Islamabad court grants police 2-day physical remand of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry

Published January 25, 2023
<p>PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry is presented before an Islamabad court on Wednesday hours after being arrested. — Photo courtesy: PTI Twitter</p>

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry is presented before an Islamabad court on Wednesday hours after being arrested. — Photo courtesy: PTI Twitter

<p>Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. — AFP</p>

Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. — AFP

<p>Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. - An aide to former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on January 25 for criticising election officials, police said, the latest step against the opposition as it tries to force early polls. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)</p>

Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. - An aide to former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on January 25 for criticising election officials, police said, the latest step against the opposition as it tries to force early polls. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

<p>PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry outside Lahore Cantt court on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV</p>

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry outside Lahore Cantt court on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

An Islamabad district and sessions court on Wednesday night granted police two-day physical remand of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, hours after he was arrested for “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”.

Duty Magistrate Naveed Khan announced the reserved verdict, adjourning the hearing till January 27 (Friday). The investigating officer had sought eight-day physical remand of the former minister but the request was rejected.

The former federal minister was taken into custody early Wednesday morning after a first information report (FIR) against him was registered at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station by an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for “threatening” the electoral body’s members and their families.


Key developments:

  • Fawad arrested from outside his residence early Wednesday morning
  • FIR registered by ECP official at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station for “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”
  • Lahore Cantt court allows police to take Fawad to Islamabad
  • Fawad says if criticism is rebellion then the entire nation should rebel; his wife calls on CJP to take suo motu notice of arrest
  • LHC dismisses plea challenging Fawad’s arrest
  • Islamabad court approves Fawad’s 2-day physical remand

According to Fawad’s brother, Faisal, the former federal minister was “taken away” in four cars that did not have any number plates at 5:30am. Faisal said that the family was unaware of Fawad’s location at the time.

“We are also not being given any details of the FIR registered against him,” he said. Faisal, who is also a prominent lawyer, termed his brother’s arrest “illegal” and asserted that he will fight this battle in court.

The PTI leader was later brought to Lahore’s Cantt court where the judicial magistrate granted police Fawad’s transit remand.

Later in the day, Islamabad police presented Fawad before Duty Magistrate Naveed Khan and sought his physical remand for eight days. The prosecutor told the court that authorities needed Fawad’s phone and his laptop, adding that the politician’s custody was required for conducting a photogrammetric test and a voice match.

During the hearing, ECP lawyer Saad Hasan read out the contents of the FIR. He contended that the PTI leader had termed the electoral watchdog to be a munshi (clerk).

The lawyer argued that the ECP was a constitutional body, adding that the regime change narrative had been formed under a well-thought out plan. “Fawad Chaudhry damaged the ECP’s reputation by making threatening statements.”

Hasan added that Fawad’s remarks were aimed at inciting one group against the other. He contended that the ECP had received many threatening letters. “The purpose of Fawad’s speech was to promote hatred against the commission.”

He further said that Fawad had not apologised for his remarks and was still standing by them, adding that there was a lot of “electronic proof” present against the politician.

On the other hand, the PTI leader requested the judge to dismiss the case registered against him, arguing that the FIR was not in accordance with the law.

“They have charged me with sedition for doing criticism. If this happens, then democracy and freedom of expression will cease to exist.”

He said that whatever he says is on the PTI’s behalf. “I am the party’s spokesperson. Whatever I say is my party’s policy. It is not necessary that what I say is my personal opinion.”

Fawad further said that he “was not making a speech and what giving a media talk”, adding that his remarks were “quoted incorrectly”.

The PTI leader said he was arrested in Lahore and his mobile phone was also seized. Later, he was handed over the Islamabad police.

“I am a senior lawyer, a parliamentarian and a spokesperson for the PTI. I am not a terrorist that I was detained in the Counter Terrorism Department,” he said, arguing that his arrest was illegal.

Fawad’s lawyers Ali Bukhari and Qaiser Imam also presented their arguments before the court.

Bukhari said that the FIR against Fawad should have been registered in Lahore. “According to the law, a case is registered where the alleged crime took place.”

For his part, Imam said the court needed to examine which charges were applicable in the case. He questioned whether a case could be registered at someone’s behest.

He further said that the remarks given by Fawad did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Kohsar police station. “Fawad did not make the remarks in Islamabad.”

After hearing the arguments, the judge reserved the verdict.

LHC dismisses plea challenging arrest

Separately, a petition was filed in the LHC by Fawad’s cousin Nabeel Shahzad against the arrest. The application — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — named the Punjab government, provincial police officer, counter-terrorism department, deputy inspector general of police (operation) and station house officer of Defence A as respondents in the case.

It said that the PTI leader was apprehended “illegally, unconstitutionally and without legal authority” and demanded that police officials should be directed to recover Fawad from the “illegal and unlawful confinement” and produce him before the high court.

