Thursday Feb 02, 2023
ISLAMABAD: A local court in Islamabad on Thursday approved a two-day physical remand of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in a case registered against him for levelling allegations against former president Asif Ali Zardari.
The former minister, who is a close aide of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, was arrested from Murree Motorway, police confirmed this morning, in a move that drew strong criticism from the former premier.
Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir rejected the police's plea to send Rashid on an eight-day physical remand and asked the authorities to produce the former interior minister at the next hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, Rashid asked that his handcuffs be removed. He told the court that he's been appointed as the federal minister at least 16 times.
After this, police unlocked Rashid's handcuffs on the court's order.
Abdul Razzaq, the lawyer of the former interior minister, began his arguments and said that Rashid has been targeted in a politically motivated case.
"The case against Rashid was registered at 8pm last night. The police had arrested Rashid against the high court's orders. The police, instead of arresting Rashid, should have called Asif Zardari to the station."
The lawyer added that the FIR mentions that the ex-minister wanted to create a conflict between the two groups. However, the names of PPP and PTI have not been mentioned, he said.
"Political parties criticise each other every day. If such cases will be registered, then no politician will be able to speak," he said.
He added that only a provincial or federal government could register cases under Sections 153A and 505 — and not a political party's worker.
The prosecutor then told the court that Rashid tried to create "threats" for the family members of the Zardari. He added that in line with the charges, Rashid could face up to seven years in prison.
"Rashid had alleged that Zardari was hatching a plot to assassinate Imran," he said, noting that severe fights take place in Pakistan on smaller accusations. He added that Rashid made the statement to incite workers of both parties.
The police claimed to arrest Rashid from Murree Road in the wee hours of Thursday. However, the former interior minister and his nephew, Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, contradicted the police's version and said that the authorities took him into custody from his house in Rawalpindi and not the motorway.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Rawalpindi Division President Raja Inayat Ur Rehman had filed a case against Rashid in Islamabad's Aabpara Police Station for alleging that former president Asif Ali Zardari was hatching a plot to assassinate the PTI chief.
In the FIR, the PPP divisional president stated that the AML chief tried to badmouth a former president and cause a "permanent danger" to the PPP co-chairman and his family.
The FIR added that Rashid, with his allegations, wants to cause a fight between the PTI and the PPP and disrupt the country's peace.
The PPP leader added that the AML chief claimed to have vital information regarding a "conspiracy" being hatched to assassinate the PTI chief.
"If that's the case, then the police should take both the leaders into custody under Section 150 and 151 and foil the conspiracy" to stop the spread of unrest in the country, he added.
Three sections — 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) — have been added to the FIR.
Moreover, police told journalists that a bottle of liquor and a weapon has been recovered from Rashid's possession. Police also said that the former interior minister was "intoxicated" when he was arrested.
Initially, the Murree Police had arrested him and later they handed him over to the Islamabad Police, who shifted him to the Aabpara Police Station, where the case has been registered.
Rashid is also embattled in another case of "illegal occupation" as the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had sealed Lal Haveli — his residence — and five adjoining units on January 30. On the same day, the Lahore High Court ordered to de-seal the property.
The former minister was shifted to the Secretariat police station after his medical checkup at the Polyclinic hospital.
Talking to the media after his arrest, Rashid claimed that police had not arrested him from the motorway but from his residence.
Rashid said he feared for his life.
"My crime is that I'm standing with Imran Khan," he said at the Polyclinic hospital in Islamabad, where he was taken for medical checkup.
"I have been a minister 16 times. Never for a single time, I have been charged with corruption in these ministries," he added.
The former interior minister claimed that at least "100 to 200 armed people" raided his residence.
"They entered the house through ladders, broke the doors and windows of the house, and beat my servants."
The former interior minister said police forcibly hustled him into their vehicle. He said the police arrested him despite the fact that a court granted him bail and ordered the inspector-general of police to appear before the court on February 6.
Rashid alleged that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah is behind his arrest. However, he said that truth would prevail at the end of the day and he stands by Khan — in whose cabinet he served as the interior minister.
In response, the former prime minister condemned the arrest of his close aide and blamed the interim Punjab government — led by media mogul Moshin Naqvi — for being biased.
"Never in our history have we had such a biased, vindictive caretaker govt [appointed] by totally discredited ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan]," the ex-premier said.
"Question is can Pak afford a street movement which we are being pushed towards at a time when Imported Govt has bankrupted us?" he asked.
The PTI chairman had in January alleged that Zardari was hatching as well as financing an assassination plot against him for which the ex-president had hired "terrorists".
"...there's a Plan C. Asif Zardari is behind it. He has amassed a lot of money through corruption and he has invested that money in terrorists and hired a militant organisation," the PTI chief had alleged. However, the PPP strongly denied the claim and served a legal notice to Khan.
Following the allegations put forward by Khan, Rashid had also backed the claims and supported the allegations.