Judicial magistrate Mohammad Shoaib Akhtar on Wednesday sent 23 individuals to Adiala Jail, a day after they were arrested outside Islamabad's National Press Club, ordering that these individuals be presented again on February 12.
On Tuesday, Islamabad police had arrested PTM leader and MNA Mohsin Dawar and 28 others from outside the press club where they had gathered to stage a protest against the arrest of PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen, who was arrested from Peshawar on Monday and shifted to Dera Ismail Khan in a sedition case pertaining to a speech he made in DI Khan on January 18.
Following yesterday's protest, police registered a case against 23 of the 28 individuals detained in Islamabad. Dawar, who was released from custody earlier this morning, was not named in the first-information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
The FIR, which was registered at Islamabad's Kohsar Police Station, includes charges under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (assault on public servant), 147 (rioting),149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 505-A (defaming army), 505-B (statements conducing to public mischief), 124-A (sedition), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 186 (obstructing public servant from discharging duties) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR says police had informed the protesters that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was imposed in the Islamabad territory as a result of which five or more than five people were not allowed to gather. It stated, however, the protesters had chanted slogans against the Pakistan Army and the state and had chanted slogans in favour of Pashteen. They had also blocked a road.
The 23 protesters were presented before the judicial magistrate in a local court in Islamabad today as the police requested judicial remand.
During the proceedings, Asad Jamal, counsel for the held protesters, pleaded that the case against them be discharged.
He told the court that they had not caused any destruction or posed any sort of resistance during the protest.
He alleged that police was under pressure which was why it lodged a case despite the protest being completely peaceful.
"The police case is based in bad faith. Sections 505-A (defaming army), 505-B (statements conducing to public mischief) and 124-A (sedition) [of the Pakistan Penal Code] do not apply," he said, adding: "Police say that slogans were chanted against forces. Who was leading the chants? What evidence does the police have?"
Meanwhile, the police said they still had to make a challan and collect some evidence.
Sending the 23 individuals to Adiala Jail, the judicial magistrate ordered that they be presented again on February 12.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Dawar had confirmed that he had been released from jail and added that other protesters remained in custody.
According to police sources, he was released because he had to appear before a court in Abbottabad today in connection with a case regarding the Kharqamar clash.
In a post on Twitter, Dawar said the PTM was protesting against the arrest of Pashteen during which they were arrested.
"There wasn't a single report of violence by protesters from around the world. I attended the protest in Islamabad and the protesters here were as peaceful as in the other places," he said.
In a subsequent tweet, he added: "However, the state reminded us once again that our rights don't mean much as they didn't bother to create even flimsy grounds for our arrests. I was dragged along with other comrades of PTM and [Awami Workers Party] AWP including Ismat Shahjahan, Ammar Rashid and many others."
The MNA said that following the arrests they were distributed to various police stations.
"I was told by the police that they were setting me free. I told them that I will not go until all the others are set free as well. Then they came back again, telling me that they will set all free so I decided to leave," he wrote.
Dawar, however, said he had since found out that some of the protesters were still in jail, adding that after getting a full idea of the number of protesters still in custody, they would protest until all were released.
"As our freedoms are shrinking silence is not an option. The fight to win back our right to dissent, is a common cause that transcends ethnicities and beliefs. Speak up and be counted, your life means nothing if you don't have the freedom to disagree," he concluded.
PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.
The party has been critical of the state's policies in the country's tribal belt, where a massive operation against terrorists was conducted in recent times leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances.
PTM's leaders, in particular its elected members to the National Assembly, have come under fire for pursuing the release of individuals detained by authorities without due process. The army alleges the party of running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state's enemies.
Last year, two of PTM's MNAs — Dawar and Ali Wazir — were arrested by police after a protest gathering in Kharqamar for allegedly using violence and clashing with army personnel. The party while rejecting these allegations, insisted that theirs is a peaceful struggle for the rights of people from the country's tribal belt.
Additional reporting by Inamullah Khattak