In a significant development, a Pakistani court in Lahore has handed over sixteen civilians to the military for trial due to their suspected involvement in violent protests that erupted following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month.
Following the outbreak of violence, the military declared that the suspects would face trial in military courts primarily used to prosecute individuals considered enemies of the state. The arrest of Imran Khan on May 9 was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court two days later.
The protests that unfolded after Khan’s arrest, led by his supporters, saw individuals storming military installations, including the residence of a top general in Lahore, and setting them ablaze. In the aftermath of the destructions, thousands of people were rounded up by authorities.
Among the sixteen suspects is a member of Imran Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who had been selected by Khan himself to contest in the upcoming provincial elections, according to a senior member of Khan’s legal team.
Military courts function independently of the civilian legal system, conducting closed-door trials without media access. These secretive proceedings have faced criticism from human rights organizations concerned about transparency and due process.
The timing of the protests coincided with Pakistan’s severe economic crisis, marked by skyrocketing inflation, sluggish growth, and prolonged delays in obtaining funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). There are growing concerns that the country may default on its external payment obligations due to these challenges.
It is noteworthy that Pakistan has experienced military rule for nearly half of its history through three coups.