LHC directs police to present Fawad Chaudhry in court by 1:30pm

Web Desk – January 25, 2023

The Lahore High Cour (LHC) directed the police on Wednesday to present PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry in court by 1:30pm today, hours after he was arrested for “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”.

An FIR against Fawad was registered at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station by an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for “threatening” the electoral body’s members and their families.


Key developments:

  • Fawad arrested from outside his residence early Wednesday morning
  • FIR registered by ECP official at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station for “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”
  • Lahore Cantt court allows police to take Fawad to Islamabad
  • Fawad says if criticism is rebellion then the entire nation should come out
  • LHC directs police to present in court by 1:30pm

Security beefed up outside the Lahore Cantt court. — Photo by Rana Bilal

According to Fawad’s brother, the former federal minister was “taken away” in four cars that did not have any number plates at 5:30am. Faisal Chaudhry said that the family was unaware of Fawad’s location at the time.

“We are also not being given any details of the FIR registered against him,” he said. Faisal, who is also a prominent lawyer, termed his brother’s arrest “illegal” and asserted that he will fight this battle in court.

Later, the PTI leader was brought to Lahore’s Cantt where the judicial magistrate granted police Fawad’s transit remand.

Separately, a petition was filed in the LHC by Advocate Muhammad Ahmad Pansota challenging Fawad’s arrest.

Petition — Punjab Government, Provincial Police Officer, Anti-Terrorism Department, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) and Defense AK Station House Officer have been named as defendants in this case.

It said that the PTI leader was apprehended “illegally, unconstitutionally and without legal authority” and demanded that police officials should be directed to recover Fawad from the “illegal and unlawful confinement” and produce him before the high court.

The petition was subsequently taken up by LHC’s Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh. During the hearing, the court instructed the police to present Fawad in court by 1:30pm.

Cantt court allows police to take Fawad to Islamabad

At 10am, Fawad was brought to Lahore’s Cantt court by officials of the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department and police. Upon his entrance, PTI lawyers showered rose petals on Fawad.

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Talking to the media outside the court, Fawad said that those who arrested him should be ashamed of themselves.

“They have deployed so much police as if they are escorting James Bond,” he said, adding that the police kept him in the “category of terrorists”.

As the hearing began, the investigating officer requested the court to grant Islamabad police the PTI leader’s transit remand.

For his part, Fawad asked the judge to provide him with a copy of the FIR registered against him. He went on to say that he was proud of the charges against him. “These allegations were also levelled at Nelson Mandela.”

“It is being said that I have committed sedition […] I am a former Supreme Court lawyer and federal minister […] I should be treated with respect,” he told the court.

The PTI leader said that the way he was arrested was “inappropriate”. “Had they called me, I would have come myself.”

Commenting on his remarks against the ECP, he said that “the entire country is saying the same”.

Meanwhile, Fawad’s lawyer said a habeas corpus petition — a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention — filed by Fawad was pending in the Lahore High Court. “Until a decision is taken on that, a transit remand can’t be granted.”

Here, the judicial magistrate instructed the police to conduct a medical examination of Fawad at the Lahore Services Hospital and present him before a court in Islamabad today.

‘Come out against this system’

In a video message shared on PTI’s official Twitter account after the hearing, Fawad said that if criticism was rebellion then the entire nation should come out on the streets.

“They have registered this case on charges of contempt against the election commission […] this is their attitude and they expect us to not even criticise them.

“Rebellion is a duty. All the 220 million people in the country should come out and rebel against this system otherwise your children will suffer too,” he said.

“Today, Imran Khan and the PTI is standing up for your rights. We are going to jail but these handcuffs are like jewellery to us […] god willing, we will emerge victorious from these trials.

“But it is the nation’s job to come out and change the system,” Fawad added.

FIR

A first information report has been registered against the PTI leader at the Kohsar police station in Islamabad on the complaint of Secretary of the Election Commission Umar Hameed.

The complaint — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — invokes sections 153-A (promotion of enmity between groups), 506 (criminal intimidation), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 124-A (sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code at Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station.

It stated that Fawad, in a speech outside PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s house, threatened the ECP and said that “those who become part of the caretaker government [in Punjab] will be pursued until they are punished”.

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Later in a tweet, the Islamabad police said that Fawad tried to “incite violence against a constitutional institution” and “inflame the sentiments of the people”.

It added that the case will be processed as per the law.

Condemnations

Fawad’s arrest comes an hour after he, along with scores of party workers, gathered outside PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore, claiming to avert the government’s alleged plan to arrest the party chief.

PTI also posted a couple of videos, showing a convoy of police vehicles which the party claimed was carrying Chaudhry after his arrest.

Separately, PTI leader Hammad Azhar claimed “police officers pointed their rifles at me and threatened me to back off” when he, along with party leaders, were following the motorcade of the law enforcers.

Condemning the arrest, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said: “This imported government has gone berserk.”

Meanwhile, former federal minister Hammad Azhar said Fawad had been taken to the counter-terrorism department’s regional office in Lahore, as PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan said that he is not a terrorist.

 

Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Fawad’s arrest was a “strong slap on the face of democracy and rule of law”.

Ex-human rights minister Shireen Mazari called the FIR registered against Fawad “ridiculous” and asked: “How is criticising ECP decisions and even ECP members a call to violence against their families? SC decisions are criticised but ECP decisions can’t be?”

PTI’s Ali Zaidi also strongly condemned the arrest of the senior party leader and said the government was “hell-bent on pushing this country towards anarchy!”

“Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers,” Zaidi tweeted.

On Tuesday night, a number of PTI supporters gathered outside the former premier’s Zaman Park residence after party leaders claimed that the government had formed plans to arrest Imran Khan.


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