However, the LHC dismissed the petition observing that Fawad’s detention was “not illegal”.

Justice Tariq Saleem heard the petition challenging the PTI leader’s arrest. The hearing was adjourned at least four times as the judge repeatedly directed authorities to present Fawad before the court.

At the outset of today’s hearing, Justice Sheikh instructed the police to present Fawad in court by 1:30pm. However, when the proceedings resumed at 2pm, Punjab Advocate General (AAG) Chaudhry Muhammad Jawad Yaqub said that he was not in the position to tell where Fawad was.

On the other hand, PTI lawyer Azhar Siddique told the court that they had just learnt that Fawad was being taken to Islamabad.

“The orders that I give, I make sure they are implemented,” Justice Sheikh said here. “Even if he [Fawad] has reached Islamabad, bring him back and present him before the court.”

In his response, the AAG said that he will ensure that the court’s orders were executed and sought some time. Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned for 30 minutes.

When it resumed, the judge inquired: “Where is Fawad?”

The AAG replied that Fawad was in the custody of the Islamabad police after which Justice Sheikh summoned the inspector generals of Islamabad and Punjab to court.

“The IGs of Islamabad and Punjab should appear in the court by 6pm,” he said and instructed the LHC registrar to immediately communicate the orders to them.

But only the Punjab IG was present when the hearing resumed shortly after 6pm.

Fawad’s lawyer stated that his client had not been presented in court yet again. “It is alarming that he was not produced before the court despite the court’s directives,” he said.

For his part, Punjab IG Dr Usman Anwar informed the court that he was present in Rahim Yar Khan where mobile signals were weak. “I received the court’s directives regarding Fawad once mobile signals started working,” he said, asserting that the court could “check his track record”.

He maintained that he had tried to get in touch with Islamabad police but was unable to do so, adding that his “operator” was still making efforts in this regard.

“Fawad Chaudhry is not in the Punjab police’s custody. He is in the Islamabad police’s custody,” IG Anwar told the court.

Meanwhile, the AAG presented a copy of the case registered against Fawad. “On the basis of this FIR, the Islamabad police got in touch with the relevant police station in Lahore to make the arrest,” he said, adding that a local court then granted police the PTI leader’s transitory remand.

He further said that Fawad was “not being held hostage”, telling the LHC that the PTI leader’s lawyers were present for the remand hearing.

However, Fawad’s lawyer Siddique told the court that he wanted his “kidnapped client” to be presented before the court. “I have never before witnessed this where the court issues directives for producing someone four times and the person is not presented.”

He further said that the entire “process” was indicative of malice on the police’s part. “There has to be a reason why Fawad is not being presented before the court,” he said.

Siddique said that the speech on the basis of which the FIR was registered was delivered at 5pm whereas the case was registered at 10pm. He questioned when the police investigation had taken place, adding that the sedition charges against his client were “political” in nature.

At one point, Justice Saleem asked Fawad’s lawyer Azhar Siddique what exactly he wanted from the court.

“We want the court’s directives to be followed and for Fawad to be produced before the court. We want the arrest to be declared illegal,” the lawyer replied.

“What is illegal in Fawad Chaudhry’s arrest?” Justice Saleem asked. “He was arrested and then presented before a relevant court in Lahore.”

He told Fawad’s lawyer to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against his client’s arrest and subsequently dismissed the petition.

PTI claims Fawad being taken to Islamabad

Meanwhile, in a tweet, PTI leader Hammad Azhar claimed that Fawad was being transported to Islamabad via the motorway “in clear defiance of the high court’s orders”.

Farrukh Habib shared a video which, according to him, was from the Kala Shah Kaku interchange. In the video, he can be seen trying to stop the convoy that was taking Chaudhry. He can be seen repeatedly was also shouting “obey the orders of the court” and banging the hood of a pickup.

Habib could also be seen yelling at one of the passengers inside the pickup. He was then stopped by law enforcement officials and at one point attempted to stop the car from moving by coming in front of it.

In his tweet, Habib alleged that the law enforcers shot at him.

Cantt court grants police Fawad’s transit remand

At 10am, Fawad was brought to Lahore’s Cantt court by officials of the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department and police. Upon his entrance, PTI lawyers showered rose petals on Fawad.

Talking to the media outside the court, Fawad said that those who arrested him should be ashamed of themselves.

“They have deployed so much police as if they are escorting James Bond,” he said, adding that the police kept him in the “category of terrorists”.

As the hearing began, the investigating officer requested the court to grant Islamabad police the PTI leader’s transit remand.

For his part, Fawad asked the judge to provide him with a copy of the FIR registered against him. He went on to say that he was proud of the charges against him. “These allegations were also levelled at Nelson Mandela.”

