An Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday directed Islamabad police to shift PTI leader Shahbaz Gill to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for another medical examination.
The court issued the directives as it suspended till Monday the handing over of Gill to police for the completion of his two-day physical remand, approved on Wednesday, and concluded that the remand time started today morning when the PTI leader was handed over to police by hospital authorities.
Gill, who has been arrested in connection with the FIR registered against him for allegedly inciting mutiny among armed forces, was produced before Judicial Magistrate Raja Farrukh Ali Khan earlier today.
He was taken to court in an ambulance from Pims, where he was shifted late on Wednesday night after he complained of breathing problems amid reports of him being subjected to torture while in police custody.
Footage from outside the courtroom showed officials crowding around Gill, who appeared to be having difficulty breathing, as he arrived in a wheelchair.
In a video shared by the PTI’s official Twitter account, Gill could be seen crying out for his “mask” while being taken to the courtroom. The tweet described the scene as “heartbreaking”.
In its order, the court contemplated whether the period of Gill’s two-day remand, which was approved on Wednesday, had lapsed.
The court observed that the investigating officer (IO) had sought permission from the Pims’ management to conduct an investigation at the facility, but his request was denied.
Had the IO’s request been accepted, “it could have been considered that the time of physical remand started from the point when the doctor granted permission for [the investigation],” the court order said.
It added that the time of the physical remand “would start when the custody of the accused would formally be given to the investigation officer for interrogation and recovery and by no stretch of the imagination the time spent by the accused in hospital can be considered as a time of physical remand”.
According to the court order, the formal custody of Gill was handed over to police at 7:15am today.
The court concluded that the remand time would start from the point when “hospital authorities, after going through medical investigations, declare the accused fit for facing physical remand and the same is missing in the instant case”.
Citing the claims of Gill’s lawyer regarding his unfit medical condition, the court observed a physical examination of the suspect at the court had found that he was wheezing and experiencing shortness of breath.
The court order also mentioned that an oxygen cylinder had also been provided to Gill in the courtroom upon his request.
And “it is not out of place to mention here that if the medical board of Pims authorities came to the conclusion that the accused is fit to be discharged from the hospital, then why was he brought on the premises of the court in an ambulance, and that too with oxygen support,” the order said.
“The said fact alone is sufficient to hold that neither the hospital authorities nor the police authorities are confident enough regarding the health of the accused,” the court said, adding that given the circumstances, it was “not inclined” to hand over Gill’s custody to police for 48 hours today.
The court stated that the handing over of Gill to police for the completion of his two-day remand was hereby suspended till Monday and directed the IO to hand over Gill to Pims authorities for a medical examination.
Based on its observation that Gill’s two-day physical remand never finished, the court also rejected the defence counsel’s request to consider Gill’s remand as “elapsed”. The court concluded that the request was “not tenable”.
Moreover, the court turned down the defence counsel’s request to issue orders for the registration of an FIR over the alleged torture on Gill in police custody.
“The request is “not tenable” before this court as the “undersigned is not working as justice of peace and the powers of justice of peace only vest with Worthy Court of Sessions,” the court said.
During the hearing, police asked the court to extend the PTI leader’s physical remand for another eight days.
The judicial magistrate noted that the court had previously granted police two-day physical remand of Gill. “Why are you making a request for eight [more] days?” he questioned.
The judge also questioned whether the previous physical remand remained “uninitiated”. “Was the earlier two-day remand technically uninitiated? Were police able to investigate during the two days’ time?”
He also asked police to clarify whether they were asking for a new remand or seeking an extension of the previous one.
While presenting his arguments, Gill’s lawyer, Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, contended before the court that his client’s illness was there for everyone to see.
“His issue is genuine,” he said, adding that his medical report also pointed towards the fact that he was tortured. “You can see. [Gill] has been presented before the court in a wheelchair and along with an oxygen cylinder,” the lawyer said.
Advocate Chaudhry contested the police’s plea for Gill’s custody, saying that extending the PTI leader’s physical remand would endanger his life.
After reading out the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order on Gill’s physical remand — in which the matter of Gill’s remand was referred back to the trial court — the lawyer said the prosecution had given assurances that Gill would be kept in the hospital till Monday.
The lawyer further argued that according to the remand papers submitted by police, they were admitting that Gill’s two-day remand had finished.
