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Saturday February 04, 2023

LHC dismisses plea seeking to overturn Fawad Chaudhry's arrest

PTI leader asked to approach Islamabad High Court; LHC says arrest isn't illegal

January 25, 2023

LAHORE: A petition seeking to declare the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry "illegal" has been thrown out by the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the former federal minister has been asked to approach the "relevant forum" if wants his case to be dismissed.

Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh told Fawad's counsel on Wednesday that his client's arrest was not "illegal" since the police had followed due procedures required for detaining the ex-information minister.

Fawad was arrested from his residence earlier today after he publicly "threatened" the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a media talk outside Imran Khan's residence in Zaman Park a day ago.

The LHC had ordered that the authorities present Fawad before it in response to a petition filed by Fawad's cousin, Nabeel Shehzad, for the "recovery" of the former federal minister.

The petitioner had filed a habeas corpus plea and urged the court to "recover" the PTI leader after the Islamabad police acquired his transitory remand. He also appealed to the court to stop any illegal action against the PTI leader.

Justice Sheikh, while hearing the plea, had ordered the authorities to present the PTI leader before the court by 1:30pm. The time was later extended to 2pm, but the authorities failed to produce Fawad before LHC. Then, the court again told the authorities to produce Fawad at 6pm, but they failed to follow the orders.

Interestingly, the orders were issued after a local court of Lahore had approved Fawad's transitory remand in a sedition case filed against him in Islamabad on the election commission's complaint.

'Bring him back'

At the hearing, Fawad's lawyer informed the court that the motorcade transporting Fawad has left for Islamabad — despite the court's orders to produce the PTI leader.

The government's lawyer said that he is unable to state Fawad's exact location.

At this, Justice Sheikh asked the lawyer how long it will take for him to inquire about the location. The lawyer said that he needs half an hour.

"Bring him back even if he is taken to Islamabad," Justice Sheikh remarked before adjourning the hearing for a while.

When the case resumed, Justice Sheikh inquired where the PTI leader was. The government lawyer responded by saying that that he has spoken to everyone and the PTI leader was not in the Punjab Police’s custody.

“Call IG Punjab,” responded Justice Sheikh. The judge after passing the remarks said that the police chief was not available at the moment.

The judge then issued orders to IGs Punjab and Islamabad to appear before the court at 6pm.

“First present Fawad and then I will hear you,” remarked Justice Sheikh before issuing the summoning orders.

Court orders 'violated'

When the hearing resumed, Fawad's lawyer said that his client has not been presented before the court despite orders. "He was arrested within the limits of Lahore and every TV channel covered it. The court's order's been violated."

In his defence, IG Punjab Usman Anwar said that as the mobile signals were "weak", he could not contact the police party that was transporting the PTI leader.

"I was made aware that Islamabad Police have Fawad Chaudhry in custody. Also, we have not violated any orders of the court as I wanted and tried to contact the Islamabad Police."

Anwar added that although he wasn't sure whether Fawad was in Islamabad Police's custody or not, he noted that the ex-federal minister was not in Punjab Police's custody.

For his part, Advocate General (AG) Punjab Jawad Yaqoob said the case has been registered against Fawad at Islamabad's Kohsar Police Station. "The Islamabad Police came here to arrest him."

The AG said the police presented Fawad at a court in the morning to get his transitional remand. "Fawad's lawyers opposed the remand. Then, the prosecutor read out the remand plea. It should be noted that Islamabad Police represented itself everywhere," he said, ruling out the role of Punjab Police.

The Punjab government's counsel, while pleading his client's case, said that the administration had no "ill intention" and added that his arrest was made in line with the law.

In his response, Fawad's counsel said that it was unfortunate that despite the court's orders, the "abducted" person has still not been produced before the court.

'All limits crossed'

"All limits have been crossed. It is clearly a mala fide intent case. If the court had issued orders, then why did the [police party] leave for Islamabad," he said.

"For merely one speech, he was booked in an FIR. It is being portrayed as he had committed treason," the counsel said.

The lawyer contested that the case was politically motivated and questioned whether the election commission had sought permission from the federal government to lodge the case.

In response, the judge asked what did the lawyer's client want from the court. "We want the court to declare Fawad Chaudhry's arrest illegal," he said.

Then, the judge asked the lawyer what was unlawful in Fawad's arrest. He added that the PTI leader was arrested and his remand was also sought from a relevant court.

"If you want to have the case dismissed, then the right forum is the Islamabad High Court. Had this case been registered in Punjab, then we could have judged whether it was lawful or not."

The judge added that the court could continue hearing the case till 7-8pm. "However, the arrest isn't illegal," Justice Sheikh added.

Fawad's counsel said that the alleged incident did not take place in Islamabad, it was in Lahore.

