PTI Senator Azam Swati was arrested on Thursday for allegedly tweeting a “highly obnoxious and intimidating message” against state institutions, including the army chief, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FIA.
Swati’s tweet named the army chief, and came after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz were acquitted in a high-profile money laundering case yesterday.
“Mr Bajwa congratulations to you and few with you. Your plan is really working and all criminals are getting free at cost of this country. With these thugs getting free, you have legitimised corruption. How you predict now the future of this country (sic),” he said.
Speaking to reporters outside a sessions court in the capital today, the PTI leader said he was not arrested for breaking the law, violating the Constitution or fundamental rights. He said he was arrested for “taking one name — of Bajwa — and that is the violation”.
When asked who arrested him, he said it was the FIA. When pressed about what case, he alleged he was tortured by “agencies”. “A parliamentarian has been unclothed,” he said. “I am telling the nation.”
The first information report registered at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad, a copy of which Dawn.com has seen, mentions that Swati tweeted with “malafide intentions & ulterior motives” against “State Institutes of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Senior Government Functionaries including Chief of The Army Staff of Pakistan Army”.
The FIR adds that such “intimidating tweet/s of blaming and naming through Twitter account i.e., @AzamKhanSwatiPK, is a mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel/s of The Armed Forces and an attempt to harm the State of Pakistan”.
Through the aforementioned tweet, the criminal complaint says, the accused “undermined the Judicial System of the country and also attempted to seduce Army Personnel/s from their allegiance to their duties as subordinates.
“This is calculated attempt to create hatred in the mind of people and Army Personnel/s against COAS and Pakistan Army and also created distrust towards Judicial System. In such intimidating Tweet/s, the accused Muhammad Azam Khan Swati has attempted to provoke general public and Personnel/s of Armed Forces by trying to create a feeling of ill-will among pillars of the State.”
It alleges Swati violated the privacy and intimidated the state institutions, by using false information, “which is likely to incite, any officer, soldier, sailor, or Airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of Pakistan to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such and is also likely to cause fear or alarm in the public and may induce / incite anyone to commit an offence against the State or the State Institution/s or public tranquillity”.
The case was made out against the PTI leader under section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act-2016 read with 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty), 500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
PTI’s Babar Awan, Sardar Masroof Khan and Qaiser Jadoon appeared on Swati’s behalf in the Islamabad sessions court of senior Civil Judge Shabbir Bhatti.
The FIA requested eight-day physical remand. The lawyers, however, argued that he was arrested on political grounds. They, too, alleged he was tortured during the late-night detention.
The court sent Swati on two-day physical remand and ordered that the PTI leader be taken for a medical checkup before and after the remand period. It directed the authorities to present Swati before the court on October 15.
The court said in its written order that Swati had complained of being subjected to torture after being arrested at 3am on Thursday.
Moreover, it added, the FIA had informed the court that a “technical comparison” of Swati’s Twitter account had to be conducted.
The court said Swati was being sent on physical remand for two days for further investigation and the recovery of his other social media accounts.
Medical report says Swati is ‘mentally and physically stable’
Subsequently, on the court’s orders, a medical examination of the PTI leader was conducted by a four-member medical board at the Pims Hospital.
The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said that the “systematic examination” of the PTI leader was “unremarkable”. It was observed that Swati was a patient with hypertension and was on cardiac medication.
The report stated that imaging studies including X-rays and abdominal ultrasound of the former minister were “normal”.
“The medical board is of the view that the patient is physically and mentally stable. He is advised to continue his current cardiac medication,” it concluded.
Recriminations against arrest and ‘torture’
At a rally in Mardan today, PTI chief Imran Khan accused the federal government of stripping and torturing Swati. “I’m saying to all institutions that if you think that you can get respected by committing torture, don’t have that misunderstanding,” he warned.
In a tweet later, the former prime minister said that custodial torture of the PTI senator “for tweeting against NRO 2” was a “shameful act in our history”.
“Can torture and intimidation make people respect any individual or institution? The Holy Quran teaches us respect and humiliation are solely in Allah’s jurisdiction, which He dispenses according to our deeds.
“Those who have allowed the biggest criminals not only to evade accountability after stealing billions from the nation but to come to power again are destined to be humiliated,” he added.
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi also strongly condemned Swati’s arrest, saying that public opinion could not be changed by such “tactics”.
Qureshi called for the senator’s immediate release.
Earlier, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that reports of Swati’s torture were “disturbing”. “Torturing political prisoners has become a new normal in Pakistan,” he added.
PTI-era human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted a video of Azam Swati alleging torture in custody.
“Brave man Senator Azam Swati as he tells of why he was arrested but also how he was subjected to torture while in custody,” she wrote. “Shameful.”
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned the incident, adding that allegations regarding the violation of his dignity were “too serious to ignore”.
“These unfortunate precedents will continue to haunt us for times to come. Change is merely an illusion, only characters have changed!” he tweeted.
Earlier, Swati’s lawyer Babar Awan said “midnight jackals” came to the senator’s house and identified themselves as “FIA personnel,” he said while speaking to the media.
Awan said he was condemning the “arrest” on his, the nation’s and the PTI’s behalf.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister and PTI leader Taimur Jhagra called for Swati’s release. “Our citizens see a political mess; an economic mess; & the ridiculing of accountability. Time to bear the political criticism that comes in today’s polarised Pakistan.
“The answer is elections; not fear through arrests. It is not working. Don’t dig deeper,” he added.
PTI leader Malik Amin Aslam also voiced alarm over Swati’s torture claims and called it a “pathetic state of affairs”.
Last week, the PTI had said that a number of its leaders — including Senator Saifullah Khan Nyazee, Hamid Zaman and Tariq Shafi — had been picked up by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA); a claim that the agency had initially denied.
Later, during a press conference, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said that Saifullah Nyazee and Amir Zaman had been taken into “protective custody” for interrogation, adding they might be arrested after due diligence, if necessary.
He said that the two men had not been appearing in the prohibited funding case.
Meanwhile, PTI founding member Hamid Zaman’s arrest by the FIA in a connection with a prohibited funding case in Lahore was also confirmed.
According to the FIR lodged against him, both Hamid and Shafi are accused of being accomplices of Abraaj founder Arif Masood Naqvi.
The FIR alleged that Naqvi had “siphoned off Rs9.1bn from funds of Abraaj Group and its subsidiary companies abroad and funnelled to the Aman Foundation’s accounts through Foreign Telegraphic Transfers (FTTs) with unexplained money trail.”
The FIR lodged in Lahore also names Karachi-based Tariq Shafi, whose residence was also raided by FIA and during an hour-long search and seized, “different items” were seized. However, while the PTI claimed he had been arrested, the agency denied making any arrests.