A District and Sessions Court in Islamabad on Wednesday granted police two-day physical remand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shahbaz Gill for further investigations, a day after he was arrested on charges of sedition and inciting the public against state institutions.
In a short order issued by the court, police have been directed to produce Gill on Aug. 12 (Friday). It has also directed the investigating officer, on the plea of the PTI, to get Gill medically examined to ensure he has not been harmed during detention.
According to the court order, the investigating officer had sought 14 days for Gill’s physical remand to continue investigations into the role of “other persons” involved in his offense. The remand request had also noted that Gill’s presence was needed to ascertain the whereabouts of his mobile phone to adequately verify that he had conveyed the allegedly seditious remarks to ARY News.
Addressing media outside the courtroom, Gill claimed he had not stated anything controversial, adding he was referring to “bureaucrats” and not military personnel when he urged them not to follow the orders of their superiors. This claim is not fully supported by the content of his remarks, which specifically cite the Army and its senior leadership.
Gill, who currently serves as PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s chief of staff, was arrested from Banigala Chowk in Islamabad on Tuesday, with the PTI describing it as an “abduction.” CCTV footage of the arrest, available with media, showed police directing Gill to exit his vehicle and submit to their custody. Upon his refusal, one window of his car was broken and he was then escorted to a waiting police vehicle. The PTI had earlier alleged that he had been manhandled during the arrest, but the footage has rebutted this claim.
The arrest followed the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issuing a show-cause notice to ARY News for broadcasting a statement by Gill in which he has been accused of trying to incite the armed forces toward revolt. According to the notice, Gill was invited on ARY via telephone and during his talk had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the Army against the PTI, saying the families of such “rank and file” support Imran Khan and his party “which is fueling rage within the government.”
It cited him as saying that the “strategic media cell” of the ruling PMLN was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces. He also accused several government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq as criticizing the Army in the past.
“The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as PEMRA laws,” read the watchdog’s show-cause notice. “Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests,” it said. “Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-Army narrative,” it added.
Addressing media after Gill’s arrest on Tuesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed that the PTI leader had been detained on charges of sedition and inciting the public against state institutions. He said a first information report (FIR) had been registered against the PTI leader on behalf of the state under Sections 34 (common intention), 109 (abetment), 120 (concealing design to commit offense punishable with imprisonment), 121 (waging war against the state), 124-A (sedition), 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempt to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty), 153 (provoking to cause riot), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Accusing ousted prime minister Imran Khan of trying to sow “divisions in the military” to distract public from his foreign funding case and Toshakhana reference, he claimed Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Gill had both been tasked with spreading this narrative. “A private news channel was also involved in this conspiracy,” he said, referring to ARY News.
To a question, he said Gill’s comments on ARY had “proven” that the PTI was responsible for the abusive social media campaign following last week’s Army helicopter crash in Balochistan. “Their [PTI’s] social media was behind it … people who have been caught are spilling everything,” he added.