But the court maintained that the plea was maintainable earlier, but now it isn't. Justice Sheikh then dismissed the plea.

Transitory remand approved

Hours after Fawad's arrest in the morning, Islamabad Police presented the PTI leader before the court of judicial magistrate Rana Mudassir in Lahore’s Cantt to seek his transitory remand.

At the outset of the hearing, the prosecution told the judge that Islamabad Police had registered a case against Fawad. The prosecution also urged the court to approve a transitory remand of the PTI leader.

At this, Fawad’s lawyer argued that the distance between Islamabad and Lahore was of just four hours and there was no need for the transitory remand.

“They [police] should just present him [before a court] in Islamabad,” said Fawad’s lawyer. The counsel claimed that the police wanted to get the transitory remand so they could take his client somewhere else.

Fawad’s lawyer also urged the judge to order the police to uncuff his client’s hands. Instead of both hands only one should be handcuffed, he added. At this, the judge remarked that the lawyer was wasting the court’s time over frivolous arguments.

The counsel also told the magistrate that a habeas corpus plea was pending before a high court and till that is decided his client’s transitory remand should not be approved. The magistrate then adjourned the hearing for a few minutes.

Once the hearing resumed, the court approved the transitory remand of the PTI leader to transfer Fawad to Islamabad and present him in a court of the federal capital.

However, the police were asked to conduct a medical of the PTI leader at Services Hospital before he is taken to Islamabad.

'Proud' Fawad

Speaking to the media at the court, Fawad said that he is "proud" of the case that has been registered against him. "Nelson Mandela also faced a similar case. It is being said that I committed treason," he said.

The PTI leader said that he is a former federal minister and a Supreme Court lawyer therefore he should be treated respectfully.

"The way I was arrested was not appropriate," he said, adding that he would have appeared before the police had they called him.

He went on to say that the entire country is saying what he said about the ECP.  

Farrukh Habib tries to stop police

PTI leader Farrukh Habib tried to stop the police motorcade transporting Fawad at the Kala Shah Kaku toll plaza and also engaged in a scuffle with the police in the attempt.

As per details, the Islamabad Police had shifted Fawad to Services Hospital in Lahore for a medical check-up, after which they left for the federal capital despite LHC's order to present him before it by 2:00pm.

Farrukh was following the convoy and scuffled with the motorcade when it reached the toll plaza. In the videos shared on social media, the PTI leader and workers can be seen blocking the road and standing in front of a police vehicle in order to stop it from moving ahead.

FIR

Confirming the arrest earlier in the day, Islamabad Police said that a case against Fawad was registered last night at the Kohsar Police Station in the federal capital on the complaint of ECP Secretary Omer Hamid Khan.

The FIR against Fawad Chaudhry. — Islamabad Police
The FIR against Fawad Chaudhry. — Islamabad Police

The first information report (FIR) was lodged against him for using threatening language against the ECP and its members.

The PTI leader has been booked under 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.

Sections 124-A and 153-A are non-bailable charges while an accused can get bail if charged under sections 505 and 506 of the PPC.

In his speech outside Khan's residence in Lahore, Fawad warned the ECP, its members and their families, according to the FIR.

The FIR states that Fawad said that the status of the election commission was reduced to that of a "munshi [clerk]".

Fawad said that those who become part of the caretaker government will be pursued until they are punished. He had said that the people sitting in the government would be pursued to their houses.

PTI condemns arrest

In his tweet, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that the country has been turned into a "banana republic", as he expressed displeasure over the ex-federal minister's arrest.

"Fawad's arrest on his apt description of the CEC leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that Pak[istan] has become a banana republic devoid of rule of law."

"We must stand up for our fundamental rights now to save Pak's drift towards a point of no return," the former federal minister added.

Several party leaders also condemned the detention of Fawad. PTI Sindh President Ali Haider Zaidi slammed the government over the arrest.

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

PTI leader Asad Umar claimed that Fawad was arrested for speaking the truth.

Fawad's brother released

After his brief detention in Jhelum, Fawad's brother, Faraz Chaudhry, was released on bail and the local magistrate, Waqas Warraich, ordered the PTI leader's release.

Police took Faraz into custody after PTI workers staged a protest on GT Road against Fawad's arrest.

In response to Faraz's arrest, PTI Senior Vice President Shireen Mazari said that democracy has "ended and fear is being spread in the country".

"How many people will be silenced?" she asked in a press conference alongside Fawad's wife.

Censuring the government, the PTI leader asked why are the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the government terrified.

She said that the ECP should file a defamation case if it has any issues.

Message to president

Mazari, referring to President Dr Arif Alvi, asked him to speak up. "President should show his authority," she added.

She said that President Alvi should stand for justice and Pakistan and needs to take a position. "It's time for the president to stop this system," she said.