Islamabad court accepts police’s plea seeking Fawad Chaudhry’s physical remand in sedition case

PTI leader's plea requesting to be discharged from the case rejected; police ordered to produce him before court

Arfa Feroz Zake

Former information minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Fawad Chaudhry being escorted by police officials after a hearing at a court in Islamabad on January 28, 2023. — Geo News screengrab
Former information minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Fawad Chaudhry being escorted by police officials after a hearing at a court in Islamabad on January 28, 2023. — Geo News screengrab 

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court on Saturday accepted the plea submitted by the Islamabad Police challenging the judicial magistrate’s ruling that sent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry to Adiala Jail on a 14-day judicial remand.

Announcing the reserved verdict, the court directed the police to produce the PTI leader before the judicial magistrate court for further proceedings into the plea. 

Meanwhile, Sessions Judge Tahir Mehmood Khan rejected Fawad's petition seeking a discharge from the sedition case registered against him on the complaint of ECP Secretary Omar Hameed.

The district and sessions court judge had ordered the authorities to present Fawad before the court by 12:30pm, however, the police failed to produce him at the given time.

After a delay of over an hour, the police presented the PTI leader before the court. On the orders of the sessions judge, Fawad was uncuffed inside the premises of the courtroom.

While the police requested the sessions judge to "nullify" the judicial magistrate's decision and extend Fawad's physical remand for further investigation, the PTI leader submitted a plea asking the court to discharge him from the case.

The petition submitted by Fawad’s lawyers on his behalf stated that the PTI leader should be discharged from the case instead of being sent on a judicial remand. Sessions judge Tahir issued notices to the prosecutor and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Fawad — who is facing sedition charges for publicly “threatening” the members of the electoral body in a media talk — was arrested from his Lahore residence on Wednesday after a case was registered against him at the Kohsar Police Station.

He was presented before the court on Friday after the expiry of his physical remand, however, the prosecution’s request for an extension was turned down by Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmed Raja.

Today's hearing

Upon resumption of the hearing after multiple adjournments, Prosecutor Adnan — presenting his arguments — informed the court that Fawad’s photogrammetry test need to be performed, for which his video had been acquired.

Sessions judge Tahir was hearing pleas submitted by Fawad and police against the Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmed Raja's order rejecting their plea seeking an extension in the PTI leader’s physical remand.

"Fawad needs to be taken to Lahore for the photogrammetry test," Adnan said, adding that they also need to recover his mobile phone, laptop and other electronic devices.

He maintained that the devices need to be analysed to find out the “mastermind behind Fawad’s hateful remarks against the ECP”.

The prosecutor informed the court that the investigation officer (IO) had requested a seven-day physical remand. Urging the court to “nullify” the judicial magistrate’s verdict, he said that the ruling didn't mention the photogrammetry test which is what the IO has been demanding.

Supporting his argument, prosecutor Adnan mentioned that “enough electronic material [content aired on electronic media]" against the PTI leader is available. "Fawad Chaudhry has also owned his statement against the members of the election body,” he informed the court.

The prosecutor opposed Fawad's request for discharge from the case arguing that the PTI leader can't be discharged as he has owned his statement. 

During the course of the proceeding, Fawad's lawyer Babar Awan and ECP's lawyer engaged in a heated argument as the former told the latter not to interfere “unnecessarily” in the proceedings.

Fawad’s counsel informed that the court that the former information minister was kept in Adiala Jail, adding that he sought permission to meet his client three days ago, however, he wasn’t allowed as yet.

"The way Fawad was brought in the court was a violation of human rights," Awan said, lamenting that he wasn’t even allowed to meet his legal team.

Following a brief pause as the police brought handcuffed Fawad inside the session judge’s chamber with a black cloth covering his head, Awan continued his arguments questioning the prosecutor about the part where the PTI leader threatened the ECP officials.

'Won't step back from what I said'

Taking to the rostrum, Fawad lamented that denying freedom of expression is equivalent to ending democracy in the country.

“Imposing curbs on freedom of expression is similar to making Pakistan a place like Myanmar,” he said, adding that if the people of the country refrain from criticising the powerful then it “won’t be a democratic nation”.

Fawad said that he stands by whatever he said, assuring the court that he won’t back down.

“They [ECP officials] are planning to register a sedition case against me,” he said, adding that if they can’t handle criticism they should not accept such positions.

Hearing on bail plea

Meanwhile, additional sessions judge also heard the PTI leader's bail plea this morning.

At the outset of this hearing, Fawad's counsel appeared before the court and said: “I am ready for the arguments on the petition."

However, the judge said he hadn’t received the case file and records therefore he adjourned the proceedings till 10am.

Afterwards, the proceeding was halted till the verdict on the police's plea challenging the decision on the rejection of an extension in physical remand.

A day earlier, Fawad submitted a post-arrest bail petition to the judicial magistrate of Islamabad after the local court sent the former information minister on 14-day judicial remand.

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

The petition submitted by the PTI leader added that the allegations levelled in the first information report (FIR) are "absolutely false, frivolous and baseless". It also mentioned that Fawad is innocent and has no link or concern with the commission of the alleged offence."

It added that Fawad was arrested "unlawfully and without any justification in negation to the law".

'Banana republic'

Taking notice of today’s incident, PTI chief Imran Khan said Fawad was brought to the court handcuffed and head/face covered like a terrorist.

“This shows the low [and] vindictive levels imported government [and] state have reached,” he wrote on Twitter adding that the treatment with Fawad, Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill leaves no doubt in people’s mind that now “we are a banana republic.”

“The law of the jungle now prevails where might is right [and] the constitution [and] law of the land have been totally subjugated by the Pharaohs of today,” he added.

Fawad's wife slams police for 'not allowing children to meet their father'

Speaking to the journalists outside the court, Fawad's wife Hiba Chaudhry revealed that the PTI leader wasn't being allowed to meet his daughters.

"Fawad was brought with his face covered in a cloth in an armoured vehicle and was presented in the court with handcuffs," she said.

Hiba further added that the judge ordered the police to shift Fawad to the judge's chambers and allow him to meet his family but the orders weren't followed.

Condemned the "behaviour" of Punjab and Islamabad Police, she said that Fawad wasn't being allowed to meet his family either in Adiala Jail or in the court.

She maintained that Fawad's daughters had been waiting to meet him for the last five days.

Hiba requested caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to allow her daughters to meet their father, and the high courts to take notice of the matter. She further stated that she would file a plea in this regard if needed.

‘Legal battle to continue’

Speaking to journalists, Fawad’s brother Faisal Chaudhry said that they already knew that the police and Election Commission would behave in a “dishonest manner”.

He, however, maintained that all these issues will be highlighted in front of the court. “Detaining any citizen is a violation of fundamental rights,” he said, adding that the legal battle will continue despite state repression.

Faisal termed all cases registered against other PTI leaders, including Azam Swati, “false”.