ISLAMABAD: The Fed­eral Investigation Agency (FIA) on Sunday arrested Senator Azam Swati — second time in six weeks — for defamation, statement conducing to public mischief, and highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets, after his fiery speech at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) long march in Rawalpindi in which he lashed out at senior military leadership.

While multiple FIRs were lodged against Mr Swati in Balochistan and Sindh on similar charges, with several complaints alleging he was working on an ‘anti-Pakistan agenda’, the FIA took him to the court of duty judge Waqas Ahmed Raja, who granted his physical remand for two days instead of eight days as requested by the investigation agency.

Taking notice of the arrest, chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior Mohsin Aziz has summoned the FIA director general on Monday (today) to brief the committee about cause of arrest and whether the codal formalities were observed in executing the arrest.

The FIA claimed that it had informed the Senate chairman before arresting the legislator.

Reaction

The PTI has strongly reacted to his arrest and termed it an example of ‘fascism’. “I am shocked & appalled at how rapidly we are descending into not just a banana republic but a fascist state. How can anyone not understand the pain & suffering Senator Swati underwent with custodial torture & blackmailing video of him & his conservative wife sent to his family,” PTI Chairman Imran Khan tweeted.

One of the complainants, Tariq Husain Arain said he was an advocate of Sindh High Court. In the FIR, he lodged at Karachi’s Darakhshan police station, he said he was saddened and angered to see Senator Swati’s tweet in which he used abusive language that could spread ‘hatred’ against the military institution and instigate ‘rebellion’ and a breach of peace. An employee of a private company, Riaz Ahmed, in his complaint at the Clifton police station said he was disheartened to see the abusive language used against army general that may defame Pakistan Army despite the institution’s support to the masses in difficult times with its soldiers sacrificing their lives for the country.

Cases were also lodged against the PTI senator in Tharparkar, Hyderabad, Thatta and Mirpurkhas for his obnoxious tweets against military under Sections 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty), 500 (defamation), 501 (defamation and printing of content deemed defamatory), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief), 109 (abetment) and 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of PPC. The complainants alleged Mr Swati passed derogatory remarks against army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Maj Gen Faisal Naseer and that he was working on anti-Pakistan agenda.

While addressing the marchers in the garrison city, Mr Swati had directly blamed the military establishment for regime change (in April 2022), narrated the incident of illegal video and suggested the masses to compare assets of Pakistani and Indian army generals.

Media coverage ban

Shortly after his fiery speech, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) banned broadcast of live and recorded speeches and pressers of the legislator, besides his media coverage as guest at a talk show, statements or tickets on all TV channels.

In its prohibition order, dated Nov 26, Pemra referred to the speech made by Mr Swati at the PTI’s long march in Rawalpindi the same day wherein he “made aspersions against the state institutions by leveling baseless allegations”. It noted that the speech went on air “without any editorial control and effective utilisation of delay mechanism”.

According to the FIR registered by the FIA on behalf of the state, Mr Swati’s “intimidating tweets of blaming and naming” were a “mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel of armed forces to harm the state of Pakistan”. Through the offensive tweets as well as the comments on instigating tweets, he allegedly attempted to seduce army personnel from their allegiance from their duties as subordinates, the FIR said, adding that this was a “calculated and repeated attempt” by Mr Swati.

PTI leaders show solidarity

While PTI leader and lawyer Dr Babar Awan represented Senator Swati, party’s vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi, leader of opposition in senate Shahzad Waseem, former governor Imran Ismail and others showed solidarity with Mr Swati by reaching Islamabad district court during the day.

“Senator Azam Swati arrested again by FIA after he spoke at our Azadi March where he asked some questions & spoke abt what hapened to him & his family. Is that a crime? Did the pussilanimous Senate Chairman again give his approval for this arrest? Fascism,” former human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted. She also wrote: “Perhaps FIA shd have read this judgement & understood it before filing latest FIR against Senator Swati. State shd also read it carefully. Also have been saying consistently in & out of govt Peca in present form shd go. Meanwhile do read the judgement.”

PTI leader Asad Umar said Swati’s case was an example of what could not be said against the leaders of powerful institution. However, he added, “there cannot be a law of jungle” in a country of 220 million people.

Meanwhile, complainants against Senator Swati also lodged FIRs at Kuchlak police station in Quetta; Nasirabad and Warah police stations in Qambar-Shahdadkot district; Saddar police station in Jacobabad; Usman Essani police station in Shikarpur; Civil Lines police station in Larkana; A-Section police station in Dadu; Malir and Karachi West districts of Karachi.

M.H. Khan in Hyderabad, Imtiaz Ali in Karachi, Saleem Shahid in Quetta, M.B. Kalhoro in Larkana, Qurban Ali Khushik in Dadu and Waseem Shamsi in Sukkur also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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