May 9 Riots: Black Day In Pakistan’s History

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Political rivalry and criticism are normal features of a democratic society. However, the manner in which the May 9 riots in Pakistan were carried out, leaves a bad mark on public perception and the social security environment of country, as a whole. Political leaders who enjoy immense public support are expected to operate within the bounds of the Constitution. Contrarily, a criminal mind alone would introduce radical ideas and incite his supporters to attack on the emblem of the state. The problem with Pakistan’s political supporters is that they rarely seek to investigate things closely and thus end up acting as a convenient lure for the exploitative political leaders. 

May 9, 2023, was marked as a “Black Day” by National Security Committee in Pakistan, once a mob of followers of a dominant political party attacked the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. It was one of the many attacks which were launched on military installations and homes of military Generals across the country inflicting colossal damage to material and hurt to the nation’s pride. This also led to political unrest in Pakistan at a pivotal juncture of time, where political leaders in their self-centered motivation targeted security personnel and security installations across the country.

Political processes frequently suffer from a lack of credibility and trust, when political leaders persistently target their opponents. When politicians launch hostile and divisive attacks on each other, it exacerbates divisions in the society. Imran Khan’s case is quite relatable as far as Pakistani politics goes. His way of criticizing the opponents has reduced public confidence in the political system, and many people now believe that the Government’s policies undermine democracy and the rule of law in the country. 

The military tribunals may have specialized expertise and experience in dealing with certain offences or circumstances, especially those involving military personnel or concerns pertaining to national defence. With regard to high-profile cases that have attracted substantial public attention, the choice to use military court hearings could be driven by a need to reassure the public that justice would be delivered promptly and effectively.

Also Read: Reflecting on The 9th May Riots: A Year On

The Pakistan Army Act (PAA) – 1952, and the Official Secret Act – 1923, allow trials of civilians in military courts in such circumstances, that include mutiny, spying, and taking photographs in ‘Prohibited’ areas. Clause (a) of Sub-Section (3) of Section 2 of the PAA – 1952 also states that people who “raise arms or wage war against Pakistan or attack the Armed Forces of Pakistan or law enforcement agencies or attack any civil or military installations in Pakistan”, would be held accountable under the PAA. Pakistan Police have handed over thirty-three civilian suspects to the Army for trials in military courts with charges of attacking sensitive defence installations, stealing Government equipment, ransacking official material and other equipment. The Government claims that those responsible for creating violence will face trials in civilian courts, but those who entered and were responsible for creating violence in military installations, will be held accountable in military courts, due to sensitivity of the matter.

Military court proceedings may be seen as a way to protect the integrity of democratic system in situations, where the offenders’ actions are perceived as an immediate assault on democratic structures or procedures and higher national interest. In addition to this, leaders can articulate their goals for the nation, participate in constructive disagreement, and seek to reach an agreement to such violent instances. By highlighting the shared interests and common aims that might bring the country together, this strategy can help to remove gaps and lessen polarization. Furthermore, there is need to build an understanding that the military is the only shield, protecting the nation from external threats because “if the military is not there, some other country’s military will be there”.

Dispensation of justice to the perpetrators, masterminds and facilitators of the May 9 riots is a reminder that state and its institutions are not to be ransacked by any group of vested political interests. Desecration of martyrs of Pakistan, symbols and monuments add another complexity into heinous list of crimes of such people. Nation has not forgotten and will not forget those, who hurt their pride, rampaged state institutions and brought the country to prolonged spell of instability.

This article is for informational purposes only. Find the original publication here.

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