PTI Senator Azam Swati was handed over to the Sindh police in Quetta on Friday, his lawyer said, hours after the Balochistan High Court (BHC) directed police to quash all five first information reports (FIRs) registered against him in the province over his controversial tweets against top military officials and release him if he was not booked in any other cases.
Swati’s lawyer Advocate Iqbal Shah confirmed the development to Dawn.com.
The Sindh and Balochistan police did not respond with a comment when approached by Dawn.com.
PTI leaders lashed out at the news with the party’s provincial president Qasim Suri saying the party was in the process of quashing the remaining FIRs against Swati after the BHC order when the Sindh police “abducted him in their special plane and took him to an unknown location”.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry also claimed that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s plane went to Quetta to collect Swati and the senator was arrested on the same charges the high court had quashed.
Chaudhry claimed Swati was brought to Larkana and then moved to Qambar Shahdadkot. “These are the human rights of a senior politician and senator of Pakistan.”
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said: “The law is being buried every day.”
PTI leader Shireen Mazari said that it seemed from the treatment being meted out to Swati that “his use of a few intemperate words is the greatest threat to Pakistan’s security, not terrorism or Indian military ambitions”.
She later alleged that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad police raided and sealed his home while also “partially demolishing” his property. Mazari also shared a purported video of the damaged property.
However, CDA’s Building Control Section (BCS) Director Nasir Jamil Butt told Dawn.com that the authority had in fact taken action against four farmhouses, one of which belonged to Swati, for encroachment. He added that notices, which had gone unanswered, had been issued to the owners prior to taking action.
Swati — who was arrested in Islamabad by the Federal Investigation Agency on November 27 for the second time in less than two months over strongly worded tweets about senior military leaders — was booked under Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (Peca), which deals with offences against the dignity of a person.
Separately, he was also nominated in multiple FIRs in Balochistan and Sindh for using “derogatory language” and “provoking the people against the army”.
Following his arrest, Swati was shifted to Quetta aboard a special flight amid tight security last Friday after the judicial magistrate of Islamabad handed him over to the Balochistan police. The senator was subsequently remanded in police custody for five days on Sunday.
A day later, his son, Osman Swati, approached the BHC against the FIRs registered against the senior Swati and the court had restrained the provincial government and authorities from registering any more FIRs against the senator.
Court orders quashing FIRs
Justice Muhammad Hashim Khan Kakar resumed hearing Osman’s plea earlier today and reprimanded the police for registering multiple cases against Swati.
“Does the Balochistan IG (inspector general of police) know about the registration of these five cases?” he questioned.
Police informed the judge that the IG did not know about the FIRs.
Following that, Justice Kakar observed that further extension in Swati’s remand was not required and asked, “On what basis was his first remand approved?”
When police reiterated the judge’s observation that Swati remand was not needed any longer, Justice Kakar remarked: “Why do police take steps because of which they and the court have to hide their faces?”
He then directed police to quash all FIRs registered against the senator in the province and release him if he was not booked in any other cases.
Swati was not presented before the court today, but Advocate General Asif Reki, Senior Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Asad Nasir and Swati’s son, Osman, attended the hearing.
Arrests over tweets
On November 27, the FIA arrested Swati for the second time over a “highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets […] against state institutions”.
The arrest came after an FIR was registered by the FIA on the complaint of the state through Islamabad Cyber Crime Reporting Centre (CCRC) Technical Assistant Aneesur Rehman.
The complaint was registered under Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (Peca) which deals with offences against dignity of a person as well as Sections 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty),500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (defamation and printing of content deemed defamatory), Section 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Meanwhile, separate FIRs were registered against the PTI leader in Balochistan and Sindh as well.
Following his arrest in November, the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) prohibited media coverage of Swati on all satellite TV channels.
A day after his arrest, an Islamabad court sent the senator on 14-day judicial remand and he was later taken to Balochistan.
This was after Swati moved a petition before the Islamabad High Court against shifting him outside the jurisdiction of the federal capital in view of the multiple cases filed against him.
The plea requested the court to restrain the respondent authorities from handing over Swati to the Sindh or Balochistan police until the record was produced before the court.
On Thursday, also sought an exemption from in-person appearance at the court on grounds of health and security.
Additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui