ISLAMABAD: PTI Sena­tor Azam Swati, who was det­ained in the early hours of Thursday by the Federal Inve­stigation Agency (FIA) over a ‘controversial’ tweet against army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, was sent on a two-day physical rem­­and by an Islamabad court.

Senator Swati landed in hot water after he named Gen Bajwa in his tweet denouncing the acquittal of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son in the multi-billion money laundering case, registered against them during the PTI rule.

In a harshly-worded tweet, the senator sarcastically congratulated “Mr Bajwa” and a few others, saying “Your plan is really working and all criminals are getting free at cost of this country” and alleging corruption had been “legitimised”.

He was subsequently picked up from his residence before dawn on Thursday after FIA booked him on charges of inciting mutiny. The FIR was registered under Section 131 (inciting to mutiny), 500 (defamation), 501 (printing defamatory contents), 505 (conducing public mischief), and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

FIA said the PTI senator had criticised the chief of army staff and others through his verified Twitter handle, as it termed the tweet “against the state institution and its senior government functionaries, including chief of army staff”.

“Such intimidating tweet(s) of blaming and naming through Twitter account is a mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel of the armed forces and an attempt to harm the state,” the FIR said, adding, “Through the aforementioned tweet, the accused undermined the judicial system of the country and also attempted to seduce army personnel from their allegiance to their duties.”

The FIA termed the tweet a “calculated attempt to create hatred in the mind of people and army personnel against COAS and the Pakistan Army” which “created distrust towards the judicial system”.

It further said that Mr Swati “attempted to provoke general public…by using false information which is likely to incite, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman in the army, navy or air force to mutiny”.

Later on Thursday, Mr Swati was produced before senior civil judge Shabbir Bhatti. The FIA sought his physical remand for eight days to conduct a technical analysis of the social media contents and retrieval of his social media accounts. The court granted two days remand however and directed the FIA to produce Mr Swati on Oct 15.

‘Tortured and stripped naked’

After the hearing, Mr Swati alleged before reporters that he was stripped naked and tortured by intelligence personnel. “I was not arrested for breaking any law but for taking Bajwa’s name,” he claimed.

The court also ordered a medical check-up of the PTI leader, and he was subjected to a medical examination at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where a board of four specialists termed his condition “normal”, but pointed out that he was a cardiac patient with hypertension and was on cardiac medication.

Condemnation

Meanwhile, Mr Swati’s arrest was denounced by politicians across party lines. Former prime minister Imran Khan vowed to approach courts over the detention of his aide and said termed the treatment meted out to the senator ‘shameful’.

Imran Khan tweeted: “Azam Swati’s custodial torture for a tweet on NRO 2 is yet another shameful act in our history. Can torture and intimidation make people respect any individual or institution… [t]hose 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.”

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also said the arrest of the senator would set a bad precedent for the times to come.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2022

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