Fawad Chaudhry’s arrest

The government must ensure that the law is followed

The arrest of Pakistan Tehrik Insaf leader and former Federal Information Minister Ch Fawad Hussain was perhaps inevitable, in view of the charge, which was that of inciting violence against the Chief Election Commissioner’s family, but the manner was all too drearily familiar. It is no justification to say that such arrests of political opponents took place when Mr Chaudhry was in office. However, it does seem that the legal formalities are being observed so far, as Mr Chaudhry was produced after arrest before a magistrate, and the arresting authority, Islamabad’s Kohsar police, was granted transit remand, which allowed it to take him from Lahore to Islamabad, and again produce him before a magistrate in Islamabad, which duly granted the police remand. However, it remains to be seen whether the niceties continue to be observed. It would be most unfortunate if Mr Chaudhry was meted out the same treatment as Shahbaz Gill or Senator Azam Swati, both of whom alleged they were tortured in custody. Dr Gill was accused of attempting to incite mutiny in the Army, and Senator Swati of having made tweets against senior military officers. The petition against Mr Chaudhry’s arrest was duly dismissed by the Lahore High Court.

Mr Chaudhy’s arrest is being taken seriously by the PTI because it came within 72 hours of the takeover of caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, and may well signal a wave of arrests, which had been made impossible because of the presence of PTI ally Ch Pervez Elahi in Punjb’s top job. The prospect was revealed of even PTI chief Imran Khan being arrested. It is worth noting that, unlike Dr Gill and Senator Swati, the charge involves a civilian. While it was ‘understood’ by realists that military men would be off-limits, this is the first case involving a civilian, on whom open season seems to have been declared by the PTI. However, it now seems that any immunity given by friendly forces has now been removed.

While the law should always be followed, there is a pressing need that it be followed in this case, not least because Mr Chaudhry is not just a former minister and a political leader, but also a lawyer. He is easily the highest-ranking PTI leader arrested so far, not least because he is close to Mr Khan, and thus his case will be under closer-than-usual scrutiny.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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