PTI leader and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), calling for cases registered against the party’s leadership under the country’s blasphemy laws to be termed “illegal”. These cases were registered after some Pakistani pilgrims chanted slogans at Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation during their visit to the Masjid-i-Nabwi last week.
While PTI leaders said the incident was a spontaneous reaction and reflected the public’s anger, the government claims it was planned and orchestrated by the PTI leadership.
The high court’s assistant registrar, Asad Khan, confirmed that the petition had been received. PTI’s legal team, Advocate Faisal Fareed and Advocate Ali Bukhari, filed the petition on Fawad’s behalf. The Federation of Pakistan through the interior secretary, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as the police chiefs of Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan have been made respondents in the case.
We wandered the site with other tourists
Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.
In the petition, Fawad said that the newly appointed interior minister had been targeting the PTI leadership and had also “openly threatened” them with dire consequences. He said that through “reliable sources”, he had come to know that the incumbent government had decided to teach him and other PTI leaders “a lesson they must not forget”.
Fawad alleged that Sana had ordered to have him and other PTI leader nominated/booked in false criminal cases registered in various parts of the country. The petition noted that one FIR had been registered in Faisalabad while applications had been filed in Burewala and Islamabad. It noted that when the unfortunate incident occurred at Masjid-i-Nabwi, the PTI was celebrating 27th of Ramazan at an event organised at the house of Chairman Imran Khan which was also shown live across the country. “The petitioner, like millions of other[s], came to know about the incident through social media. Therefore, in a most unfortunate and clumsy manner, the ruling party (that is hell-bent to sort out the petitioner and his party leadership, including the former prime minister, Imran Khan) in a malafide intention started a vilification campaign against them in an effort to equal the political score
Fawad claimed that the government was unnerved by the PTI’s announcement regarding a long march and, “acting in a hysteric manner”, falsely implicated him, former PM Imran, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid, former NA deputy speaker Qasim Suri, PTI leader Shahbaz Gill and others.
The petition urged the court to direct the respondents to “immediately stop the unlawful and illegal harassment of the petitioner and his colleagues […] in the interest of justice equity and fair play.” It also called for placing all the FIRs registered against the PTI leadership in various parts of the country on record. Further, it called on the court to inform Fawad of the grounds and reasons for the registration of the criminal cases against the PTI leadership to “ensure his fundamental right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner”. The plea urged the court to strictly implement the judgement laid down by the Supreme Court in the “Sughran Bibi vs the state” case of 2018 where the apex court ruled that there must be one FIR of a crime or incident.The petition urged the court to hold the action of the FIA and the police as “illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition after the court issued a circular to hear urgent cases during the Eid holidays and issued notices to the respondents. The case was adjourned till 10:30am on May 9.The IHC CJ directed to send copies of the order to the respondents and the National Assembly secretary. Justice Minallah also directed the interior secretary and the respondents to ensure that Fawad was not harassed and no measures were taken against him till May 9.
He noted that the matter would be brought to the attention of NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf who was expected to ensure that the liberty of NA members was not “curtailed by the respondents without his approval nor that they are harassed in any manner due to the incident which had taken place in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. IHC restrains authorities from arresting Shahbaz Gill Separately, the IHC restrained the authorities concerned from arresting Gill upon his return to Pakistan. The court issued the directives while hearing a writ petition filed by the politician seeking protective bail in the same case. The petition stated that Gill had been falsely implicated in several FIRs to “harrass, pressurise, blackmail and humiliate”. The petition also stated that Gill was ready to appear before the court to prove his innocence but was prevented from doing so as the current government was bent upon arresting him at any cost. When the IHC CJ took up the petition, Gill’s lawyer Advocate Faisal Chaudhry told the court that his client was in the US when the incident occurred. When Justice Minallah asked where Gill was, Chaudhry replied that the PTI leader had left for the US on April 28 and would return on May 4. The lawyer further informed the court that 11 different cases had been registered against Gill and others in several cities, including Faisalabad, Attock, Jhelum, Burewala, Karachi, Jhang and Islamabad.
“[The petitioners] are being targeted for political revenge,” he argued.
The hearing was adjourned till 10:30am on May 6 (Friday).