The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday claimed Senator Azam Swati had been arrested by Balochistan police over controversial tweets against senior military officers, cases against which have been lodged at various police stations across the province. The provincial police have yet to verify this.
Just a day before his reported arrest by Balochistan police, Swati had been sent on 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had filed an application in a district and sessions court saying it did not need physical remand of him for the four day it had been granted earlier this week.
The FIA Cybercrime Wing had registered an FIR against Swati on Nov. 26 over controversial tweets against military officers, including then-Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. The FIR stated 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, lodged under Sections 109 (punishment of abetment); 500 (defamation); 501 (printing defamatory material); and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code, had further said that such “intimidating tweets of blaming and naming” were a “mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel of armed forces to harm the state of Pakistan.” It alleged that the accused had attempted to seduce Army personnel from allegiance to their duties as subordinates, adding this was a “calculated and repeated attempt” by Swati.
At the same time, several FIRs were registered against the senator at different police stations in Karachi, Quetta, Jacobabad Qambar, Lasbela, Larkana, Sukkur, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Kandhkot, and other cities. Swati’s lawyer, Babar Awan, has approached the Supreme Court for the transfer of all cases filed against his client in Sindh and Balochistan.
Condemning the arrest, PTI Chairman Imran Khan described the “vengeful” treatment of Swati as “shocking and condemnable.” Claiming that the PTI leader had been shifted to PIMS in Islamabad early in the morning after complaining of “severe chest pain and breathing issues,” Khan said Quetta police had gotten Swati discharged and arrested him before waiting for his test results.
“Equally outrageous is what is being considered such a great crime would in entire civilized world be considered his democratic right to criticize,” he wrote on Twitter. “He must be released immediately. Sad to see our justice system unwilling to stop repeated violations of Swati’s basic human rights,” he added.
Also on Friday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) reserved its verdict on Swati’s plea seeking details of cases registered against him across the country. During proceedings, the additional attorney general said there was no law that permitted the Interior Ministry to seek such details from provincial police, adding that after the 18th Amendment police was entirely in control of provinces. However, he added, a report of the cases registered had been sought from the provinces on court orders.
This is the second time the PTI senator has been arrested over offending tweets. Last month, the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing took him into custody for allegedly making “controversial claims” against state institutions, including the Army chief. After several days of physical remand, a district and sessions court in Islamabad had granted Swati post-arrest bail against a surety bond worth Rs. 1 million in that case.