Sheikh Rashid booked for ‘immoral’ remarks against FM Bilawal

Published February 3, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and AML chief Sheikh Rashid.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and AML chief Sheikh Rashid.

PTI ally and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was arrested on Thursday in connection with remarks he made against former president Asif Ali Zardari, has now been booked for “immoral” remarks against Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, it emerged on Friday.

Rashid was arrested by the Islamabad police in the wee hours of Thursday in connection with remarks he made against Zardari. The first information report (FIR) — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — was registered at Islamabad’s Aabpara Police Station under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Rashid was arrested on a complaint filed by Raja Inayatur Rehman, the vice president of PPP Rawalpindi Division, wherein he said that the AML chief, in a television interview on Jan 27, alleged that Zardari got the assistance of some terrorists to plan former prime minister Imran Khan’s murder.

Subsequently, an Islamabad court had granted police two-day physical remand of the AML leader.

Another case was also registered against him at the Murree police station under Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public function) and 506(ii) (criminal intimidation) of the PPC for manhandling a police official at the time of the arrest.

However, it emerged on Friday that yet another case was lodged against Rashid by Karachi’s Mochko police on the complaint of a local PPP leader.

The FIR was registered under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 500 (punishment for defamation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the PPC.

In the FIR, complainant Khuda Bux — a senior vice president of the PPP and a resident of Soomar Goth — said that he was at his party’s office on Suparco Road in Mowach Goth on Feb 2 at around 4:30pm, when he saw Rashid on social media using “extremely filthy and immoral language” against Bilawal while talking to the media outside Islamabad’s Polyclinic Hospital.

The complainant alleged that Rashid’s remarks had “provoked thousands of workers of the PPP and a large number of people came on to the road” who were then brought under control by him and other local party leaders with “great difficulty”.

“Sheikh Rashid, chief of AML, had made a conspiracy to create a law and order situation, and trigger clashes and bloodshed. Therefore, legal action should be taken against him,” the FIR said.

On the wrong side of the law

Rashid’s arrest comes amid a raft of legal moves against PTI leaders and their allies. Last week, PTI Fawad Chaudhry was arrested for allegedly making threats against ECP members’ families. He later received bail.

PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi said his Gujrat house was raided. A sedition case was filed against former PTI MNA Shandana Gulzar Khan. Imran Khan-leaning journalist Imran Riaz Khan was also arrested but a Lahore court dismissed the case.

And before Rashid’s arrest, his famed Lal Haveli residence in Rawalpindi was sealed by authorities. Two units of Lal Haveli and five adjoining units were sealed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the FIA over “illegal occupation”.

Subsequently, Ahmed approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the move, stating that the ETPB officials were “misusing their powers under the orders of political high-ups”. Admitting his plea, the LHC ordered the board to settle matters of the property’s ownership within 15 days and also chided the ETPB for its ambiguous stance pertaining to the issue.

It is pertinent to mention that the government had distanced itself from Rashid’s arrest. In a statement, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah asserted that the government had nothing to do with Rashid’s arrest.

The minister said it was the duty of the police to take action in case there is a violation of law. Sanaullah said all were equal before the law and those who broke the law would be held accountable.

“Tell the court if you have not done anything illegal,” he said.

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