Islamabad court rejects police request to extend Shahbaz Gill's physical remand

Published August 12, 2022
<p>PTI leader Shahbaz Gill speaks to the media outside a local court in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV</p>

PTI leader Shahbaz Gill speaks to the media outside a local court in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

An Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday rejected the police’s request to extend PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical remand and sent him to jail on judicial remand.

Gill was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at Banigala Chowk in the capital after a video clip of his controversial remarks, aired on ARY News, went viral on social media. He was subsequently booked on charges of sedition and inciting the public against the state institutions.

On Thursday, another charge of disappearing evidence and giving false information was added to the first information report registered against Gill, officials from capital police told Dawn.

Gill was presented before Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir today upon the expiry of his two-day physical remand, while PTI members gathered outside the court and raised slogans in his favour. Before the hearing began, his hand cuffs were removed and he was allowed to meet his legal team.

Application for extension of physical remand

When the hearing began, the investigating officer (IO) submitted an application to the court seeking the extension of Gill’s physical remand by 12 days.

According to the court order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the IO stated in the application that Gill had made disclosures during the course of investigation and revealed that his mobile phone contained data regarding the commission of the offence.

“But he is intentionally causing hindrance in the progress of the matter,” the order said, quoting the application.

The order further said the court was informed that a transcript of Gill’s remarks aired on ARY News was obtained from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and sent to the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercirme wing for voice matching, the report for which had come out positive.

But further physical remand was necessary for the arrest of others involved in the offence and the recovery of the mobile phone used by Gill for the commission of the offence, the IO contended.

The “IO has also submitted in his application that the accused is continuously telling lies [and] hence, physical remand may be granted for his polygraph test,” the order read.

The order further stated that Islamabad Advocate General Jahangir Jadoon and Assistant Director Public Prosecutor Naveed Akhtar also argued that although the prosecution had made substantial progress in the investigation during the two days of Gill’s physical remand, it had not been able to recover the PTI leader’s mobile phone, laptop and other digital devices due to the suspect’s non-cooperation.

They contended that the recovery of the said devices was necessary for a “just and fair investigation”.

According to the court order, Jadoon went on to allege that Gill had attended a “special meeting” before joining the ARY News bulletin and the “complete transcript of the interview was sent to his mobile phone via Whatsapp.”

Hence, the recovery of Gill’s mobile phone was necessary to reach other suspects and “designers of the entire conspiracy”, he added.

During the course of today’s proceedings, the transcript of Gill’s remarks was read out in the court, with Jadoon maintaining that comments were aimed at giving rise to “mutiny” in the ranks of the armed forces.

He also alleged that Gill’s driver, who was with him at the time of his arrest and was said to be in possession of his mobile phone, was in hiding at Banigala — a reference to PTI chief Imran Khan’s residence.

Gill’s driver, Izhar, had claimed that he had been tortured by men who had arrested Gill and was later booked along with his family members in a case of rioting and assault on law enforces after police carried out a raid at a house where he was staying for the recovery of Gill’s mobile phone. His wife, Saira, was arrested in the episode while he had fled.

Gill, his lawyers object to application, allege torture

For his part, Gill objected to the IO’s application, claiming that police were “using [the] physical remand only for the purposes of torture”, and that he had been “pressurised” to only give statements to the “prosecution’s liking”.

According to the order, he maintained that no mobile phone was used for his comments to ARY News, pointing out the remarks during the live transmission were aired on August 8, which was the ninth day of Muharram, when mobile phones services remained suspended.

Instead, Gill said, he was speaking during the news bulletin via the landline phone installed at his Banigala office and therefore, “there is no justification for [the] grant of physical remand”.

“The grant of further remand would only mean handing over the accused in the hands of the police for the purposes of further torture,” the order read, attributing the statement to Gill.

He also alleged that his medical examination had not been conducted, as was ordered by the court at the last hearing, and that he was not being allowed to meet his lawyers. The PTI leader then lifted his shirt in a bid to show torture marks and claimed that he was being forced to stay up all night.

