Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Fawad arrested for ‘inciting violence’; Imran demands his immediate release

Police arrested Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s senior leader Fawad Chaudhry during a predawn raid on Wednesday on charges of “inciting violence against a constitutional institution”, prompting the party chief and former prime minister Imran Khan to slam the state institutions and demand his immediate release.
Fawad, a close aide of Khan, was taken into custody from his residence in Lahore after a case was registered against him at Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station on the complaint of the Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for “threatening” the electoral body’s members and their families.
Later in a tweet, the Islamabad Police said that Fawad, 52, tried to “incite violence against a constitutional institution” and “inflame the sentiments of the people”.
In a televised address from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, Khan denounced Fawad’s arrest and said that his party leaders and workers were being arrested and there were plans in place against his party. He termed Fawad’s arrest “a part of a plan to rig elections”.
He said the nation is looking to the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial for justice and his party expected the judiciary to protect its fundamental rights.
“I do not fear jail. I fear nothing. I have seen death very closely. I believe in the almighty. I also ask others not to be afraid of prison,” Khan said, adding that till the last day he is alive, he will keep fighting for the country.
“I will fight till the last ball… I will fight against them till my last breath. I never fear jail. I am a free person [and] I will never accept slavery,” the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician said.
Hearing a petition filed against the arrest during the day, the Lahore High Court judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh instructed the police to present Fawad in court. However, the police failed to produce him before the court.
Inspector General of Punjab Police Usman Anwar told the Lahore High Court that Islamabad police had taken Fawad into custody and had taken transitory remand of the former information minister. A magisterial court in Cantt Lahore approved Fawad’s transitory remand to the Islamabad police hours after the capital’s Kohsar police arrested him from the provincial capital.
The Lahore High Court then ordered that the petition was no longer admissible as the PTI leader’s detention was not illegal.
Fawad’s brother Faisal Chaudhry earlier said the former federal minister was “taken away” in four cars that did not have any number plates at 5:30am. Faisal 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.
Fawad’s wife Hiba Chaudhry later called on Pakistan’s chief justice to take a suo motu notice of her husband’s arrest.
“This imported government has gone berserk,” PTI leader Farrukh Habib tweeted.
An official PTI Twitter account posted videos, showing a convoy of police vehicles which the party claimed was carrying Chaudhry after his arrest.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the arrest was “a strong slap on the democracy and the rule of law of this country”.
“Please stop playing with Pakistan, otherwise the situation will not be under anyone’s control,” Qureshi said in the tweet.
The arrest of Fawad came amidst rumours that the government may arrest former premier Khan.
Fawad’s arrest comes after he, along with scores of party workers, gathered outside Khan’s residence in Lahore, claiming to avert the government’s alleged plan to arrest the party chief.
The arrest of Fawad further deepens political fault lines in Pakistan where the Khan-led opposition is demanding snap polls.
The general elections in Pakistan are due after August. However, Khan is demanding snap polls.
The FIR stated that Fawad, in a speech outside Khan’s house, threatened ECP and said that “those who become part of the caretaker government (in Punjab) will be pursued until they are punished”.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Wednesday claimed that Chaudhry’s arrest was not political and that he is not a case of “political victimisation”.
“This arrest was made on a complaint from the election commission,” she said. “If we had any intention to make political arrests, we might have arrested Imran Khan, but we had no such intention.”

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