Acting Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq on Monday questioned why authorities were seeking PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical custody.

Justice Farooq raised the question while hearing arguments from the prosecution on the maintainability of a plea filed by Islamabad Advocate General Jahangir Khan Jadoon against the order of a sessions court which dismissed an application seeking Gill’s physical remand.

“You are saying that an extension in the suspect’s physical remand is necessary? What will you do after getting the extension?” Justice Farooq questioned.

Gill was arrested last week on charges of sedition and inciting mutiny in the armed forces after he made controversial remarks during an ARY News bulletin. Later, another charge of disappearing evidence and giving false information was added to the first information report registered against Gill.

On August 13, a judicial magistrate had rejected the police’s request to extend Gill’s physical remand and sent him to jail on judicial remand. The same day, the prosecution filed an appeal in a sessions court which was also dismissed.

Subsequently, the government filed a petition in the IHC for Gill’s physical custody, arguing that the ongoing investigation against him and collection of evidence could not be completed without it.

The prosecution has contended that the ongoing investigation against Gill and collection of evidence cannot be completed without an extension of his remand in police custody.

At the start of today’s hearing, Justice Farooq asked the prosecution about the progress in the case.

Islamabad Advocate General Jadoon informed the judge of the lower courts’ decisions regarding the PTI leader’s physical remand. He added that the government had taken “serious notice” of Gill’s comments on television that “targeted the country’s institutions” and registered a case against him.

“His remarks were against institutions that have given many sacrifices for this country,” he said.

Justice Farooq, however, pointed out to him that the expiry of Gill’s physical remand and the subsequent rejection of an appeal against the decision not to extend the remand were a “reality”.

He then sought arguments on the maintainability of the review petition rejected by a lower court.

At that, the prosecution’s lawyer, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, contended that the plea was maintainable and cited multiple court orders to support his argument.

Apart from him and Jadoon, the case’s investigating officer and special prosecutor Haseeb Chaudhry also appeared before the court today.

The court adjourned the hearing after seeking a reply from Gill by tomorrow (Tuesday).

Sessions court to hear arguments on Gill’s bail plea tomorrow

Separately, a Islamabad district and sessions court took up a petition filed by the PTI leader seeking bail in the case.

When the hearing commenced at 11:30am, Additional Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry sought the case record. However, Deputy Superintendent of Police Hassan Raza told the court that the record was with the IHC.

Here, Gill’s lawyer alleged that the government was deliberately delaying the matter. Advocate Faisal Chaudhry insisted that the court decide Gill’s bail plea today.

At that, the judge observed that a similar matter was pending in the IHC. But Faisal argued that the plea could be heard in the lower court even if a similar petition was underway in a high court.

He said that as per the law, “no person can be kept in jail without a reason for even a minute”, and he would only present his arguments once the case record was presented.

Hence, the judge adjourned the hearing till 12:30pm tomorrow (Tuesday) and directed both the parties to come prepared with their arguments. “I will not hear any excuses tomorrow,” she added.

‘PTI stands with Gill’

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that Gill was being persecuted as he was not among the “powerful”.

Fawad, who was speaking to the media in Islamabad, took a jibe at the PML-N and said that Gill’s father did not have a “setup” in Pakistan and did not serve as a prime minister which is why he was being tortured.

He said that the same treatment was being meted out to other party workers, saying: “This is the policy of Rana Sanaullah which is being practiced in the country”.

He went on to say that the current government had also used indiscriminate force against children, women and unarmed citizens. “The same is happening with Shahbaz Gill.”

Fawad was also amazed at the fact that the high court was entertaining a writ petition regarding a suspect’s physical remand, especially when the case was of a political nature.

The government says it wants to recover Gill’s mobile phone and wants custody of him so that they can torture him again. he claimed. He went on to say that Gill made the controversial comments on Muharram 10, when mobile phone services were suspended.

“The phone call was made via a landline and you have that number. The statement was broadcast live on ARY News and you have that too,” he said, reiterating that the government was only seeking Gill’s custody to torture him.

Fawad went on to say that the party was standing with Gill, adding that PTI chief Imran Khan had also raised the issue during Saturday’s rally in Lahore.

“We hope this matter will be resolved soon […] we are also approaching international organisations to come and see how political workers are being targeted and tortured.”

In contrast, the Punjab government is moving in a “civilised manner” in the process of investigating the March 25 incident, he pointed out, referring to the violence during the PTI’s ‘Azadi March’.

Gill’s controversial remarks

On August 9, 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.

Before the notice was issued, there were reports that ARY News had been pulled off air in several areas of the country.

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