An Islamabad district and sessions court rejected on Tuesday Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid’s post-arrest bail petition in a case pertaining to his remarks against former president Asif Ali Zardari.
The Islamabad police had arrested the PTI ally on Feb 2 for allegedly making defamatory remarks against the PPP leadership after which the court had granted the police his two-day physical remand.
Upon completion of his physical remand, an Islamabad court had on Feb 4 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 same day Rashid had filed a post-arrest bail petition in the court. He had also approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) urging it to bar authorities from filing new cases against him on the basis of his political statements.
On Tuesday, the IHC had ordered the police to not take further action against the AML chief in cases filed against him in Karachi and Balochistan.
Earlier today, the court of Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir had taken up Rashid’s petition and reserved the verdict on his plea.
At the outset of the hearing, Rashid’s lawyers Abdul Razik Khan and Intizar Panjhota submitted the detailed order released by the IHC yesterday along with the power of attorney.
At that, the judge asked Khan if his stance was that the AML leader was not a part of the conspiracy to murder PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
“Sheikh Rashid referred to Imran’s statement and said that what he [the PTI chief] said was correct,” the lawyer responded and subsequently started presenting his arguments.
Khan said that the case against his client was lodged two days before he had passed remarks against Zardari. “Even if a murder is reported, the FIR is not prepared this quickly.
“There is a conspiracy being hatched against Imran but no FIR has been registered against that […] but a case was immediately lodged when it comes to defamation of Zardari,” he contended.
Khan then read out the contents of the FIR registered against Rashid. He said that the police issued a notice to the AML chief on Jan 30.
“Sheikh Rashid didn’t receive them, instead they were being run on television. The next day, the notices were cancelled and an FIR was lodged,” he stated, adding that the police should have first recorded Rashid’s statement, investigated his remarks and then taken action.
The lawyer argued that not a single state officer had filed a complaint against his client. The allegations against Rashid, he went on, were leveled by a common citizen who is a PPP supporter.
“It would have been different if Zardari had registered a case. Zardari sent a defamation notice to Imran Khan for his remarks but when it comes to Sheikh Rashid, who had just said that Imran spoke the truth, a case was directly registered.”
Referring to the IHC verdict issued on Monday, Khan said that no further investigation was required in the case and pleaded that his client should be immediately granted bail.
“The police found nothing from him during the investigation […] the case against him was only registered on the pretext of political revenge,” he contended, adding that the police had raided the AML chief’s house and took him away in “two bulletproof cars”.
Meanwhile, Panjhota said that no one from Zardari’s family recorded a statement in the case. “Not a single untoward incident took place after Rashid’s remarks.”
He added that the sections invoked in the FIR against Rashid could only be included if a state officer was the complainant.
At one point during the hearing, the judicial magistrate observed that Rashid passed remarks against the interior minister at the hospital. “Can such a statement not create anarchy in the country?”
At that, Rashid’s lawyer replied that the statement was issued while Rashid was in policy custody and hence it held no value. The IHC has also suspended an application related to this, he added.
On the other hand, prosecutor Adnan said that Rashid’s statement was not an ordinary one. “Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan have many followers. Sheikh Rashid wants to create conflict between two big groups,” he stated.
The ex-minister issued a statement saying that the services of terrorists had been sought to kill the PTI chief, prosecutor Adnan said. “That is a very big statement. Asif Ali Zardari, against whom the statement was made, is the former president.”
He said that the AML chief wished to “influence” the proceedings by highlighting the fact that he had been a minister 16 times. “Sheikh Rashid was arrested with great difficulty. If he gets bail, he will run away,” the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, the complainant’s lawyer Salman Munir said that if Rashid’s past statements were examined, they were based on inciting two groups against each other.
He argued that the AML chief would resort to doing the same if he was granted bail. “How can a person who has not stopped making [such] statements during his detention stop when he is released?”
After hearing the arguments, the judge reserved the verdict.
In his petition, Rashid demanded that Zardari, Bilawal, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Sanaullah be held responsible and taken action against in case any harm was caused to Rashid.
It said: “During the arrest, if Sheikh Rashid loses his life, then the named personalities would be responsible for it. If any harm is caused to Sheikh Rashid, then action should be taken against the named suspects.”
The petition claimed that the AML chief was being “made a target of political vendettas for raising his voice for Imran Khan”.
It requested that the Punjab and Sindh inspector generals and home secretaries guarantee his life is protected.
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.
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