A case was registered on Monday against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and other party leaders at the Shahdara police station in Lahore for 'conspiring' against the country and state institutions.
The case was registered by a citizen, Badar Rasheed, under Section 10 (cyberterrorism) of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (2016), and sections 120-A (definition of criminal conspiracy), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against Pakistan), 123-A (condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty), 124-A (sedition) and 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR also names party leaders Maryam Nawaz, Rana Sanaullah, Ahsan Iqbal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pervez Rashid, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Ataullah Tarar and others that participated in the PML-N's Central Executive Committee and Central Working Committee meetings held last week.
The complainant states that Nawaz has several corruption cases against him that are currently under trial in the courts. "Instead of availing medical treatment in London, Nawaz is carrying out a planned conspiracy to defame the country and its institutions by making inflammatory speeches," says the FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
It alleges that in the speeches made on September 20 and October 1, the former premier supported the policies of neighbouring India, so that Pakistan would continue to remain on the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) 'grey list'.
"The main purpose of Nawaz's speeches is to isolate Pakistan in front of the international community and to declare it a rogue state," the complaint says. It adds that Nawaz is trying to turn the people against the democratically elected government.
The aim of the speeches is also to divert attention from human rights violations in occupied Kashmir to benefit Nawaz's "friend" Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the complainant says.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court on Monday dismissed a plea seeking a ban on Nawaz's speeches. The court, in its verdict, said: "The tendency of invoking the constitutional jurisdiction of a High Court in matters involving political content is certainly not in public interest and that too when the law provides for alternate remedies."
The petition stated that Nawaz has started actively participating in politics and has initiated a smear campaign against state institutions, after going abroad on the pretext of availing medical treatment.
'Govt trying to suppress opposition'
PML-N leader Zafar Iqbal issued a statement condemning the registration of the case. "Registering treason cases against politicians cannot hide the ineptitude of the government. Instead of addressing unemployment, inflation and poverty, the government is using state machinery to suppress the opposition."
In a statement posted on Twitter, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the registration of the case was proof of the fact that the "selected" government was "panicking".
"Voices fighting for the truth and for the rights [of the people] can't be suppressed by such false and baseless cases." She added that political opponents, the media, and those fighting for human rights and democracy were now being labelled as "traitors".
While speaking to reporters, PML-N leader and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the FIR was "another black mark in the fictional history books of Pakistan", adding that it had a "unique position among allegations of treason" in the history of the country.
"I request the federal ministers not to take support of Badar Rasheed and get FIRs registered with [their] own names so people can see [their] reality," he said.
Abbasi said that such "black tactics" would not work and time had come for the government to show its performance. "The traitor is the one who destroys the economy and barters Kashmir. No minister has talked of inflation, sugar, wheat, unemployment and corruption. We are here. If you have courage, then arrest us and pursue cases [against us]."
PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said that the government's "incompetency" could not be hidden by declaring PML-N leaders as traitors.
"The government is trying to hide its incompetency by trying to fool people into thinking we are traitors," he alleged.
"Today, the people who built Pakistan, increased electricity generation, negotiated CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) [...] lifted the economy are traitors and people who brought growth of economy in negative are patriotic."
Iqbal said the FIR claimed that PML-N wanted to build a narrative against institutions to detract attention from the Kashmir issue but in fact, the party questioned the government about "what happened in naya Pakistan that India got the courage to revoke the territory's disputed status".
"Either you have made Pakistan so weak [that India got the courage to revoke the status] or you have made a bargain and people want to know. But whoever asks this question is deemed a traitor. If asking questions about inflation, unemployment [...] and the government's failed foreign policy is treason, then we are not ashamed but proud of it," he said.
"I want to tell PTI to ask your interior minister to register FIR under his own name," he added.
PM expressed displeasure at FIR: minister
Responding to journalist Hamid Mir's tweet about the registration of the FIR against the PML-N leaders, federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan was unhappy with the registration of the case.
"The prime minister was not aware of any such FIR; when I brought it to his knowledge ... he expressed strong displeasure," Chaudhry wrote.
In another tweet, the minister said instituting sedition cases was "not our policy" and that such practices were applied during Nawaz's tenure.
"PTI is a political party ... Our move on the chessboard of politics remains to be seen," he added.
Safdar obtains bail
Separately, PML-N leader retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Monday obtained protective bail until October 10 by the Lahore High Court in a sedition case.
Yesterday, Safdar was nominated for sedition in a first information report lodged in Gujranwala for allegedly "inciting hate [...] against the army" and threatening to forcefully obtain permission for a public meeting on October 16.
The FIR further alleged that Safdar, who is also the husband of party vice president Maryam Nawaz, "defamed and incited hate" against the armed forces. According to the FIR, the PML-N leader's "aim was to disturb public peace".
Safdar was also accused of telling people in the meeting that in case of arrest, the supporters should "besiege" the house of the nearest corps commander.
Furthermore, Safdar said that the permission for a public rally on October 16 will have to be obtained "by force".
In his appeal, heard by the LHC today, he alleged that the police wanted to arrest him before he could reach out to a court. He also told the court that PML-N and other opposition parties were to hold public meetings in Gujranwala in coming days.
In an interview last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Nawaz Sharif was playing a "dangerous game" by levelling allegations of political interference against the Army and claimed that the former premier had India's support.
"This is a dangerous game Nawaz is playing; Altaf Hussain played the same game," he had said, adding that he was "100 per cent" sure that India was helping the PML-N leader.
The former premier, after a hiatus lasting more than year, reappeared on the political scene last month to lash out at the PTI government and the Army.
"If change is not brought, it will bring irreversible loss to this country. It is very important that our armed forces stay away from our governmental system according to our Constitution and the Quaid's speech, and not interfere with the people's choice. We have made this country a joke in our own eyes and internationally as well," he had said while addressing a conference aimed at devising a strategy to oust the PTI-led coalition government.
Additional reporting by Rana Bilal