Continuing his volley of allegations against authorities, he reiterated that he was being subjected to “extreme torture” and his medical examination had not been conducted. “They did it on their own,” he remarked, adding that a fake medical report was then prepared.

Gill claimed that he had not been kept at Kohsar police station while in police custody, and “I am questioned about the former prime minister’s accounts.”

The PTI leader maintained that he could not even think about “saying something of this sort” against the army. “I am a professor, not criminal.”

While presenting their arguments, lawyers part of Gill’s legal team — Faisal Chaudhry, Syed Muhammad Ali Bukhari and Niazullah Niazi — also objected to the police’s request.

They, too, maintained that the case’s investigation had been completed and the extension was only being sought “for the purposes of torture upon the accused and to get a statement of their liking”.

According to the court order, the lawyers argued that the matter was a case “political vicitmisation” and the “prosecution is only throwing a wider net”, which was evident by the registration of an FIR against Gill’s driver and his family members.

Among Gill’s lawyers, Bukhari drew the court’s attention to the statutory provisions regulating the grant of a remand and judicial precedents wherein these provisions were interpreted by the Supreme Court to support his arguments.

In this connection, Chaudhry claimed authorities wanted to confiscate Gill’s phone as it had data about “political activity”. Without naming anyone, he added, the FIA “is in their control”.

Keeping Gill in custody for phone’s recovery ‘not justified’: court

Based on the counsels’ arguments and Gill’s statements, Judge Shabbir observed that since police had already obtained the video and audio of Gill’s remarks and the results of the voice matching test had been received, the investigation of the case had, in fact, been completed and there was no need for an extension of the suspect’s physical remand.

In his order, he further stated stated as far as the grant of physical remand for the recovery of Gill’s mobile phone was concerned, police records showed the suspect had revealed that his phone was with his driver.

Police had already initiated proceedings against the driver, who was at large, and registered a case against him, the judge said, adding that therefore, keeping Gill in custody for the recovery of his phone was “not justified”.

The judge also observed that while Gill maintained that his remarks during the ARY News bulletin were made via the landline phone installed at his Banigala office on Muharram 9, police had not obtained any details from the channel about the phone number used for the conversation.

“Police have not brought on record any evidence or investigation to suggest that the cellular network mobile phone was used by the accused for communication,” Judge Shabbir observed and concluded: “In these circumstances, the hunt for mobile phone from the accused is beyond any understanding and legal justification.”

He observed that Gill had been in police custody for 72 hours, deeming it sufficient time for investigation. “The court cannot grant further remand in a mechanical manner,” he said and dismissed the police’s application for the extension of Gill’s physical remand.

The judge sent him on a judicial remand instead and directed that he be produced again before the court on August 26.

While the hearing was under way, PTI workers had marched towards the court and had a scuffle with police. Later, when Gill was asked by the media outside the court whether he had made a confessional statement, he denied the reports.

Court rejects review petition

Meanwhile, police filed a review petition against the rejection of their application for Gill’s physical remand. The petition, filed by prosecutor Rana Abbas, sought the annulment of the judicial magistrate’s order and an extension of Gill’s physical remand.

Police contended in the application that the extension was needed for further investigation. The plea was then taken up by Additional Sessions Judge Adnan Khan, who sought arguments from the prosecutor on the maintainability of the plea.

At that, the prosecutor said he wanted to present arguments on Section 435 (power to call for records of inferior courts) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The judge allowed him to present his arguments on the section and directed him to prepare them by 2pm today.

The hearing was then adjourned and resumed around 2:00pm. However, the session was again suspended for half-an-hour when the prosecutor informed the court that Advocate General Jadoon was on his way to attend the hearing and requested for the hearing to be adjourned until his arrival.

When the hearing resumed, the judge remarked the prosecutor had so far presented only some arguments.

