The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday dismissed a plea to recover arrested Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry, terming the case "no longer admissible".
LHC’s Justice Tariq Saleem was hearing a plea seeking Fawad’s recovery from the "illegal and unlawful confinement" by Punjab's Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD).
Police failed to produce the PTI leader in court after which the LHC summoned the inspectors general of Punjab and Islamabad to determine which force had taken Fawad into custody.
Fawad Chaudhry was arrested in the wee hours of the day on charges of sedition and "inciting violence against a constitutional institution".
But, later in the evening, the inspector general of Punjab police told the court that Islamabad police had taken Fawad into custody and had taken transitory remand of the PTI leader.
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.
Given the information, the LHC ordered that the plea was no longer admissible as the PTI leader's detention was not illegal.
During the earlier round of proceedings today, the court ordered the Islamabad police to produce Fawad Chaudhry in court even if he has "reached Islamabad or is on the motorway".
However, the capital police refused to do so as confusion persisted about whether the provincial government or the federal government has been made a party to the case.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, irked by the reply, said he "knows how to ensure court orders are implemented" and ordered the police to produce the PTI leader in LHC even if he has "reached Islamabad or is on the motorway".
The petitioner’s counsels barrister Muhammad Ahmad Pansota and advocate Azhar Siddique told the court that Fawad was being taken towards the motorway rather than producing him before the court and added that it was tantamount to committing contempt of court.
After an interval, as the court resumed proceedings, law officer Jawad Yaqoob started his arguments to which Justice Sheikh remarked that he will listen to his arguments after the order has been complied with
Finally, Justice Sheikh summoned IGPs of Islamabad and Punjab by 6 pm today at LHC and also directed them to produce Fawad before the court.
Earlier in the day, the Cantt Lahore's magisterial court approved Fawad's transitory remand to the Islamabad police hours after the capital's Kohsar police arrested him from the provincial capital.
A first information report (FIR) was registered in the Kohsar police station against Fawad on the complaint of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Umar Hameed for "inciting violence against a constitutional institution".
The FIR was registered under sections 153-A (promotion of enmity between groups), 506 (criminal intimidation), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 124-A (sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
فواد چوہدری کو کینٹ کچہری پیش کردیا گیا
— PTI (@PTIofficial) January 25, 2023
As per reports, Fawad's transit remand was taken from Lahore and he will be transferred to Islamabad today.
Judicial magistrate Mudasar Hayat directed the concerned quarters to produce the former minister before the concerned court in the federal capital today.
Moreover, the court also ordered a medical examination of the PTI leader from the Services Hospital Lahore.
As the hearing commenced, the PTI leader requested Lahore's magisterial court to hand him over a copy of the FIR registered against him.
Following the receipt of the copy, Fawad told the court that he is a former federal minister and lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC), adding that the “conduct used during his arrest was not appropriate”.
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The PTI leader requested the court to pass a direction to the police to treat him in a respectful manner and to pass an order for his medical examination.
In his argument, Fawad's lawyers expressed their displeasure over producing the former minister in handcuffs. They said a resolution has been passed in this regard that lawyers will not be handcuffed.
They also informed the court that a petition relating to Fawad’s habeas corpus is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC), therefore, the decision of transit remand be halted till the decision of the aforementioned petition is announced.
'James Bond in court'
Talking to the media following the arrest, Fawad said that "he is proud" of being nominated in the FIR following which his arrest was made. He maintained that those who arrested him will "soon be ashamed".
Taking a jibe at the heavy deployment of security officials around the court, he said “it seems James Bond is being produced before the court”.
The PTI leader's brother Faraz Chaudhry was reportedly arrested from Jhelum, Rawalpindi, for protesting against the former minister's arrest.
According to reports, Jhelum police has shifted Faraz to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) building.
The arrest comes just hours after the former minister, in a press conference in Lahore, had warned the members of the ECP along with their families and others of vindictive measures if “those involved in the May 25 incident – police crackdown to stop PTI expedition to Islamabad – were appointed or remain appointed”.
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“We have formally lodged a complaint before the Election Commission that those directly involved in the May 25 crackdown against the PTI protest should not be appointed in Punjab,” he had stated.
According to the text of the FIR, during a speech on Tuesday Fawad had said that the status of the ECP is the same as a “secretary”, adding that the “chief election commissioner signs documents like a clerk”.
During the press talk, while strongly criticising the appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as Punjab’s caretaker chief minister the PTI leader had also said that “those who are being appointed as the caretaker of [Punjab] government will be followed until they are punished”.
Earlier, PTI Chairman and former premier Imran Khan had decided to counter the ECP decision to appoint Naqvi as Punjab caretaker chief minister and announced staging countrywide protests calling the new appointee “an enemy of PTI”.
PTI leaders condemn arrest
Soon after the arrest, condemnations by PTI leaders started pouring in on Twitter.
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 added in the tweet.
فواد چودھری کی علی الصبح بغیر وارنٹ گرفتاری اس ملک کی جمہوریت اور قانون کی بالادستی پر ایک زوردار طمانچہ ھے۔ کیا قصور ھے فواد کا؟ کس جرم کے تحت اٹھایا گیا؟ خدارا پاکستان کے ساتھ کھلواڑ بند کیا جائے ورنہ حالات کسی کے قابو میں نہیں رہیں گے ۔
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) January 25, 2023
PTI leader Farrukh Habib maintained that “the imported government has gone berserk”.
فواد چوہدری کو پولیس نے ان کے گھر سے ابھی گرفتار کرلیا ہے۔ امپورٹڈ حکومت بوکھلاہٹ کا شکار ہوگئی ہے
— Farrukh Habib (@FarrukhHabibISF) January 25, 2023
Meanwhile, PTI Sindh President Ali Haider Zaidi also condemned the arrest and said “Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers!”
Strongly condemn the arrest of @fawadchaudhry by the #ImportedGovernmentNaManzoor
Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers!
All hell bent on pushing this country towards anarchy!
— Ali Haider Zaidi (@AliHZaidiPTI) January 25, 2023
Additional reporting by M Shahzad