The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday allowed embattled PTI leader Shahbaz Gill's lawyers to meet him, and sought a report from the Islamabad police chief over reports of alleged torture on him while in custody.
IHC Acting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took up Gill's plea against his physical remand and ordered authorities to allow Gill's counsels to hold a meeting with their client at the hospital he is undergoing treatment at.
As the IHC hearing into PTI's plea against Gill's physical remand resumed today, the police's alleged mistreatment of him was at the centre of proceedings.
The Islamabad advocate general, additional attorney general and top police officials were summoned to the court, where the prosecutor insisted the firebrand party leader was not tortured.
According to the court order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the judge ordered the report to be submitted on August 22 (Monday).
The order said that the place of Gill's confinement should be informed to his friends and he himself should also be informed about his right to a counsel's assistance and communication with friends and family.
Furthermore, the court order said that Adiala jail officials did not give a "satisfactory" explanation regarding the delay in Gill being handed over to the Islamabad police and were ordered to submit a written explanation, along with the relevant record, before the next hearing.
A day earlier, a judicial magistrate had granted Islamabad police two-day physical remand of Gill and ordered officials to conduct a medical examination.
However, the PTI leader, who was booked in a sedition case, was being held at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Punjab government where the party is in power along with PML-Q.
In a bid to thwart the handover, arrangements were made to move Gill to Rawalpindi District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital after he complained of breathing difficulties.
A standoff ensued but the Islamabad police finally managed to get Gill's custody and moved him to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) on Wednesday night.
The PTI has claimed that Gill has been tortured during his incarceration. The party has also alleged that the PTI leader is being coerced into making a statement against party chief Imran Khan.
Gill's lawyers Faisal Chaudhry and Shoaib Shaheen represented him in the hearing today.
Additional sessions judge (east), the Islamabad inspector general of police, SSP investigation, SHO Kohsar, City Magistrate Ghulam Mustafa Chandio and the state were made respondents in the petition.
During the hearing, Gill's lawyer Shaheen contended that the additional sessions judge did not follow the "guidelines" provided within the law.
I have come to know that Gill has been admitted to Pims. The Adiala Jail superintendent has been summoned so that we can verify the facts, Justice Farooq said.
At one point, Shaheen contended that they were not being allowed to meet Gill. The judge responded that this matter would also be discussed when the officials appear.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned till 3pm. When the hearing resumed, the Islamabad advocate general told the court that Gill refused to cooperate when a medical board team visited him for an examination.
Justice Farooq said the police's reputation was being hurt because of the widespread reports of the PTI leader's torture.
"We want to determine whether Shahbaz Gill was tortured or not," the judge remarked.
Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi insisted that the PTI leader was not tortured, saying he was taken into custody on Aug 9 and his medical check-up was conducted on Aug 11.
"Did Gill make any statement about his torture before the court?" Justice Farooq asked.
Gill's counsel Faisal Chaudhry said he was denied access to his client at the Pims hospital. "Meeting is not allowed during a remand period," Justice Farooq responded.
The judge asked the IG Islamabad to tell the court what should be done. To which, Gill's other counsel Shoaib Shaheen said his team did not trust the Islamabad IG.
Justice Farooq resented the remarks made by Shaheen, saying: "Stop interrupting. Let me run the proceedings."
The court also expressed annoyance at Adiala Jail's medical officer for lacking records of the health of the detained leader.
Justice Farooq asked when Gill developed breathing difficulties, asking "whether the problem specifically emerged at the time the additional district and sessions judge gave its decision [to hand over Gill to Islamabad police]".
"I am issuing notice to additional superintendent and medical officer of Adiala Jail as well as officers concerned of the Islamabad Police," the judge said.
He called out the officials, saying "institutions earn a bad name due to such people".
Gill's counsel Shaheen urged the court to cancel the remand if the hearing was to be adjourned till Friday. Justice Farooq said: "Your client is technically not on remand, hence no suspension is required."
The court said it would issue a written order in the case and adjourned the hearing till Aug 22 (Monday). The court also asked Islamabad police to submit a report about the alleged torture on the politician in the next hearing.
Earlier, the court issued notices to the respondents excluding the sessions judge.
The court also summoned the Islamabad inspector general of police, SSP investigation, SHO Kohsar, and the Adiala Jail superintendent and medical officer along with the relevant records.
"Notice shall also be issued to the learned advocate general, Islamabad as well as additional attorney general, Islamabad to appear before the given time for the assistance of the court," the order said.
The court directed the advocate general to ensure the presence of the Islamabad inspector general of police, SSP investigation, SHO Kohsar and City Magistrate Ghulam Mustafa Chandio.
Meanwhile, the Pims medical board, constituted to conduct an examination of Gill, submitted its report with the court of Judicial Magistrate Raja Farrukh Ali Khan.
'Descending into banana republic'
Separately, former premier Imran shared a video of Gill being transported to Pims, in which he appeared to be convulsing.
"Descending into a banana republic. The civilised world will be shocked at our levels of barbarism. The worst part is an easy target has been chosen to make an example of through torture and without a fair trial," the PTI chief said.
Meanwhile, the likes of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Asif Ali Zardari, all of whom have in the worst possible way and repeatedly attacked state institutions through malicious and targeted statements against them, get away without even a hint of a reprimand, he deplored.
Speaking to the media outside Pims on Wednesday night, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry said that Gill was brought to the facility at approximately 10pm.
"He was on a stretcher. He was breathing with great difficulty, it seemed as though he was not able to breathe," he said, adding that "hundreds" of policemen were surrounding the politician.
He claimed that doctors at the facility recommended that Gill be hospitalised as his condition was fragile. He also lamented that police officials were present inside the room Gill was in, which was adding to his physical and mental stress.
He said that Gill had not said anything which others had not said before.
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.