The district prosecutor the began presenting his arguments, saying that advocate general needed more time.

He said it would have to be seen whether the court order on Gill’s remand was “judicial or administrative”. He also gave the reference of previous cases on the maintainability of pleas.

During the course of proceedings, the advocate general tried to stop him from presenting the arguments but was restrained by the court from doing so. He said the prosecution needed more time and would appoint a prosecutor by tomorrow.

“Jadoon sahib, your position is that of a neutral,” the judge told the advocate general.

The judge reserved then reserved the judgement on the review petition. Later in the day, he rejected the police’s appeal against the earlier court order.

Wife of Gill’s driver granted bail

Separately, a district and sessions court in Islamabad granted bail to Saira — wife of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s driver.

During the hearing today, Judicial Magistrate Salman Badar approved her bail application against surety bonds worth Rs30,000.

A day after Gill was arrested, the police had raided the PTI leader’s driver Izhar’s house. According to the FIR, upon reaching the site, police officers were attacked and threatened by five to six people. It alleged that along with putting up resistance, the suspects also tore a constable’s shirt and snatched his mobile phone and wallet.

The FIR stated that Saira and another suspect, Noman, had been arrested from the scene while others managed to flee.

Subsequently, a case was registered under sections 149 (every member of an unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 147 (punishment for rioting), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 382 (theft after preparation made for causing death, hurt or restraint in order to commit the theft), 186 (obstructing public servant in the discharge of public functions) and (use of assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duty) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

‘Torture marks tell a tale of cruelty’

As these developments took place, the PTI chief took to Twitter to condemn the alleged torture of Gill, saying he should be given a fair hearing if he was in the wrong.

“Strongly condemn the torture being inflicted on Shahbaz Gill. Under what law and under whose orders is this being done?,” he tweeted, adding: “If he broke any law then he should be given a fair hearing. But just to salvage imported government of crooks, the Constitution and all laws are being violated with impunity”.

Urging the judiciary to take notice, he said, “A climate of fear is being spread to make people kowtow before cabal of crooks.”

PTI leader Farrukh Habib claimed Gill was being “tortured so that he give a false statement against Imran Khan”. He alleged that Gill was being “tortured on the instructions of same people who are conspiring to pit the PTI against the army”.

Likewise, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said he was “out of words to condemn the torture inflicted on Shahbaz Gill”.

“The torture marks on on Shahbaz’s body tell a tale of cruelty,” he said, claiming that even after the court had rejected the request for his physical remand and sent him on judicial remand, he was not being shifted to jail but was instead kept at the bakhshi khana — a temporary lockup at the district court.

He saw a conspiracy behind the alleged move.

Police reject ‘false propaganda’ about torture of Gill

These tweets preceded those by Islamabad police, in which law enforcement authorities said Gill had been medically examined by a board of doctors, as per court orders, and according to its report, there were no torture marks on the suspect’s body.

They maintained that the suspect’s rights were given due consideration during the investigation and the probe during the Gill’s physical remand was carried out in accordance with the law.

“A false propaganda is being spread on social media about torture of the suspect,” police said. “The propaganda is being spread by the suspects to gain fake sympathy.”

Police appealed to people not to pay heed to the alleged propaganda.

The police statement further said if “Gill is innocent and there is nothing in his mobile, he should cooperate with police.”

Gill’s controversial comments

Earlier this week, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing comments from Gill, that it said were “highly hateful and seditious” remarks tantamount to “incite armed forces towards revolt”.

The notice went on to say that Gill was invited via a telephonic call for his comments and during his talk with the channel, Gill had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI, saying the families of such “rank and file” support Imran Khan and his party “which is fuelling rage within the government”.

He had also alleged that the “strategic media cell” of the ruling PML-N was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces.

Gill had said the government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, had lambasted the army in the past “and they were at the government positions now”.

“The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests,” the watchdog stated.

“Dr Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-army narrative,” the authority said.

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