Tweet against army chief: Court hands Azam Swati back to FIA for one more day

Published October 15, 2022
In this still, PTI leader Azam Khan Swati speaks to the media outside a sessions court in Islamabad on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
In this still, PTI leader Azam Khan Swati speaks to the media outside a sessions court in Islamabad on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

An Islamabad district and sessions court on Saturday granted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) physical remand of PTI Senator Azam Swati for another day in a case pertaining to a tweet against state institutions, including the army chief.

Earlier in the day, the former minister was taken to the PIMS Hospital for a medical examination after which he was presented before the court amid tight security.

Speaking to reporters, the PTI leader said: “The imported government has eaten Rs1,100 billion of this poor country.”

On Thursday, the court had remanded the PTI leader into FIA custody for two days after Swati named Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in his tweet denouncing the acquittals of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son in a multi-billion-rupee money laundering case, registered against them during the PTI rule.

In the 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”.

Read more: Swati’s arrest

Talking to reporters after his arrest, Swati had alleged that 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”.

He had also accused the “agencies” of custodial torture, saying that a “parliamentarian has been stripped”, after which the court had instructed FIA to get a medical examination of the PTI leader conducted. Swati’s claims had triggered criticism and condemnations from PTI and other segments of society against his alleged torture.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of the hearing today, the court of Senior Civil Judge Muhammad Shabbir was told that the federal government had appointed Raja Rizwan Abbasi as the prosecutor in the case.

Meanwhile, PTI lawyer Babar Awan said that he would present arguments on the sections included in the complaint lodged against Swati.

The FIA then submitted Swati’s case file in court. “The suspect tweeted from his verified account,” the agency’s prosecutor said, elaborating that the complaint was lodged under sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Peca).

Abbasi went on to say that the “choice of words” in Swati’s tweet was wrong. “He has been constantly running a campaign,” he said, subsequently requesting the court to extend the PTI leader’s remand for eight days.

Here, Judge Shabbir asked: “I have read the file. What did the FIA do in the two-day remand?”

To this, the prosecutor said that the senator’s phone — through which the tweet was posted — and other devices were yet to be seized.

“We have to trace [the person] who is behind the suspect and tweets against the army,” Abbasi said, requesting the court to accept the FIA’s plea.

However, PTI lawyer Awan opposed the agency’s stance. “When the FIA inquired about the tweet, Swati admitted that he had posted it. At the next hearing, I will bring all the records detailing who said what.

“You can see the wounds on Swati’s body. The doctors at PIMS Hospital are not being allowed to write anything,” he added.

Subsequently, the court reserved its verdict on FIA’s plea. It then extended Swati’s physical remand by a day.

The FIR

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.

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