Petition filed in Islamabad court seeking Fawad Chaudhry’s bail in sedition case

Court sends Fawad on 14-day judicial remand, rejecting police's plea seeking an extension in physical remand

By
Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
|
Haider Sherazi
Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. — AFP
Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Fawad Chaudhry (C) to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. — AFP

  • Petition states Fawad is "innocent". 
  • It adds PTI leader was arrested "unlawfully".
  • Says Fawad has no link with alleged offence.


ISLAMABAD: A petition has been filed in Islamabad’s judicial magistrate seeking post-arrest bail of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry in a sedition case filed against him for “threatening” members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The petition was filed soon after he was sent on 14-day judicial remand by the court after a police’s plea for an extension in physical was rejected.

The petition states that the PTI leader has "falsely been involved in the instant case by the complainant with the malafide intention and ulterior motives just to harass, pressurise and blackmail the present petitioner". 

It added that the allegations levelled in the FIR are "absolutely false, frivolous and baseless". It also said that Fawad is "innocent and has no link or concern with the commission of alleged offence." 

The petition also states that Fawad was arrested "unlawfully and without any justification in negation to the law."

Sessions Judge Tahir Mahmood Khan forwarded the bail application to Additional Sessions Judge Faizan Gillani to fix for hearing.

The additional judge, however, issued notices to all parties while adjourning the hearing till tomorrow.

Physical remand 

Earlier today, the police requested the court for an extension in the physical remand, saying that the remand is “necessary” for further investigation; however, the court rejected the plea while announcing the reserved verdict.

The PTI leader was produced before the court in Islamabad after the completion of two-day physical remand in a sedition case.

The court on Wednesday approved a two-day physical remand of the PTI leader in a sedition case turning down the Islamabad Police's request of eight-day physical remand of the former federal minister.

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 — who was arrested from his Lahore residence in the wee hours of Wednesday after he publicly "threatened" the members of the ECP and their families in a media talk a day earlier —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.

His arrest drew strong criticism within the federal government's ranks — which, although, has denied involvement.

Today's hearing

The hearing of the case is taking place in Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmad Raja's court. ECP's lawyer Saad Hasan and PTI's lawyers — Babar Awan, Faisal Chaudhry and Ali Bukhari — are also present.

During the hearing, the prosecutor remarked that Fawad is spreading hatred against the constitutional institution and is also trying to create unrest.

"The statement is a threat to the lives of ECP's members," the prosecutor said seeking an extension of the physical remand.

"Fawad's voice has been matched and his photogrammetry test has to be carried out in Lahore," he said, adding that physical remand is required to carry out further investigation.

The investigating officer (IO) highlighted that the court approved the remand at 12am for two days, therefore "practically" the police had only one day.

The ECP's counsel told the magistrate that Fawad's statement is "on record" and the PTI leader has "also owned his speech".

The prosecutor argued that since the suspect has admitted nobody can now raise an objection over the speech.

Lawyer Hasan said that the PTI leader tried to "spread hatred, levelled allegations against the government", and termed ECP the coalition government's "clerk".

"Fawad's statement was representative of a group," he said, adding that a campaign is being run not only against the electoral body but all the top officials of the ECP.

He further added that the Election Commission's role in the next few months is very important. "ECP's job is to end corruption but Fawad was putting pressure," he added.

The prosecutor said that it was "necessary" to search the PTI leader's residence to confiscate his mobile phone and laptop.

He recalled that the duty magistrate in the last hearing dismissed the request seeking discharge from the case.

Awan, berating the Election Commission, said that the electoral body is "representing one political party".

Awan fired a broadside at the ECP's secretary, saying that "he is the servant of the government servants".

"Will the secretary who is carrying criminal proceedings against Fawad conduct transparent elections?" he questioned.

"Election Commission is neither a federal government nor a National Assembly and it is not even a union council nor a state," he said.

He said that the public servants are neither a part of the provincial nor the federal government.

Awan also said that those who spoke against the judges are now a part of the government.

"The prosecution isn't telling what it wants from Fawad Chaudhry," he added.

'Statement not my opinion, but party policy'

During the proceeding, Fawad came to the rostrum and said that as he represents his party, "whatever I say is not necessarily my opinion but the party policy."

"I have to represent my party as I am the PTI's spokesperson, and whatever I said was my party's position," Fawad said, adding that party chief Imran Khan is fighting for Pakistan, and they will speak the truth only.

The PTI leader revealed that he was arrested by Lahore Police and not Islamabad Police, while his lawyer Awan claimed that Fawad was 'kidnapped'.

The former information minister urged the court to block his contact sim as the police had seized his phone.

Meanwhile, Fawad's wife Hiba Khan said that he should not be brought to court with his face covered and in handcuffs like a terrorist.

She warned the authorities concerned that they will stage countrywide protests if the court grants further remand of her husband or sends him to jail.

However, she added that she is not aware of any kind of torture on her husband.

SCBA demands 'instant release'

Condemning Fawad's arrest, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) issued a statement demanding the "instant release" of the PTI leader.

The SCBA said that accusing the former federal minister of sedition is "unfair and unjustified".

"It is every citizen's fundamental right to be treated as per the law," the statement read. It further stated that all citizens are entitled to a fair trial with dignity under Article 4.

The bar association also said that the PTI leader's face was covered with a cloth and he was handcuffed, terming this treatment as insulting and a violation of the fundamental rights of the Constitution.

The SCBA further added that Fawad might be subjected to torture in custody, advising the government to refrain from being involved in such atrocities.