PTI Senator Azam Swati on Sunday morning was taken into custody for the second time after a raid at his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing Islamabad for allegedly tweeting against senior military officials.
He was later produced before a judicial magistrate, who handed him over to the FIA on a two-day physical remand.
Besides, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) prohibited broadcast and rebroadcast of Swati’s speeches, news conferences and his media coverage, including as a guest at a talk show, statements or tickers, on all satellite TV channels with immediate effect.
An FIR against Swati was registered by the FIA Cyber Crime Wing on November 26, a copy of which was available with The Express Tribune, over ‘controversial’ tweets he had posted recently allegedly against government functionaries, including the chief of the army staff (COAS).
The report maintained that the PTI leader had started a “highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets” against state institutions, including the army chief “with malafide intentions and ulterior motives”.
The FIR was registered on the complaint of the state through Islamabad Cyber Crime Reporting Centre Technical Assistant Aneesur Rehman.
It was registered under Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca) 2016 which deals with offences against dignity of a person as well as Sections 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty), 500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (defamation and printing of content deemed defamatory), Section 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
In a conversation with the FIA team during the arrest, Swati said: “FIA officer Ayaz is my culprit, I don’t want to see him here” as the PTI leader had accused the official of torturing him following his previous arrest in October.
The senator also maintained that as soon as he delivered his speech at the party’s rally in Rawalpindi held a day earlier, he had returned home.
“I am not one to run away to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” he claimed.
He added that his party had come out in favour of the rule of law and against oppression.
Swati said that he was ready to go to the police station himself because the right way was being followed during his arrest on Sunday.
Referring to his ‘custodial torture’ during the previous time he was taken into custody, the senator said: “Torturing and undressing after arrest is wrong.”
The senator then left with the FIA team after recording his stance and was produced in Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmed Raja’s court.
In solidarity with the senator, senior party leaders reached the F-8 area of the federal capital prior to the hearing.
The judicial magistrate heard the case of Swati and announced the reserved decision on FIA's request for physical remand, handing over the PTI leader to the custody of the agency for two days.
Advocates Babar Awan and Faisal Chaudhry appeared before the court on behalf of the former ruling party leader.
During the hearing, the investigation officer informed the court that there were some controversial tweets that led to the arrest of the senator, adding that a narrative was being prepared against state institutions.
He also told the court that an FIR had been registered against the PTI leader over this issue.
“He has not denied the tweet. He has committed this offence for the second time,” the investigating officer added.
PTI lawyer Awan contended that the tweets did not meet the provisions of the FIR, adding that the statement taken by the police had no legal status.
“Swati’s statement of [Section] 164 was not taken into consideration. He was brutally tortured last time. He still hasn’t recovered from the torture,” he added.
The PTI advocate further told the court that the effects of physical and mental torture on Swati still remained, adding that this was not the rule of law.
“It is a mockery and the murder of the law,” he argued.
The lawyer further maintained that there was a threat to the senator’s life.
He then told the court to take assurance from the FIA that if anything happened to Swati in its custody, the agency would be responsible.
“The names of the FIA personnel present here should be put in the order sheet,” Awan added.
Another FIR was registered against Swati in Balochistan’s Kuchlak town.
The report was lodged by a citizen with the Kuchlak police station under Section 20 of Peca 2016 and Sections 131 (Abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty), 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 500 (Punishment for defamation), 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) and 109 (Punishment of abetment if the act abetted committed In consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The complainant alleged that Swati had used derogatory language and provoked the people against the army during his address at his party’s rally in Rawalpindi.
He further claimed that the PTI senator had also used abusive language against the army on Twitter.
A similar FIR was filed at Balochistan's Bela police station.
Six separate FIRs were registered against Swati in Karachi over his tweets -- one at Darakhshan police station, the second at Clifton, the third at Orangi Town, the fourth at Shah Latif, the fifth at Bin Qasim and the sixth at Pirabad.
Swati was also booked in other areas of Sindh including A-Section Latifabad, Hyderabad police station, A-Section Dadu, Satellite Town Mirpurkhas and Thatta.
In all the FIRs, the complainants maintained that Swati’s tweets against the military, which had rendered countless sacrifices for the country, had left them deeply disturbed.
Overall, 12 cases were registered against the PTI senator in the country.
Later, speaking to media personnel outside the court, Awan accompanied by PTI leader and ex-Sindh governor Imran Ismail, said the FIA had contended that it had arrested Swati under the rule of law.
In response, he added that he had asked the FIA in the court how much punishment was handed down to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav under the rule of law.
He noted that an FIR against Swati had also been registered in Balochistan.
Awan further said the law was being turned into a joke and the nation no longer had confidence in the country’s criminal justice system.
Speaking on the occasion, Ismail said the country was being turned into a banana republic.
He added that Swati’s personal life was filmed and sent to his family.
“Was that step legal?” he questioned.
Separately, the media coverage of Swati was banned under Section 27(a) of the Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007.
In its prohibition order, Pemra referred to the speech made by Swati at the PTI’s long march in Rawalpindi.
The order by the regulatory authority maintained that Swati’s November 26 “speech was aired on various satellite TV channels, wherein he had “made aspersions against the state institutions by levelling baseless allegations”.
The speech went on air “without any editorial control and effective utilisation of delay mechanism,” the authority added in its order, adding that airing such content was a willful violation of its directives.
The transcript of Swati’s speech from last night was also reproduced in the notification.
“In case of any violation observed, [the] licence may be suspended under Section 30(3) of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007, without any show-cause notice in the public interest along with other enabling provisions of law,” the order read.
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