An Islamabad district and sessions court extended the judicial remand of PTI Senator Azam Swati — who has been in detention since Nov 27 over his controversial tweets about senior military officials — for 14 days and directed the investigating officer (IO) to submit a challan at the next hearing.
Swati was initially booked by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Islamabad over a “highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets […] against state institutions” and subsequently arrested by the agency last month.
Later, multiple first information reports (FIRs) were registered against him in Sindh and Balochistan as well for using “derogatory language” and “provoking the people against the army”.
On Dec 1, an Islamabad court had approved Swati’s 14-day judicial remand in the FIA case, but the senator was handed over to Balochistan police a day later. He remained in Balochistan police’s custody for a week and was then handed over to Sindh police.
Earlier today, the Sindh High Court took up a plea filed by Azam Swati’s son, Usman Swati, challenging the FIRs registered against the senator in Sindh over his tweets. At the hearing, Sindh Prosecutor General Faiz H Shah informed the SHC that Swati had been shifted back to Islamabad.
Subsequently, judicial magistrate Shabbir Bhatti resumed the hearing of the FIA case in Islamabad and enquired whether a challan had been submitted.
At that, Swati’s counsel, Babar Awan, said, “They [the prosecution] kept on saying for three days that they will present arguments, and then they got the judge transferred.”
He further said the SHC and Balochistan High Court had quashed cases registered against Swati and “set a prime example of supremacy of the law”.
He added, “How could tweets pose any danger to anyone?”
When the judge asked whether Swati had been granted bail in the case, Awan denied, saying “They [prosecution] kept playing a game with the judge for two days.”
The court then summoned Swati and suspended the session for a while.
When the session resumed, Swati joined the hearing via a video link.
“How are you Swati sahib?” the judge asked.
“I am fine,” the senator replied, adding that he would continue the struggle for “supremacy of the law” and “judiciary’s independence”.
Subsequently, the IO informed the court that they were awaiting records from Twitter and a technical report to submit the challan.
The court, however, directed him to submit the challan.
“At least submit an interim challan,” the court said, adding that they were issuing a notice for it today.
The court warned IO that he would not be paid his salary if he failed to submit the challan at the next hearing.
The court also allowed Swati’s lawyers to meet him and asked when would they meet the senator.
It adjourned the hearing after extending Swati’s judicial remand for 14 days.
‘Cases in Sindh being disposed of as C-Class’
Earlier today, Sindh Prosecutor General Shah informed the SHC that Swati had been shifted to Islamabad and all cases registered against him in Sindh were being disposed of as C-Class, which means disposal of the case for being non-cognisable.
“Consequently, all FIRs will now become ineffective,” he said.
In preceding hearings, the SHC had restrained police from arresting Swati in cases registered against him over his tweets within the limits of SHC’s Hyderabad registry — which includes Mithi, Nawabshah, and Hyderabad — and Karachi.
The directives were issued on a plea filed by the senator’s son, who sought the quashing of charges against Swati in Sindh.
A two-member SHC bench, comprising Justice KK Agha and Justice Arshad Hussain Khan, took up the plea today and was informed by the prosecutor general that cases against Swati were registered on private persons’ complaints and authorities were bound by the law to record their statements.
In its short order on the plea, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the court observed that numerous FIRs were registered against Swati in Sindh when a similar FIR was already pending in Islamabad.
“Lodging of more than one FIRs in respect of the same incident has been prohibited by the Honourable Supreme Court,” the court order said, adding that the Sindh prosecutor general and inspector general of police (IG) were subsequently directed to “go through all the FIRs and see if they were materially different from the FIR already lodged in Islamabad.
“After going through the FIRs lodged at Islamabad and in this province, the learned Sindh prosecutor general and inspector general of police have come to the conclusion that they are similar.”
The court order said Sindh IG Ghulam Nabi Memon had then assured that all FIRs registered against Swati in Sindh over similar offences would be disposed of as C-Class.
“He shall ensure that he does the same within three days of this order,” the court directed.
The order quoted the petitioner’s counsel as saying that he was satisfied with this development.
During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel, Advocate Anwar Mansoor, remarked, “The Sindh IG has done a good job.”
Justice Agha also credited the Sindh IG and provincial government for “resolving the matter”.
Concluding the hearing, the court said there should be no more cases against Swati in Sindh.
At that, the prosecutor general assured the court that “these matters will be looked into according to the law”.
PTI appeals to CJP
After the hearing, PTI leaders Imran Ismail while speaking to the media asked “what crime is Azam Swati being punished for?”
He reiterated the senator and PTI’s allegation that Swati had been subjected to custodial torture.
“Stripping a senator naked and torturing him is condemnable.”
He also protested the registration of multiple FIRs against Swati. “[Usually], a single FIR is registered against a person but 40 cases have been lodged against Azam Swati.”
Ismail called on the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) for justice, saying: “Where will we go if courts won’t deliver justice?”
The PTI leader went on to say that “no FIRs can be registered against the powerful in this country.
“There was an attack on Imran Khan and he couldn’t get an FIR registered. Similarly, [journalist] Arshad Sharif’s mother was also unable to get an FIR registered over her son’s murder.”
He said the PTI was standing with Swati and again appealed to the CJP to look into the matter.
He concluded his media talk saying, “It is now to be seen whether [the outcome] will be based on justice or the will of the powerful.”
Alongside him, PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh expressed the hope that justice would be delivered in this case.
Arrests over tweets
Swati was first arrested by the FIA on charges of posting controversial tweets about the armed forces in October and was later released on bail.
The senator has alleged since that he was tortured in custody and demanded the removal of two military officials, one of whom he used foul language against in his tweet on November 26.
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 Technical Assistant Aneesur Rehman.
The complaint was registered under Section 20 of Peca 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 PPC.
Following his arrest in November, the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority prohibited Azam’s media coverage on all satellite TV channels.
Separate FIRs were also registered against the PTI leader in Balochistan and Sindh as well.
On December 2, Swati was brought to Quetta from Islamabad in one such case, registered at the Kuchlak police station, a day after a court in the capital approved his 14-day judicial remand.
But on December 9, the Balochistan High Court ordered the quashing of all five cases initially registered against him in the province.
Hours after the order was issued, the PTI senator was handed over to Sindh police while his lawyer said two new cases were registered against Swati in Balochistan.
The cases were registered under Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc), 124A (sedition), and 123A (condemnation of the creation of the State, and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty) of the PPC.
Earlier this week, the SHC restrained police from arresting Swati in cases registered against him within the limits of SHC’s Hyderabad registry and Karachi.
The Capital Development Authority has also sealed Swati’s farmhouse, located on Islamabad’s Murree Road over alleged violation of building laws.