“It is being said that I have committed sedition […] I am a former Supreme Court lawyer and federal minister […] I should be treated with respect,” he told the court.

The PTI leader said that the way he was arrested was “inappropriate”. “Had they called me, I would have come myself.”

Commenting on his remarks against the ECP, he said that “the entire country is saying the same”.

Meanwhile, Fawad’s lawyer said a habeas corpus petition — a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention — filed by Fawad was pending in the Lahore High Court. “Until a decision is taken on that, a transit remand can’t be granted.”

Here, the judicial magistrate instructed the police to conduct a medical examination of Fawad at the Lahore Services Hospital and present him before a court in Islamabad today.

‘Come out against this system’

In a video message shared on PTI’s official Twitter account after the hearing, Fawad said that if criticism was rebellion then the entire nation should come out on the streets.

“They have registered this case on charges of contempt against the election commission […] this is their attitude and they expect us to not even criticise them.

“Rebellion is a duty. All the 220 million people in the country should come out and rebel against this system otherwise your children will suffer too,” he said.

“Today, Imran Khan and the PTI are standing up for your rights. We are going to jail but these handcuffs are like jewellery to us […] god willing, we will emerge victorious from these trials.

“But it is the nation’s job to come out and change the system,” Fawad added.

FIR

A first information report has been registered against the PTI leader at the Kohsar police station in Islamabad on the complaint of Secretary of the Election Commission Umar Hameed.

The complaint — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — invokes sections 153-A (promotion of enmity between groups), 506 (criminal intimidation), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 124-A (sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code at Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station.

It stated that Fawad, in a speech outside PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s house, threatened the ECP and said that “those who become part of the caretaker government [in Punjab] will be pursued until they are punished”.

Later in a tweet, the Islamabad police said that Fawad tried to “incite violence against a constitutional institution” and “inflame the sentiments of the people”.

It added that the case will be processed as per the law.

Fawad’s wife calls on CJP to take suo motu notice of arrest

Meanwhile, Fawad’s wife Hiba Chaudhry has called on the chief justice of Pakistan to take a suo motu notice of his arrest.

In a press conference alongside PTI leaders Shireen Mazari and Zulfi Bukhari in Islamabad, she said: “The way they took Fawad in the middle of the night […] this is absolutely unacceptable and wrong.

“We don’t know what they have done with them […] whether they have subjected them with torture or if he was blindfolded […] we have no clue. I just want to request the CJP to take a suo motu notice of this.”

Hiba went on to say that Fawad was a national leader and it was his democratic right to be treated in a constitutional manner.

“Today, I am asking the prime minister and Punjab’s caretaker chief minister as well […] please take up this case on merit and send him home as soon as possible,” she added.

During the media talk, Mazari said that Fawad’s brother, Faraz Chaudhry, was also arrested by the police in Jhelum today. Separately, some videos — showing police baton-charging and arresting a group of people — also started doing the rounds on social media. Dawn.com is attempting to independently verify the video.

Condemnations

Condemning Fawad’s arrest, PTI chairman Imran Khan said that he will be holding a media talk at 5pm today, according to the PTI’s YouTube channel. He previously said he would speak at 4pm.

“Fawad’s arrest on his apt description of the CEC leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that Pak has become a banana republic devoid of rule of law,” he tweeted.

Imran added that the nation “must stand up for our fundamental rights now to save Pak’s drift towards a point of no return”.

PTI leader Asad Umar said Chaudhry was “innocent” and he must be released forthwith.

“You must respond to his argument in the same manner rather than using force,” Umar said in a reference to the government while talking to reporters in Lahore this noon. He said the government’s move will rebound on it while the PTI will be the ultimate beneficiary.

Hammad Azhar claimed “police officers pointed their rifles at me and threatened me to back off” when he, along with party leaders, were following the motorcade of the law enforcers.

Condemning the arrest, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said: “This imported government has gone berserk.”

Meanwhile, former federal minister Hammad Azhar said Fawad had been taken to the counter-terrorism department’s regional office in Lahore, as PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan said that he is not a terrorist.

Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Fawad’s arrest was a “strong slap on the face of democracy and rule of law”.

Ex-human rights minister Shireen Mazari called the FIR registered against Fawad “ridiculous” and asked: “How is criticising ECP decisions and even ECP members a call to violence against their families? SC decisions are criticised but ECP decisions can’t be?”

PTI’s Ali Zaidi also strongly condemned the arrest of the senior party leader and said the government was “hell-bent on pushing this country towards anarchy!”

“Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers,” Zaidi tweeted.

On Tuesday night, a number of PTI supporters gathered outside the former premier’s Zaman Park residence after party leaders claimed that the government had formed plans to arrest Imran Khan.

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