of senior leaders and political figures also parted ways with the former ruling party in their bid to distance them from the incident.

“We have never seen such vandalism in responsible democracies, with violent mobs wreaking havoc on state properties for political gains,” President Zardari said while stressing that any attempt to misuse these rights to incite violence would never be tolerated.

Calling for accountability and that those responsible for the incident to be brought to justice, the president underscored the need for a united effort by all political parties to promote “tolerance, democratic values, and political dialogue, and provide a clear direction to the nation”.

Terming the right to protest and constructive criticism as a key part of the Constitution, Zardari said that such rights must be exercised with “utmost responsibility, adhering strictly to the bounds of constitutional and legal provisions”.

Nation betrayed for personal gains

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in a statement, termed the May 9 riots a day that effectively separated those who believe in sacrifice for the country on one hand, and those who betray the country for personal gains.

“One year ago today, not only were symbols of our national pride and honour attacked, but the sanctity of our sacred homeland was also assaulted,” the prime minister said in a statement on his X account on Thursday.

He further ruled out any forgiveness for those who orchestrated, supported, and assisted the attempt to damage the foundations of the country.”On one hand, we have the great sons of the soil, their families, and the patriotic people who have shed their blood for the country, on the other hand, we have those who are consumed by the fire of hatred and have no regard for the national interests, institutions, constitution, or laws,” PM Shehbaz said in another statement issued a day earlier.

Stressing the sacrifices made by the martyrs, the premier said: “We promise to the country, the great martyrs, their heirs, and the nation that May 9 will never be forgotten […] we must move forward, overcome the challenges, and create a bright future for our future generations”.

“Let us honour the memories of our martyrs and continue our journey towards progress and prosperity,” the prime minister added.

The PM is scheduled to address a special event in connection with May 9 incidents at the Convention Centre Islamabad to mark the first anniversary of last year’s riots.

Sources say that a special meeting of the federal cabinet would be held at parliament house today and declare May 9 as “black day”. 

The Punjab and Balochistan assemblies have also been summoned on May 9 to condemn the incidents, the sources added.

Undecided May 9 cases irks Centre

A day earlier, the federal government expressed its concerns over the lack of decisions in the prosecution of people allegedly involved in the May 9 riots wondering why the cases have not been decided yet, publication reported on Thursday.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar lamented that despite irrefutable evidence against perpetrators of the May 9 riots, neither the challans have been presented nor the accused have been sentenced.

Recalling the riots as a day when a chaos-prone political gang hatched a conspiracy and attacked Pakistan’s integrity, security and development, Tarar said the courts should expedite cases against the culprits, who did not hesitate to desecrate martyrs’ monuments and targeted state institutions and buildings of national pride including the Jinnah House Lahore.

The minister also urged the youth to be aware of the elements which were hell-bent on creating uncertainty and chaos to hinder Pakistan’s development and progress. 

May 9 concerns whole nation

On Tuesday, the army, via Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry had also called for the petrators and facilitators of the May 9 riots to be brought to justice to preserve the credibility and faith in the country’s justice system.

“The issue of May 9 riots is not limited to the Pakistan Army but [in fact] concerns the whole nation,” the military’s spokesperson said while addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi.

“We saw that only military installations were attacked within a span of few hours [and] you saw the public outrage when evidence for this came to limelight.

“The lies and deceit cannot continue […] the people accused of being involved in May 9 riots need to be punished,” said the chief military spokesperson.