ISLAMABAD: A day after the arrest of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry by the Islamabad police in a ‘sedition’ case, the development continued to resonate in the mainstream and social media, prompting across-the-board condemnations while also resulting in demands for repealing the colonial-era sedition law.

PTI chief Imran Khan, who has been recovering at his residence in Lahore, appeared unfazed by the arrest of his top aide and said that his party was “more resolute than ever before” to resist the tactics employed by the federal government to “terrify us into submission”.

“The treatment being meted out to Fawad Ch — being abducted, treated like a terrorist, given physical remand on a sham FIR — shows all that is wrong with Pak today. There is no justice, just law of the jungle,” Mr Khan said in a strongly-worded tweet.

“If State and cabal of crooks think they can create an environment of fear…they have got it all wrong. People are more determined to…fight against these fascist forces for democracy, rule of law & justice for our people,” the former prime minister tweeted.

‘Repeal sedition law’

Meanwhile, lawmakers and civil society raised their voices for the eradication of Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code which pertains to sedition and is “widely used against civilians and politicians”.

In a statement, the Human Rights Council Pakistan deplored the “continuous use of archaic, colonial laws against sedition by successive governments against their political opponents”. It urged the government to drop the charges against Mr Chaudhry.

Lawmakers, activists demand annulment of colonial-era sedition law

PPP leaders Farhatullah Babar and Senator Raza Rabbani also expressed their opposition to the sedition law. “The PPP is in principle opposed to colonial-era sedition law 124-A and demanded its repeal in the parliament. Application of this law against anyone cannot be condoned,” Mr Babar said in a tweet.

Similarly, a statement issued by Senator Rabbani termed the PTI leader’s arrest under the sedition law “unwarranted”. “It is a matter of history that charges of treason and sedition are only levied against politicians and civilians,” the statement said, advising the government to refrain from prosecuting under such sections.

It is a matter of fact that the Lahore High Court quashed the proceedings of the special court in the matter of high treason charges under Article 6 against military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the senator said. He also urged the government to delete Section 124-A and said it should on its “own motion give notice of my private member bill for the deletion of Section 124A which is lying dormant in the National Assembly”.

PML-N leader Miftah Ismail also opposed the arrest. “IK [Imran Khan] was wrong to jail us for months without charge only— because we opposed him. Fawad Chaudhry was of course wrong to threaten ECP officials and families. He should have been served a notice,” he tweeted.

On the other hand, PTI leader Shireen Mazari advocated an overhaul of civil services to end “colonial mindsets”. “The munshi [clerk] of the ECP who took offence at being called a munshi… The entire civil service is a colonial leftover that needs to be totally restructured. It is outdated and inept, creates illusions of grandeur and colonial mindsets.”

Though his colleague Marriyum Aurangzeb had attempted to distance the government from the arrest, PM’s aide Malik Ahmed Khan said there would be ‘zero tolerance’ against individuals who “threatened or abused” state institutions and their officials, APP reported. For Malik Ahmed Khan, it was “astonishing” that “his friend Fawad Chaudhry” would use such “disturbing” language against the election watchdog.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Bar Association issued its second statement denouncing the treatment meted out to its member, Fawad Chaudhry.

The use of white cloth to cover the face of the former minister and his production before the magistrates in handcuffs drew the ire of the apex lawyers body which termed it “a gross humiliation of violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 4 read with Article 10 and Article 14 of the Constitution”.

It also feared that the PTI leader’s personal dignity may be further abused or he may be persecuted to custodial torture. “Let the government not be mistaken of the strong resolve of this bar association to disrespect and humiliate the dignity of an advocate [of] Supreme Court and member of this association,” it said, warning that any unlawful act shall be sternly responded to by the entire legal fraternity.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2023

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