Wednesday, January 25, 2023
ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in Islamabad late Wednesday night approved a two-day physical remand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry in a sedition case.
The Islamabad Police had sought an eight-day physical remand of the PTI leader, however, the court did not approve their request and asked the authorities to present the PTI leader on January 27.
Following the order, the capital's police shifted the former federal information minister to the Counter-Terrorism Department's (CTD) complex in Sector H-11.
The police — during the time that the verdict was reserved — also took Fawad to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where he underwent a medical checkup and was declared fit.
The former federal minister has vehemently denied all charges and demanded the case's dismissal as it is "fraud and the FIR is a sham".
Fawad's lawyers told the court that the charges were politically motivated and since the PTI leader made the statements in Lahore, his case should have been registered in the city and not Islamabad.
The PTI leader was arrested from his Lahore residence in the wee hours of today after he publicly "threatened" the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and their families in a media talk a day earlier.
After obtaining transitional remand from a court in Punjab's capital, the police shifted the ex-information minister to Islamabad, where he was presented before the H-8 court.
Hours after his arrest, Fawad's cousin, Nabeel Shehzad, moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking the "recovery" of the PTI leader. After several breaks, the court finally told the lawyer to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) as it was the relevant forum in this case.
At the outset of the hearing, the election commission's lawyer said that the ECP is a "constitutional institution" and noted that it has the authority to hold polls.
"The election commission has been targetted under a well-thought-out plan," the ECP's counsel said, with the duty judge asking Fawad to not intervene in the middle — as the PTI leader taking jibes at the institution.
The counsel added that the aim behind Fawad's press conference was to incite the general public, and he had also threatened the commission's family members.
"The aim of the speech was to spread hatred against the election commission. We also have electronic evidence against Fawad Chaudhry," the lawyer claimed.
He added that the PTI leader has also accepted that he had accepted that he made the threats. "So, isn't it our right to decide something against Fawad Chaudhry?"
The lawyer added that the PTI also ran a campaign against the commission and argued that the police should be allowed to look into the statements of the former minister.
Giving his arguments, as he is a lawyer himself, Fawad said that a sedition charge has also been included in the FIR against him. "I have been included in the ranks of Nelson Mandela."
The PTI leader claimed that such cases are made against those who speak of independence. "If they keep resorting to such measures, then democracy cannot survive here and no one will be able to criticise [institutions]."
Fawad said that if people aren't allowed to criticise the election commission, it means that they cannot criticise anyone. "The complainant's lawyer is claiming that criticism is tantamount to treason."
He also censured the ECP lawyer and said that he wasn't making a speech rather his comments came during a media talk. "I was misquoted [by the media]."
Fawad added that he is the party's spokesperson and he has to inform the public about its policy. "It isn't necessary that whatever I say is my personal opinion," he said
The PTI leader then added that the Lahore police had arrested him and confiscated his mobile phone. Later on, he said, he was handed over to the Islamabad Police.
"I am a senior lawyer, parliamentarian, and a former federal minister. I am not a terrorist. Moreover, the investigation officer did not interrogate me," the PTI leader told the judge.
Fawad then told the court that his arrest is "illegal" and lamented that the government is targetting its opponents. He added that there are always ups and downs in politics. The PTI leader asked the court to dismiss the case against him.
For his part, Faisal Chaudhry asked the court what does the IO have to ask his client. "Physical remand is sought when there is something specific that needs to be investigated."
Lawyer Ali Bukhari told the court that if he were to accept the ECP's arguments, then the case should have been registered in Lahore and not Islamabad.
He also wondered what had the police probed in the last 24 hours. "This isn't a terrorism-related case. What does the prosecution want then?" he wondered.
Bukhari also asked the police whether they took permission from the Islamabad administration before arresting Fawad.
Intervening once again, Fawad said that the investigation officer claims he had arrested him from his house. "Then, we should ask the investigation officer about the colour of my residence's entrance gate."
The prosecution then urged the court that the authorities need to recover Fawad's laptop, mobile phone, and other devices. It said that it had to conduct several tests as well.
Fawad's third lawyer — Qaiser Imam — said that he was surprised to know that a member from the ECP had complained that they were threatened by the PTI leader's statement.
"I am still confused about that how the election commission's secretary read the minds of the ECP's employees," Imam said.
Presenting his arguments, Advocate General Islamabad Jahangir Jadoon said that it is extremely difficult to prove cases that fall under Section 124-A of the PPC.
"The court should decide whether the case attracts Section 124-A or not. The election commission has already issued notices to these three — Fawad, Imran Khan, and Asad Umar — but none of them are appearing before it," Jadoon said.
After Jadoon, PTI's lawyers also informed the court that since the case should have been registered in Lahore and not Islamabad, the FIR should be dismissed.
"I feel like they are trying to get to Imran Khan through such tactics," Advocate Ahmed Awais said, who was just recently removed from the position of advocate general of Punjab.
Then, lawyer Imam also noted that despite the case not being of treason, Fawad does accept that some of the things he said were "wrong".
The ECP's counsel then said that the suspect's lawyers were "trying to get a decision" of their choice by tyring the court. He added that the investigation can only move ahead if Fawad cooperates.
After hearing the arguments, the judge reserved the verdict.