An Islamabad district and sessions court on Saturday put off PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s indictment yet again in a case related to allegedly abetting mutiny and sedition in a controversial interview with ARY News back in August.
The police had invoked several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code against Gill and ARY News director Ammad Yousaf, including 124-A (sedition), 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty), 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot if rioting be committed; if not committed), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), among others.
Additional district and sessions judge Tahir Abbas Sipra had previously ordered Gill and Yousaf — the latter of whom is also facing charges of aiding the former — to ensure their appearance in today’s court hearing for framing of charges.
Gill appeared in court today with his counsels Qaiser Imam and Ali Bukhari. The hearing began with multiple lighthearted exchanges between Gill and the judge.
Gill felicitated Judge Sipra on his birthday, to which he replied: “It means the April Fool’s message has made it to you.”
The Lahore High Court on Wednesday had given one-time permission to Gill to go abroad for four weeks. Judge Sipra conversed with Gill regarding his trip, to which the PTI leader said he was going out of the country in jubilation over the judge’s birthday.
“Salutations to you for the General [Amjad] Shoaib decision,” Gill said, referring to Sipra’s discharging the retired lieutenant general from a case about public mischief and inciting the public against state institutions.
The judge thanked the PTI leader for his sentiment and asked him about the date of his return. Gill said he had to go far away and pleaded with the court to give him a favour. At this, the judge quipped: “It’s not like you have to go on foot.”
Meanwhile, Yousaf’s counsel told the court that the Supreme Court’s verdict regarding a grant of stay to his client was not yet received.
The judge told him to submit a written request and subsequently adjourned the hearing to May 6.
Yousaf had tweeted on Wednesday that the apex court had granted him a stay in his trial.
Gill’s controversial comments
During his talk with ARY in August 2022, Gill had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI, saying the families of such “rank and file” support Imran Khan and his party “which is fuelling rage within the government”.
He had also alleged that the “strategic media cell” of the ruling PML-N was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces.
Gill had said the government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, had lambasted the army in the past “and they were at the government positions now”.
Taking notice of his comments, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had said: “The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests.
“Dr Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-army narrative.”