Tuesday April 16, 2024

Fawad Chaudhry files bail plea in sedition case

Local court sends the PTI leader on a 14-day judicial remand rejecting police's plea seeking an extension of physical remand

By Ayaz Akbar Yousufzai
January 27, 2023
Police officials escort the former information minister Fawad Chaudhry to leaving after hearing in a court in Islamabad on January 25, 2023. — Online
Police officials escort the former information minister Fawad Chaudhry to leaving after hearing in a court in Islamabad on January 25, 2023. — Online 

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry' on Friday submitted a post-arrest bail petition to the judicial magistrate of Islamabad minutes 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 development comes minutes after a local court in Islamabad sent Fawad on a 14-day physical remand, rejecting the police's plea seeking an extension of physical remand in a sedition case filed against him.

Following the end of the two-day physical remand, Fawad was produced before the court where the prosecutor requested the court to extend the physical remand for further investigations.

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".

Fawad was arrested from his Lahore residence in the wee hours of Wednesday after he publicly "threatened" the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and their families in a media talk a day earlier.

He was then taken to Islamabad, where the police were granted a two-day physical remand contrary to the appeal seeking eight-day physical remand. His arrest drew strong criticism within the federal government's ranks — which, although, has denied involvement.

The petition mentioned that the petitioner was ready to furnish the solvent surety bonds to the entire satisfaction of the court for his personal appearance.

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.

Court sends Fawad on judicial remand

During the hearing today, the court ordered the police to open Fawad’s handcuffs in the courtroom at the request of the PTI leader’s lawyer. The former information minister was also allowed to meet his family members in the courtroom.

The prosecutor told Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmad Raja that Fawad is spreading hatred against the constitutional institution and is also trying to create unrest.

"[His] statement is a threat to the lives of ECP's members," the prosecutor said informing the court that Fawad's voice has been matched and his photogrammetry test has to be carried out in Lahore. 

Lawyers Babar Awan, Faisal Chaudhry and Ali Bukhari were also present in court.

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

It should be noted that following the order of the court, 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 vehemently denied all charges and demanded the case's dismissal as it is "fraud and the FIR is a sham".

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.

'Servant of govt's servants'

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 emphasising that it is an individual entity.

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

Awan further added that those who spoke against the judges are now a part of the government. "The prosecution isn't telling what it wants from Fawad," he complained.

'Statement was 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 demand '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.