ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan said on Sunday he was “shocked” by the arrest of one his close aides, Azam Swati, for making critical comments against the country’s army chief after a local court approved his two-day physical remand on the request of the Federal Investigation Agency.
The FIA also arrested Swati last month after registering a case against him over a controversial tweet targeting General Qamar Javed Bajwa, though he was later released on bail.
A senior senator belonging to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Swati maintained he was stripped and tortured while he was in the custody of the law enforcement agency. He also told a news conference this month that his wife had received an obscene video which featured him and her, though he refused to divulge further details.
Swati addressed a protest rally arranged by Khan’s PTI party in the garrison city of Rawalpindi just a few hours before his arrest wherein he raised the issue of custodial torture and mistreatment of his family once again.
“I am shocked & appalled at how rapidly we are descending into not just a banana republic but a fascist state,” said ex-prime minister Khan in a Twitter post. “How can anyone not understand the pain & suffering Senator Swati underwent with custodial torture & blackmailing video of him & his conservative wife sent to his family?”
The PTI chief maintained Swati was rightly furious about what had happened to him and his family while asking people to resist “state fascism.”
“His justifiable anger & frustration at the injustice meted out to him especially the doors of SC remaining closed to him despite over a fortnight of appeals by Senators in support of him,” he continued. “So he tweets & is arrested again. Everyone must raise their voice against this state fascism.”
According to local media reports, the FIA sought an eight-day physical remand from a local court in Islamabad but was only granted two days.
“During the hearing, the investigation officer informed the court that the senator was arrested as there were some controversial tweets done by him,” Geo News reported. “He added that the FIA seeks to recover the senator’s Twitter account, mobile and other things.”
However, some PTI leaders said he was arrested for his fiery speech at the protest rally in Rawalpindi.
“Senator Azam Swati arrested again by FIA after he spoke at our Azadi [Freedom] March where he asked some questions and spoke about what happened to him and his family,” Shireen Mazari, a member of Khan’s party and former human rights minister, said on Twitter.
“Is that a crime?”
Swati’s made the comments at the protest rally shortly before Khan announced that his party was quitting the country’s provincial and national assemblies while making his first public appearance since being wounded in a gun attack on November 3.
Khan, a former cricket star turned politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April. He is now in opposition and has been demanding early elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and orchestrated by PM Shehbaz Sharif with the backing of the United States. Sharif and Washington have dismissed the allegations and the current government says the next polls will be held as scheduled in 2023.
Khan launched an anti-government march late last month from the eastern city of Lahore toward Islamabad as part of his campaign to demand snap polls. However, his motorized caravan came under attack by a gunman who killed one man and injured Khan along with ten other party supporters.
Both Khan and Swati have accused officials of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and others government functionaries of orchestrating the November 3 attack and being behind the alleged custodial torture of PTI members.
The Pakistani military has denied the allegations and insists that it was “neutral” during the political transition earlier this year.
Since Khan’s ouster, anti-army trends and posts on social media have become a routine occurrence in Pakistan, where the military was long feared and for decades ruled either through coups or as the invisible guiding hand in politics.