A judicial magistrate on Saturday reserved a ruling on the police’s petition to extend the physical remand of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, hours after a sessions court overturned his decision.
The verdict is expected to be pronounced shortly.
Chaudhry was taken into custody on Wednesday for allegedly “inciting violence against a constitutional institution” — the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). A first information report (FIR) against him was registered at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station on a complaint of ECP Secretary Umar Hameed.
The FIR stated that Chaudhry, in a speech outside PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s house, had allegedly threatened the ECP and their family members.
Today, the PTI leader was brought to court with a black cloth covering his head on directives issued by Additional Sessions Judge Tahir Mehmood Khan who said the appearance of a suspect in the court was mandatory in cases where investigators seek a physical remand.
Concurrently, another hearing on the PTI leader’s petition seeking post-arrest bail was also underway at a local court.
The two cases were being heard separately at different courts located in close proximity at the F-8 Kacheri (a judicial complex for district courts).
The former information minister had on Friday moved an application through his attorney before additional district and sessions judge Faizan Haider Gillani seeking his bail.
‘Won’t retract my comments’
As the PTI leader was brought to the court today, his defence attorney Babar Awan questioned the merits of the case and insisted his client did not say anything that would pose a security risk to the country.
“The whole of the PTI has similar views that Fawad Chaudhry said in his statement,” Awan told the court.
He said the PTI leader did not flee the country on the pretext of health.
In his statement before the court, Chaudhry said he was not retracting his remarks.
“It is tantamount to endangering democracy in the country if freedom of expression is denied,” he told the court. The PTI leader said he had acknowledged his statement, adding: “It is my right.”
He said gagging freedom of expression was akin to turning Pakistan into a country like Myanmar. “It will not be a democracy if the people are forced to stop criticising the powerful.”
Chaudhry said he stood by his statement and would not backtrack on it.
“How can I withdraw from calling the ECP a munshi (clerk)? Respect is earned by one’s actions, and it cannot be forcefully demanded.”
He called on his rivals to not take charge of important positions if they were not willing to accept criticism.
Speaking to media outside the court, Chaudhry’s wife Hiba said she was not being allowed to meet her husband despite the court’s orders.
“I request Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to allow my daughters to meet their father,” she said.
She also called out Punjab and Islamabad police officials for their alleged highhandedness in dealing with her family.
Hiba said she was ready to file a petition “if that is the only way my children and I can meet Fawad”.
Earlier, the court summoned the prosecutor and asked him to read out the petition seeking the extension in the physical remand of the PTI leader.
Prosecutor Adnan said it was necessary to take Chaudhry to Lahore for a “photogrammetric test”. “We also need access to the suspect’s electronic gadgets including his mobile phone and laptop to determine other elements who connived with him.”
He urged the court to set aside the judicial magistrate’s order and grant an extension in the physical remand of the ex-minister.
The prosecutor insisted that there was ample “electronic material” available against Chaudhry.
Awan rued that his client was being deprived of his fundamental right to meet his family and legal team.
He cited a case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and said Chaudhry was denied the provision that the mother of the convicted Indian naval official was given.
Awan said his client could not be produced despite the court orders.
He also opposed the police request seeking to take Chaudhry to Lahore, saying “it is not a video leak case” to determine the physical features of the detainee.
He claimed that multiple sections of the police rules were allegedly violated in the FIR filed against Chaudhry. He added that the case was registered online. “This is a fraud and they think people are fools,” said Awan.
At the start of the hearing, the judge asked the prosecution about the investigation conducted during the two-day physical remand of the PTI leader.
The state counsel responded that investigators “practically got one day” to grill the suspect. “We need to conduct a photogrammetric test on the detainee,” the officer told the court.
Awan objected to the non-appearance of the investigation officer. He argued that his team had not been given any prior notice by the police seeking to challenge the court orders.
“This country has become a banana republic,” he contended.
After hearing arguments, the court asked police to produce the PTI leader before the court, saying the production of the suspect was mandatory in a plea seeking an extension in physical remand.
Hearing on bail plea
At the same time, a sessions court is hearing a post-arrest bail petition filed by the PTI. Chaudhry’s counsels Awan and Ali Bukhari turned up before the court.
Judge Gillani informed the PTI legal team that the police investigator had told the court they have challenged the court’s rejection of their petition to extend the physical remand of the PTI leader.
“We did not get any notice. The investigators should have informed us,” Awan responded.
The judge said the information had now been conveyed through the court anyway.
In his plea, the PTI leader contended that the allegations levelled against him in the FIR were false, frivolous and baseless. He said the case against him was based on mala fide, alleging that the government was trying to “blackmail” him.
‘Law of the jungle now prevails’
PTI chief Imran Khan reacted to the proceedings, criticising how Fawad was taken to court handcuffed and head covered “like a terrorist”. He said it showed the “low and vindictive levels imported govt and state have reached”.
He added that the treatment of Chaudhry, Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill leaves no doubt in people’s minds that the country was now a “banana republic”.
In a follow-up tweet, Imran said: “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.”
More to follow
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