Anchorperson Imran Riaz was arrested in Lahore in the early hours of Thursday on charges of “hate speech” and making a “violence-inducing statement” aimed at creating “a rift between the general public and the state institutions”, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said.
Earlier, Riaz’s counsel Mian Ali Ashfaq told Dawn.com that his client was taken into custody from the Allama Iqbal International Airport by FIA’s cybercrime wing.
He said the “illegal arrest” of the journalist will be challenged in court.
The FIA registered the first information report under sections 11 (electronic forgery), 20 (malicious code) and 24 (legal recognition of offences committed in relation to information system) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Peca) 2016. Likewise, sections 131/109 (incitement to mutiny), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 505 (public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code have also been added to the FIR.
According to the FIR — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — Khan was “found involved in publicly making a hate speech at a conference which falls under the territorial jurisdiction of FIA cyber crime cell”.
The complaint went on to say that the speech was further publicly shared on social media platforms nationally and internationally.
The contents of Khan’s video, as mentioned in the FIR, questioned former army chief Gen Bajwa’s pledge for the military to remain apolitical in his final speech as army chief.
The agency pointed out that it had been found “that the same mischievous video of the alleged person was publicly shared and a part of that video was posted by a Twitter user, which was retweeted by Imran Riaz Khan”.
The FIR said the nexus of “retweeting the mischievous video by the alleged person from the Twitter handlers is technically verified [by the agency].”
The FIA report said such a “violence-inducing statement made intentionally and made public by Imran Riaz Khan may cause, or is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against the public tranquillity or incite or likely to incite any class or community or person to commit any offence against any other class or community on the grounds of spreading anarchy, division in the social fabric against the state and the state institutions, bloodshed, extremism, terrorism, feelings of enmity, hatred between the people of Pakistan:
It said the consequences of such mischievous statements rendered “dire consequences both nationally and internationally for the state of Pakistan”.
The FIA said such intimidating/threatening statements were a mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between the general public and the state institutions.
“Prima facie, the alleged person namely Imran Riaz has committed offences u/s 11, 20, 24 of PECA 2016 R/w 131, 500, 505, 109 — PPC. Hence, a case may be registered against the accused while the role of other accomplices (if any) will be determined during the course of the investigation,” it added.
A video shared by PTI’s official Twitter account shows the journalist at FIA’s cybercrime office.
Condemning the journalist’s arrest, PTI general secretary Asad Umar said that while journalists and politicians were in jail, “terrorists are walking free in the country”.
Khan was previously arrested in July last year after multiple sedition cases were registered against him. He was later released by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on bail.