FIA arrests media personality Mohsin Jamil Baig, sessions court declares raid illegal
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday raided the residence of media personality Mohsin Jamil Baig in Islamabad and arrested him after he allegedly shot at and roughed up members of the raiding team.
According to a press release issued by the investigation agency, the FIA's Cyber Crime Circle raided Baig's house after obtaining a search and seizure warrant from the relevant court.
"During the raid, Mohsin Baig and his son and servants directly fired at the FIA team and made two officials hostage," the press release said. It added that Baig was arrested after he ran out of bullets and was taken to Margalla police station where legal proceedings were underway.
The FIA said it conducted the raid on the complaint of Communications Minister Murad Saeed, who had registered a first information report (FIR) against Baig at a cybercrime reporting centre of the agency in Lahore under Sections 20 (offences against the dignity of a natural person), 21-D (offences against modesty of a natural person and minor) and 24 (cyber stalking) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 read with Sections 500 (defaming army officers) and 555 (statement conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said Baig had "assassinated" Saeed's character by using "immoral and abusive language" in a talk show. It said Baig had related a "baseless story with derogatory remarks" which was subsequently shared on social media and had "shattered" the federal minister's image in public.
It said the comments had caused disgrace to the minister's personality and created uncertainty in the public. The FIR called for a case to be registered against Baig.
Baig was part of a TV panel last week where the anchor and panelists had questioned the decision to award Federal Minister Murad Saeed the top honour in a ceremony to celebrate the top 10 best performing federal ministries. The panel had made several critical and disparaging remarks about the federal minister, insinuating with innuendoes that some 'other factors' were behind the award than his ministry's performance.
The programme had attracted a flurry of criticism from government officials and NewsOne, the channel that aired the show, was reportedly taken off air by cable networks. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority had also issued a show-cause notice to the channel for airing ‘unethical’ remarks about a federal minister.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill shared a video, reportedly of today's confrontation outside Baig's residence, in which the media personality can be seen toting a gun, manhandling an unidentified individual and kicking him down to his knees and striking his face with the butt of the gun. As Baig assumes a shooting stance, gunshots are heard, the video shows.
Later, in a press conference, Gill questioned the credentials of Baig as a journalist, asking, "Just tell me which newspaper or TV channel he works for?"
He claimed that Baig ran an advertising agency and later set up a news agency. "I must clarify that he is not a journalist."
He said Saeed had merely exercised his legal right and was going through the right channel to file a complaint against Baig over his "extremely filthy and lewd remarks". "But he (Baig) resorted to [violence] and fired at police and other law enforcers," Gill said, adding: "Baig pointed a gun at the state and the state will now respond."
Sessions court says raid was 'illegal'
After his arrest, Baig's counsel, Raheel Niazi, moved an instant petition in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, for his client's recovery.
The petition stated that some unknown persons, in civil dress, had trespassed Baig's house today morning. It said a call was made to police helpline after which police officials reached the spot.
The people in civil dress were then asked to show any arrest or search warrant, the petition said, adding that instead, the superintendent of police (SP) present on the scene handed over Baig to persons in civvies.
In response to the petition, the sessions judge appointed a bailiff and ordered Baig to be produced before the court.
Later, Margalla police provided a report, available with Dawn.com, to the court bailiff that said an FIR was registered against Baig under Sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly of people), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempt to murder), 342 (power to examine the accused) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act after his confrontation with FIA officials.
Police also produced an injured person before the court and identified him as an FIA employee, Wasim Sikandar.
When the court asked whether the complainant in the case registered with the FIA was also present at the hearing, police replied the complainant was federal minister Murad Saeed.
Baig's lawyer told the court that the case was registered in Lahore at 9am and the FIA team was at Baig's house in Islamabad at 8am. "They entered the house without a search warrant," he said.
At that, the court asked for records of cases registered with the FIA and Margalla police.
Later in the day, the court announced its verdict on the petition, stating that in light of the cases registered with the FIA and Margalla police, the raid at Baig's house was "illegal" and conducted by persons who were not authorised to do so since the Margalla police SHO was "unable to produce any official of FIA Lahore along with relevant record yet".
The sessions court order said no "member of FIA has supported version of the SHO till yet" and that Baig has not been arrested in the main case (lodged by FIA) till yet. It further said that the FIR registered by Margalla police is "devoid of any police diary, statement of any person recorded under Section 161 CrPC and recovery memo of crime empties allegedly fired by the accused party".
Instead of registering an FIR against the unauthorised raiding party, the Margalla police SHO registered his own FIR, "for showing fake efficiency", the court order read, adding that the "misconduct of the SHO is quite floating on the surface of the record".
Referring to an ATC sending Baig on a three-day remand, the session court's order stated that the former was "in a better position to determine the merits of the case and legality of the detention of the alleged detenue".
The court directed the SHO to entertain Baig's application in accordance with the law "regarding the occurrence as per his own version, if it is filed".
Proceedings in ATC
Following his arrest, Islamabad police produced Baig before Judge Muhammad Ali Warraich of an anti-terrorism court (ATC).
At the hearing, Baig said he was asleep when "they entered my house like dacoits" in the morning.
"They were not in uniform [and] my family was in the house," he said.
Baig claimed that FIA personnel had subjected him to torture at the police station after arresting him.
Saying that FIA personnel had broken his nose and ribs, he requested the court for his medical examination.
"FIA officials tortured me," he reiterated. "I was in police custody, not that of the FIA's. They tortured me so much, you can see my face."
He also claimed that the FIA had tortured him on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Baig maintained that he had not said anything related to Murad Saeed.
"There is a published book. I referred to it," he said, adding that no legal action had been taken against the book.
He also said all of the weapons owned by him were licensed.
At the hearing, police asked the court to send Baig on a five-day physical remand.
But his lawyer urged the court to send Baig on judicial remand instead, saying he would be subjected to torture in police custody.
The court, however, sent Baig on a three-day physical remand in police custody and directed police to get his medical check-up done.
Opposition condemns arrest
Opposition leaders condemned Baig's arrest with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif saying it showed how "panicked the regime is" since Baig was once a friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He assailed the premier for an inability to bear "minor criticism" and said free speech had been heavily restricted in his tenure.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, meanwhile, said Baig's arrest showed the prime minister's "weakness".
"Imran Khan is so weak that he is afraid of criticism on himself lest people become aware of the truth about him.
"Journalist Mohsin Baig was dragged in front of his family and arrested as if he was a terrorist," he said.
The PPP chairman said under the PTI's rule, terrorists managed to flee while journalists were arrested. He called on the government to immediately release Baig.