A close adviser to Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan and a local media outlet may face sedition charges after allegedly encouraging rebellion in the mighty military, according to the country’s interior minister.
The claims arose from remarks made by Khan adviser Shahbaz Gill that were broadcast on ARY TV on Monday night and that the minister, Rana Sanaullah, claimed were part of a deliberate effort to disparage the military.
He said the accused would face sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military. “We’ve set up a special team to probe it,” he told reporters in Islamabad, adding, “It was a planned move to malign our institutions.”
Gill and ARY TV’s head of news, Ammad Yousaf, had been arrested, police officials Asad Abbas and Naeem Tahir told Reuters.
The arrests came late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, a day after a state-run media regulator said in a statement that it had ordered ARY News to be taken off air for airing “false, hateful and seditious” content.
Khan said Gill was mistreated during his arrest and called for a fair trial, adding the charges were a conspiracy to pit his party against the military.
“If he has done something wrong, something that’s illegal, charge him, and give him a chance to defend himself in a court,” he said in a recorded video statement aired by local TV channels.
Gill had said in the TV appearance that there were attempts to create hatred against Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party among the middle and lower ranks of the military, whom he said loved the party.
He suggested the junior ranks were being pressured by the top brass and that these orders were against the wishes of the majority, and that the junior ranks should reconsider following orders that were against their principles.
The TV channel’s owner, Salman Iqbal, said in a tweet that the comments were Gill’s personal opinion, which his media house had nothing to do with.
Both Khan’s party and the media house were considered pro-military until he was ousted in a confidence vote in April by an opposition alliance.
Analysts say Khan, who was brought to power in a 2018 election with the military’s support, had fallen out with the powerful generals in his final months in office.
Both Khan and the military deny that.