Remarks against PPP: IHC orders police to not take further action against Sheikh Rashid in Lasbela, Karachi FIRs

Published February 6, 2023
AML chief Sheikh Rashid being presented in an Islamabad local court on Feb 3, — Screengrab from video provided by Umer Burney
AML chief Sheikh Rashid being presented in an Islamabad local court on Feb 3, — Screengrab from video provided by Umer Burney

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday ordered police to not take further action against Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid in cases filed against him in Karachi and Balochistan in connection with alleged defamation of PPP leadership.

The Islamabad police had arrested the PTI ally on Feb 2 for remarks he made against former president Asif Ali Zardari and had granted the police his two-day physical remand the same day.

The AML chief on Feb 4 filed a petition in the IHC to nullify cases filed against him in Islamabad, Murree and Karachi, along with orders to prevent the police from taking him to Karachi until a final decision on the case is announced.

Upon completion of his physical remand the same day, an Islamabad court had then sent Rashid on a 14-day judicial remand in the case filed at the city’s Aabpara Police Station, rejecting the police request for another physical remand.

The hearing today was presided over by Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri while lawyers Intizar Panjhota and Naeem Haider Panjhota appeared in court as Rashid’s counsels.

The hearing

At the onset of the hearing, Rashid’s counsel said that another FIR was registered against his client in Karachi while he was under police arrest. At this, the judge asked, “When the location of the statement was the Polyclinic Hospital, how was a case registered in Karachi?”

The court issued notices to the bar councils, the attorney general and the advocate general. It raised an objection to “how there could be FIRs in different cities at the same time?”

Rashid’s lawyer further mentioned that a “third case was registered in Murree” as well. Upon the court asking if the arrest had been made in all three cases, the lawyer responded that it had been made only in the Aabpara Police Station case.

Justice Jahangiri remarked, “The law says when an arrest has been made in one case, it also suffices for other cases.”

Rashid’s counsel lamented that his client was “kept tied to a chair for six hours at an unknown place, and was asked political questions and was tortured as well”.

“I don’t understand where will this sequence end. You had filed terrorism cases against the information secretary and the PTV MD (managing director); now, the same is happening to you,” Justice Jahangiri said addressing Rashid’s counsel.

“Just imagine that if the Badaber police had arrested and taken the information secretary, what would have happened?” he added.

String of cases

Rashid was arrested on Feb 2 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.

The first information report (FIR) 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).

Another case was also registered against him at the Murree police station for manhandling a police official at the time of the arrest. It was registered under Sections 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.

Moreover, it emerged the next day that yet another case was lodged against Rashid by Karachi’s Mochko police on the complaint of a local PPP leader for using “extremely filthy and immoral language” against PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while talking to the media outside Islamabad’s Polyclinic Hospital.

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.

Later, a fourth case was also registered against the AML leader in Balochistan’s Lasbela as per his lawyer’s arguments on Feb 4.

IHC petition

Rashid was arrested on a police complaint filed by Raja Inayatur Rehman, the vice president of PPP Rawalpindi Division, wherein he said that the AML chief, in an interview with ARY’s Waseem Badami on Jan 27, alleged that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari recruited terrorists to plan Imran’s murder. His remarks can be heard from the 38-second mark.

Rashid submitted a plea to the IHC urging the court to bar authorities from filing new cases against him on the basis of his political statements.

The PTI ally named 11 respondents in his plea including the interior secretary, CCPO Karachi, Islamabad and Karachi police chiefs as well as PPP’s Raja Inayat who had submitted a plea against him.

Filed through his counsel Abdul Razzaq Khan, the petition said the plaintiff was not an affected party in the case registered against Rashid.

The petitioner urged the court to issue directions to direct authorities against shifting him to Karachi related to the case probe.

“The impugned FIRs registered at Murree and Karachi be declared as an illegal, unlawful, result of abuse of powers and misuse of authority or in the alternate, the case registered at Karachi be ordered to be shifted to Islamabad in accordance with section 234, 235 and 239 of CrPC where the case is already registered,” the petition reads.

According to the plea, the registration of cases against the petitioner “is not only the worst example of political victimisation but a gross misuse of power and transgression of authority by the police.”

Clampdown on PTI leaders

Rashid’s arrest came 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.

Separately, 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 Federal Investigation Agency over “illegal occupation”.

Subsequently, Rashid 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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