“It is proven that the investigating officer was given Gill’s custody from Adiala Jail,” Advocate Chaudhry added. He also alleged that police had interrogated Gill at the hospital.
For his part, Gill said that the medical report submitted to the court was fake. “The real report is not the one which they have submitted,” he claimed, urging the court to seek his actual report.
While presenting his arguments, the police prosecutor contended that the law did not state that a sick person could not be remanded to police custody. “The life of every suspect is precious and the investigator exercises complete caution,” he said.
Special public prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi said even if the court allowed Gill’s physical remand, it was the responsibility of the investigating officer (IO) to take care of the suspect’s health.
“Gill’s medical examination was conducted when he was admitted [to the hospital],” he said, adding that the IO had sought permission from the hospital management for investigation yesterday but his request was denied.
The public prosecutor also said that jail doctors were present during the hearing in the Islamabad High Court. “They [the doctors] told the court that when they visited Gill, he had no issues and his reports were normal.”
Here, Advocate Chaudhry interjected and said jail doctors had said no such thing.
“Let me talk. Don’t do this,” Abbasi retorted.
Subsequently, the judicial magistrate intervened and instructed the prosecution to continue their arguments, adding that Chaudhry would later be given time to respond.
Continuing, Abbasi, quoting the jail doctors, said that Gill complained of his condition the day the court passed its verdict on the physical remand.
He then pleaded with the court to accept the application to extend Gill’s physical remand.
At that, Advocate Chaudhry pointed out that the medical report concerning the condition of Gill’s lungs had not been presented to the court. He added that if the court allowed, he could present Gill’s medical history.
The lawyer argued that earlier, the court had issued notices for case dismissals in light of the medical history and physical remand could not be granted in such a case.
The judge then suspended the hearing and reserved the verdict on the plea.
Separately, Islamabad police claimed in a tweet that the board constituted for Gill’s medical examination had declared him to be “fit”.
Police alleged that Gill was pretending to be sick in order to use his illness to “create hurdles in the way of the investigation”.
Gill tortured ‘mentally and physically including sexual abuse’
Later in the day, PTI chairman Imran Khan tweeted that all the pictures and videos clearly showed that Gill was tortured “mentally and physically including sexual abuse”, calling the atrocities “too gruesome to relate” to.
“He was humiliated to break him down. I now have full detailed information,” he said, asking that if the Islamabad police didn’t torture Gill, then who did.
“There is a general perception in the public at large and in our minds too as to who could have carried out the gruesome torture. Remember the public will react. We will leave no stone unturned to find out those responsible and bring them to justice,” Imran added.
Separately, at a press conference, PTI leader and lawyer Babar Awan announced that the party will take out a rally on Saturday to protest against the Islamabad police’s “custodial torture” of Shahbaz Gill.
“PTI chairman Imran Khan will visit Gill at the hospital and lead the rally tomorrow,” he said.
“We won’t let anyone believe that we have forgotten the atrocities of May 25 (Azadi March) or the injustices with Gill.”
Awan claimed the atrocities faced by the incarcerated PTI leader did not even occur in wars and were strongly opposed under the Geneva Conventions.
“This is the worst form of custodial torture Pakistan has seen in its history. I can’t even reveal the details here because it is against religious morals.”
The lawyer said that the PTI had rejected the inquiry conducted by the Islamabad police.
Furthermore, he alleged that Gill’s medical report was replaced last night with a newer one which hid the crimes.
“But let me tell you, PTI will use all the constitutional, lawful, political, and parliamentary ways to raise this issue and bring the gruesome details out in the public,” Awan added.
‘If torture has taken place, it will be investigated’
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman, meanwhile, asserted that the government would investigate the claims that Gill was tortured but brushed aside concerns of it actually taking place.
“The pictures that were shown to us depict no signs of torture,” she said while speaking in the Senate on Friday. “But if Gill has been tortured, we will surely investigate it.”
Rehman further assured that everyone had the right to a fair trial.
“Their leader [Imran Khan] has been saying […] appeals are being made to neutrals […] there is no possibility of torture,” the minister added.
Later, opposition members in the Senate registered their protest against the government by chanting slogans and gathered near the speaker’s dais.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International South Asia tweeted that the body was “concerned about the allegations of torture” being made by the Gill’s lawyers and called for an “immediate, effective and impartial inquiry investigating these claims”.
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.