ISLAMABAD: After hours of drama outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi and a heated standoff between Islamabad and Rawalpindi police, ex-premier Imran Khan’s chief of staff Dr. Shahbaz Gill was handed over to Islamabad police on Wednesday night for investigation in a sedition case.
A local court in the federal capital had earlier in the day remanded Gill, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader, in the custody of Islamabad police for another two days. An Islamabad police team headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Khalid Awan reached the jail to take the suspect into the custody for interrogation as per the court’s orders.
However, the situation turned ugly when a heavy contingent of Rawalpindi police was deployed outside the jail and Gill’s custody was delayed.
Later, he was handed over to Islamabad police and transported to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad for a medical check-up.
Reacting to the drama outside Adiala Jail, a special assistant to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Malik Ahmed Khan, said the case registered against Gill was of a “clear nature.”
“Shahbaz Gill is booked under a serious case of incitement [of revolt within the army],” he said, adding that Islamabad police had arrived at the jail to take custody of Gill on the orders of the court.
He also rejected the PTI’s claim that Gill was tortured by police in custody.
“The PTI leadership is making hollow claims of torture on Shahbaz Gill,” he said.
Gill was arrested last Tuesday afternoon, a day after he made a controversial comment in a talk show aired by a private news channel, asking army officers not to follow orders of their top command if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.”
The country’s national media regulator described the statement as “seditious” and said it was tantamount of inciting revolt within the military. The regulator also issued a show-cause notice to the channel, ARY News, for airing the “illegal” content. The channel has since been off air.
Last Friday, after Gill had been in police custody for two days, the court sent him to jail on judicial remand, rejecting a request by the police to extend the suspect’s physical remand.
Earlier in the court, Islamabad Advocate General Jahangir Khan Jadoon filed a plea in the Islamabad High Court on Saturday last week challenging the order and saying the physical remand of Gill was important to help complete the investigation.
Prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi on Wednesday urged the court to allow physical remand of the suspect as investigators have yet to recover his mobile phone and conduct a polygraph test. In a rare move, the court accepted the demand for another round of police remand.
“We are yet to investigate the person who approved the script [of what Gill said on TV show],” Abbasi told district and session judge Zeba Chaudhry during the hearing.
Gill’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar opposed the prosecution’s plea for physical remand and said he had already faced torture by police last week.
“Shahbaz Gill has been tortured in police custody,” Safdar said, referring to a previous period of physical remand, adding that Gill was blindfolded when subjected to torture: “Even his private parts were tortured in custody.”
After hearing arguments from both the sides, the judge first reserved the verdict and later announced that Gill should be handed over to police on physical remand for 48 hours.
Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry called for an independent inquiry.
“A judicial inquiry should be conducted and an independent board should be constituted on which both Shahbaz Gill and prosecution have the trust,” he told reporters.
PTI chairman Imran Khan wrote on Twitter he was “very concerned about Shahbaz Gill being sent into police remand again.”
“He is in a fragile state of mental & physical health because of the torture inflicted on him when he was abducted & taken to undisclosed location & then again at the police station,” Khan said.