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Misusing Sedition Law
The arrest of Fawad Chaudhry

Misusing Sedition Law

The arrest of Fawad Chaudhry has triggered a serious debate over the fresh curbs being imposed on freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: The dramatic arrest of outspoken central leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Fawad Chaudhry on sedition charges has triggered a serious debate in the political and legal circles in the country over the fresh curbs on the freedom of speech being imposed by the PDM government.

Besides the PTI leadership led by Chairman Imran Khan condemning Fawad’s arrest, several leaders from the opposition parties have also raised their voice against his arrest.

Fawad Chaudhary was arrested from Lahore in the wee hours of Wednesday after an FIR was registered against him at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station by an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for “threatening” members of the commission, including the chief, and their families.

Sedition charges were framed on him over his statement in which he described the status of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja as that of a “clerk” whose only job is to stamp the orders conveyed to him.

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The sections under which Fawad was registered includes 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.

After his arrest from outside his residence in Lahore, Fawad was taken to the Cantt Court, where the judicial magistrate granted the police the PTI leader’s transit remand.

On Friday, the Islamabad High Court rejected the police plea for Fawad Chaudhry’s extended physical remand and granted a 14-day judicial remand of PTI leader and sent him to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.

Further charges framed on Fawad Chaudhry include obstruction in the electoral process, disputing the nomination of Punjab’s caretaker chief minister, and spreading hatred among the people.

The complaint elaborates how the PTI leader had contested the appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister while threatening the ECP. It further mentions how Fawad incited the people against the PDM and the ECP.

As per the complaint, Fawad alleged that all those involved in the events of May 25, those “who committed the worst violation of human rights” were being brought back by the Caretaker CM Punjab.

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It elaborates that Fawad said that those individuals should not be posted in Punjab, but if they were indeed posted there, then the members of the Election Commission, their families and these individuals are being “warned” not to do it.

“If a series of abuses happened to us, you will have to pay back for this series of abuses,” the First Information Report (FIR) quoted Fawad as allegedly saying to the ECP officials.

When produced before the IHC judge, Fawad asked him to throw out the case against him as he had done nothing wrong but only expressed his right to criticize.

“If this carries on in the country, democracy and freedom of expression will no longer exist,” he added and said that whatever he said was on his party’s behalf as he was its spokesperson.

Soon afterwards, Fawad was sent on 14-day judicial remand by the court after a police plea for an extension in physical custody was rejected and a petition of post arrest bail was filed.

The petition states that the PTI leader has “falsely been involved in the instant case by the complainant with the malafide intention and ulterior motives just to harass, pressurise and blackmail the present petitioner”.

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It added that the allegations levelled in the FIR are “absolutely false, frivolous and baseless”. It also said that Fawad is “innocent and has no link or concern with the commission of alleged offence.”

The petition also states that Fawad was arrested “unlawfully and without any justification in negation to the law.”

PTI’s lawyers Babar Awan, Faisal Chaudhry and Ali Bukhari are also present during the hearing on Friday.

While talking to “Bol News” PTI leader Babar Awan said that Election Commission is representing one political party.

ECP secretary who is carrying criminal proceedings against PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry can conduct transparent election Babar asked.

He said that the public servants are neither a part of the provincial nor the federal government. “Those who spoke against the judges are now a part of the government,” he added.

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Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said that Fawad’s arrest under Pakistan Penal Code’s Section 124-A was “unjustified”.

He stated that his Private Members Bill for deletion of section 124-A was passed by the Senate on July 9, 2021, but the bill was deliberately “lost” in the National Assembly (NA).

He further said that it is a matter of history that charges of treason and sedition are only levelled and levied against politicians and civilians.

Rabbani advised the government to “refrain from prosecuting under such sections.” The government should also, on its own motion, give notice of “my bill for the deletion of section 124-A, which is lying dormant in the National Assembly”, he said.

Fawad’s brother Faisal Chaudhry said that in the history its first time that ECP has filed complaint against any political leader under section 153-A. “The way Fawad was produced before the court in Islamabad was totally unjustified. Is he a terrorist? He is the spokesperson of the biggest political party in the country.

He said our legal team will fight the case and soon Fawad will be out of custody because the allegations against him are false and made on the behest of the ruling PDM.

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