The “attack” on the General Headquarters (GHQ) during the violent protests which followed the May 9 arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan was aligned with the anti-Pakistan agenda of India, declared the defense minister.

The government claimed supporters of Khan had “attacked” important state buildings and damaged private and public vehicles. In Punjab alone, thousands of his supporters have been arrested after police vehicles and government buildings were set on fire allegedly by the protesters.

Authorities in three of the four provinces imposed an emergency order banning all gatherings after the protestors clashed with police and the military.

During a rally organised by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Sialkot on Sunday to demonstrate solidarity with the military, Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that “Pakistan’s very existence was assaulted [sic] on May 9. A person (Khan) orchestrated this attack solely for his own pursuit of power.”

Asif expressed his deep regret over the impact of the “attack” on the sacred monuments and how the families and heirs of the martyrs must have felt. He asserted: “I never question anyone’s loyalty, but I do question the intentions of those who orchestrated the attacks on May 9.”

He also made it clear that there will be no establishment of “new military courts” to prosecute individuals involved in the protests.

“No new military courts are being set up. The law already exists at present. Courts are in place and have been functioning continuously for the past 75 years,” he said.

Emphasising that the government is not depriving anyone of their fundamental rights, the minister affirmed that legal action would be taken against protestors who have been clearly identified through footage and other evidence as “attackers”.

Prior to addressing the rally, the minister visited the martyrs’ monument in Chawinda, the site of a tank battle between Pakistan and India in the 1965 war, where he placed a wreath of flowers on the graves of the fallen soldiers and offered prayers.

He praised the bravery of the dead in defeating the Indian army, saying: “I pay homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our country.”

Without explicitly naming the former prime minister, Asif criticised “a political leader” for “targeting the military” in precarious circumstances. He also accused Khan of involving external elements in their “attacks” and urged the people to “demonstrate genuine love” for the army, disregarding the protests.

Asif emphasised the unwavering strength of the Pakistan Army and the sacrifices made by its courageous soldiers for the nation. He emphasised the importance of expressing solidarity to acknowledge the sacrifices of the forces and foster national unity.

“These individuals seek to regain power,” he said.