Lahore police issued a statement late on Monday night saying that the case registered earlier in the day against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and other party leaders at the Shahdara police station for "conspiring" against the country and state institutions was done so on the complaint of a "private citizen" and not the state or its institutions.
The clarification came after police registered a first-information report (FIR) against several PML-N leaders on the complaint of 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.
In the FIR, the complainant alleged that Nawaz Sharif, who has been convicted on corruption charges by Pakistani courts, had delivered "hateful speeches" against the state and its institutions while addressing the multiparty conference (MPC) on Sept 20, and his party’s Central Working Committee (CWC) and Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Oct 1.
The FIR also said that PML-N's senior leaders who were attending these meetings endorsed Nawaz's speeches by raising their hands.
Those booked also included the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider, former leader of the house in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, former speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-federal minister Khurram Dastgir, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, former defence minister Khawaja Asif, former information minister Pervaiz Rashid, former law minister Rana Sanaullah, and former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq among others.
In a statement shared with reporters and attributed to "spokesperson of Lahore capital city police", the department said "different speculations were being made in the media but in reality, this case was registered on the request of a citizen, Badar Rasheed".
It said Shahdara police acted according to the rules and registered a case under the applicable sections of the law based on the request.
"This case is being investigated on merit keeping in view all legal aspects," it said, adding that action will only be taken against the person or persons proved to have committed a crime.
"Dispensation of justice will be ensured at any cost in the case," the statement said.
Complainant with a criminal record
The complainant, Rasheed, himself was booked in at least one case for assault, that was registered in Lahore's Purani Anarkali police station in 2018.
According to the FIR, Rasheed, along with some others was involved in a fight with another group, during which they attacked and beat a lawyer near the Lahore High Court building.
The case was lodged under Sections 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions).
Rasheed has also contested Union Council elections as a PTI candidate, police said.
In a statement, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar said the case against the PML-N leaders "has nothing to do with the PTI government, including me".
"It is necessary to investigate why and who registered the case. I think this case should not have been registered," he was quoted as saying at a seminar on 'national message of Pakistan' in Lahore.
He noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had also expressed displeasure over the registration of the case.
"There are pictures of Badar Rasheed (the complainant) with the PML-N and other people because he keeps on changing parties," Sarwar said, apparently referring to pictures of himself and the complainant that have surfaced on social media.
PML-N refuses to seek pre-arrest bails
The PML-N announced on Monday that its leaders will not seek pre-arrest bail in the sedition case.
"We will not seek a pre-arrest bail. If the PTI government has courage, it should come forward and arrest us," PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said while speaking to Dawn.
She asked PTI ministers to stop hiding behind "anonymous and frivolous FIRs" and file the same with their own names.
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.
With additional reporting by Imran Gabol in Lahore.