PESHAWAR: A local court on Saturday granted bail to an Afghan youngster held by the police on the charge of spreading hatred by displaying his country’s flag on a billboard.
Judicial magistrate Noorul Haq accepted the bail petition of the suspect, Naimat, asking him to furnish two surety bonds valuing Rs90,000 each.
He was produced in the court on the completion of one-day physical remand to record statement on the charge. He denied spreading hatred. The 19-year-old, who lives in Peshawar’s Tajabad area, was arrested on Thursday by the officials of University Town police station when a picture of him displaying an Afghan flag on a billboard near Board Bazaar area went viral on social media.
An FIR was registered against him under Section 153-A of Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with the offence of promoting enmity between different groups through words or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise.
Salim Shah Hoti, lawyer for the petitioner, said under Section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prior permission of the provincial or federal government was required to register a case under Section 153-A.
He said an SHO or any other individual was not authorised to register an FIR without the government’s permission. The lawyer referred to several superior court judgments to support his contentions and said the SHO had overstepped his authority in the case. He said the FIR’s contents didn’t fall in the section of that law.
The lawyer said displaying his national flag by the petitioner was not a crime and there was no evidence that he had been spreading hatred among different groups.
Salim Shah said the alleged offence didn’t fall in the prohibitory provisions of Section 497 of CrPC as it was punishable up to five years imprisonment.
He said the Afghan flag was displayed by the petitioner on Aug 12, while the FIR was registered three days later on Aug 15.
A state prosecutor opposed the petition and contended that the suspect had deliberately displayed the Afghan flag on occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day and that he wanted to create hatred among Afghan refugees and Pakistani citizens on ethnic grounds. Several staff members of Afghan embassy and consulate appeared in the court to observe proceedings.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019