Swati’s arrest

Published October 15, 2022

THE message has been made clear: the establishment does not pull its punches for anyone, even an elected representative. Senator Azam Khan Swati has discovered the consequences of pointing fingers at the top brass.

The FIA picked up the 66-year-old senator after a late-night, allegedly warrantless raid on his residence. Senator Swati says he was then handed over to “agencies” to be stripped and tortured. The manner of his arrest and how the lawmaker was subsequently treated have sparked anger, with many asking what gives the state licence to assert itself in so thuggish a manner.

On Thursday, when Senator Swati was produced before a sessions court, he was asked why he had been arrested. He explained that he was not arrested for breaking the law, violating the Constitution or trampling on someone’s fundamental rights. He was arrested for “taking one name — Bajwa — and that is the violation”.

On the other hand, the FIA charged him for his “calculated attempt” at sowing “hatred in the mind of people and army personnel against the army chief and Pakistan army”. The FIA said the senator’s act of “blaming and naming is a mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel of the armed forces and an attempt to harm the state of Pakistan”. If that be the case, are not those who picked him up and allegedly tortured him guilty of the same? The manner of his arrest is a clear attempt to intimidate a critic and does little to improve the prevalent public distrust of the security establishment and its high-handed approach to dissenters.

Senator Swati may have overstepped in his anger at seeing the PM and his son miraculously walk away from a case that had repeatedly been described as ‘open and shut’. However, the reaction to his remarks is a major red flag. It demonstrates that the powers that be can’t be trusted to respect the legislature, regardless of how ‘professional’ they try to project themselves.

If the security apparatus can display such contempt for due process and the law, how can it be trusted to keep its word on not interfering in civilian matters? It clearly sees itself as superior to the democratic apparatus and laws that govern the land. “A parliamentarian has been unclothed. I am telling the nation,” Senator Swati told reporters. With such forces promising to be the nation’s protectors, how can one feel safe in their own country?

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2022

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