- Fawad says whatever he says is party's policy, stresses that political statements should not be reason for FIRs
A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry’s two-day physical remand in a case pertaining to threatening members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and their families, Aaj News reported.
Duty Magistrate Naveed Khan announced the verdict that had been reserved earlier, and adjourned the hearing till January 27 (Friday).
The development comes as the PTI leader was presented before the Islamabad district and sessions court hours after being arrested for “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”.
Fawad, who was information minister under the previous government led by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, was detained in a predawn raid on his home in Lahore.
During the course of the hearing, the ECP counsel argued that the politician had threatened members of the electoral watchdog and their families in his Tuesday’s press talk, demanding an eight-day physical remand to interrogate “Fawad’s motives” behind his statement.
Speaking in the court, Fawad denied the charges, saying whatever he said outside Zaman Park was the party’s policy and not his personal thoughts.
“I am PTI’s spokesperson and I represent the party’s policy,” Fawad said, arguing that if the ECP would start registering FIRs against political statements, then “democracy will die” in the country.
The PTI leader said his party has reservations about ECP’s conduct and it warned the electoral body not to indulge in any unlawful practices, which was not a violation of any law.
He requested the court that his handcuffs should be unlocked as he was no terrorist and certainly was not going to run away from the court.
Proceedings in Lahore
Earlier, Lahore High Court (LCH) Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh scrapped the petition for Fawad’s recovery, stating that his arrest was not “unlawful”. The remarks came after law enforcement agencies (LEAs) also submitted the FIR of the arrest to LHC.
Meanwhile, Inspector General (IG) Punjab Dr Usman Anwar told the high court that Fawad was in the custody of Islamabad Police.
The LHC had earlier postponed the hearing of the case and ordered law enforcement agencies to present Fawad. It also summoned IG Punjab and IG Islamabad.
During the hearing, Fawad’s counsel said that “instead of presenting Fawad in court, the law enforcement agencies took him out of the city, thus violating the court’s orders.”
The PTI leader was arrested early Wednesday morning from his residence for remarks made against the ECP. He was brought to Lahore’s Cantt where the judicial magistrate granted police his transit remand to Islamabad.
But later, the LHC directed the police to present the politician in Lahore.
The LHC heard the petition challenging Fawad’s arrest by Advocate Muhammad Ahmad Pansota. The Punjab government, provincial police officer, counter-terrorism department, deputy inspector general of police (operation) and station house officer of Defence A were named respondents in the case.
The petition demanded that police officials should be directed to recover Fawad from “illegal and unlawful confinement” and produce him before the court.
Arrested over ‘threatening remarks’
The former information minister was arrested over “threatening remarks” against the ECP, Islamabad Police said in a statement. It said that a case against Fawad was registered last night at the Kohsar police station in Islamabad on the complaint of Secretary of the ECP.
The FIR was lodged against him for using threatening language against the ECP and its members, the police said.
Fawad was accused of having “harassed and intimidated” election commission officials and their families in televised comments on Tuesday, according to the police report.
The charges, lodged in the capital Islamabad, also said he was being held under sedition legislation because he “tried to cause an impediment in the election process of the state”.
The police report shared by PTI cited Fawad describing the ECP as “clerks” signing off the orders of the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“If you are so weak then better you should pack up and go home,” he said, according to police.
Fawad earlier told reporters: “We warn the election commission, its members and their families that, if the series of abuses against us continues, you will have to pay back.”
The development came after it was initially suggested that Fawad, along with PTI Chairman Imran Khan, could be arrested, prompting party supporters to gather around the former prime minister’s residence in Lahore.
However, the police said Fawad was arrested over charges of “inciting violence against a constitutional institution” and “inflaming the sentiments of the people”.
“Fawad Chaudhry has been arrested by the police from his house. The imported government has gone berserk,” PTI leader Farrukh Habib had tweeted earlier.
PTI on its official Twitter account had said the PTI leader was arrested by “unknown persons”.
However, Habib later posted a copy of the First Information Report (FIR).
“We showed the mirror to the ECP and it starts with arrests and FIRs,” said Habib after the development that came after the night-long turnout of PTI workers who rushed to party chairman Imran’s residence on reports that the government was planning to arrest him as well.
PTI’s Twitter account also posted a couple of videos, showing a convoy of police vehicles which it claimed was carrying Fawad after his arrest.
Later, PTI tweeted that Fawad is being taken to the Cantt court by officials of the police and Counter Terrorism Department, Lahore.
PTI leaders condemn arrest
PTI Chairman Imran condemned Fawad’s arrest, saying that he will be holding a media talk today.
“Fawad’s arrest on his apt description of the CEC leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that Pak has become a banana republic devoid of rule of law.
“We must stand up for our fundamental rights now to save Pak’s drift towards a point of no return,” the PTI chairman urged.
Several party leaders also condemned Fawad’s arrest.
PTI Sindh President Ali Haider Zaidi slammed the federal government.
“Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers,” Zaidi tweeted.
“How can calling someone a Munshi or any other derogatory term even be a cause for arrest? Let alone keeping him at CTD lockup? Terrorists roam free but political opponents arrested!” PTI’s Shireen Mazari tweeted.
Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Fawad’s arrest was a “strong slap on the face of democracy and rule of law”.
Dare government to arrest Imran Khan: Fawad
Footage posted on social media by PTI’s official page earlier showed members and supporters of the party rallying in support of Imran.
In one such video, apparently before he was apprehended, Fawad said PTI supporters gathered at Zaman Park on “30 minutes of notice” on reports that the government was moving to arrest Imran.
“I dare the government to arrest Imran Khan,” said Fawad. “Pakistan is going through an economic crisis. In such a situation, are you trying to burn down the country by arresting Pakistan’s biggest leader?”