The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to not harass the PTI's activists and party workers.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the orders to the watchdog while presiding over the hearing for a petition submitted by the PTI's Ali Nawaz Awan. The petition had mentioned the federation of Pakistan, inspector generals for Punjab and Islamabad, FIA's director general (DG) and its Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) director as respondents.
The petition had requested the court to order the respondents to stop the harassment of and conduct illegal raids on the PTI's party workers, to refrain from violating the honour and privacy of the workers' families and to declare the FIA and police's actions as illegal.
Among other directions, while hearing the case, Justice Minallah summoned the CCW director tomorrow and ordered the DG FIA to strictly implement standard operating procedures. He said the court would have listened to the matter even if it was brought up at night.
Awan was represented in the court via his counsel Advocate Faisal Chaudhry.
"You know how the court dealt with the FIA?" Justice Minallah asked Chaudhry, referring to the court's actions while hearing matters related to the Peca Ordinance.
Chaudhry claimed that those behind such activities and actions against PTI supporters were supporting the present government.
To this, the chief justice remarked that Chaudhry had said something which could have dual meaning.
The PTI counsel said actions was being taken against the party's supporters following the change in government after Imran Khan's ouster via a no-confidence vote. "FIA conducted two raids on the house of [PTI's] social media head Dr Arsalan Khalid," he recalled.
Chaudhry wondered due to what allegations and under which law the FIA had conducted the raid on Dr Khalid's residence.
The court subsequently adjourned the hearing of the case till 10am tomorrow.
Later, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar congratulated the party's social media activists and supporters on the court's order.
The FIA counterterrorism wing sprang into action after a vilification drive against the army chief was launched on social networking websites following Khan’s ouster. Since last Sunday, the top trending hashtags on Twitter were those targeting the army, the judiciary and the new government, and on Tuesday the tweets using those hashtags soared to 4.3 million.
Read more: The curious case of anti-state smear campaigns on Twitter
Most of the social media activists associated with the PTI had reportedly gone underground to evade the FIA crackdown.
On Sunday, the house of Khan’s focal person on digital media, Dr Arsalan Khalid, was raided in Lahore by plainclothes officers, who took away a laptop and some mobile phones. He was accused of running a social media campaign against a certain state institution. The PTI claimed Dr Khalid had never abused anyone on social media or attacked any institution.