Aide to former Pakistan PM Imran arrested for criticising ECP officials - GulfToday

Aide to former Pakistan PM Imran arrested for criticising ECP officials


Police officials escort Fawad Chaudhry (centre) to present him before a court in Lahore on Wednesday. AFP

 An aide to former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on Wednesday for criticising the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials, police said, the latest case brought against the opposition as it tries to force early polls.

Fawad Chaudhry, who was information minister under Imran Khan, was detained in a pre-dawn raid on his home in the eastern city of Lahore.

The arrest of Fawad Chaudhry, an outspoken critic of the government, is a major setback for his party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), in which he serves as vice president. The party quickly condemned the arrest and demanded his release.

Imran also denounced the arrest, claiming on Twitter that it left no doubt that Pakistan has become a place "devoid of rule of law." He urged followers to "stand up for our fundamental rights" to prevent the country from drifting toward "a point of no return."

Chaudhry is accused of having "harassed and intimidated" election commission officials and their families in televised comments on Tuesday, according to a police report shared by his PTI party.

The charges, lodged in the capital Islamabad, also say he is being held under sedition legislation because he "tried to cause an impediment in the election process of the state."

The arrest took place during a predawn raid at Chaudhry's house in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province, his family said. Shireen Mazari, a spokesperson for Khan's party, said Chaudhry was taken in handcuffs straight to court by police in Lahore.

Chaudhry's wife, Hiba Fawad, told reporters that security forces were rough with her husband, pushed him into a vehicle and whisked him away.

"There is a procedure to follow if you want to arrest someone," she said. "It cannot happen that ten or twelve people enter a house, detain someone, throw him into a vehicle and take him away without telling the family where are they taking him."

Footage released later by the party showed Chaudhry's supporters gathered at the court and throwing rose petals at him as police led him toward a courtroom.

The police report shared by PTI cites Chaudhry describing the Election Commission of Pakistan as "clerks" signing off the orders of the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. "If you are so weak then better you should pack up and go home," he said, according to police.

Chaudhry earlier told reporters: "We warn the election commission, its members and their families that, if the series of abuses against us continues, you will have to pay back."

Pakistani politicians regularly trade ugly, personal barbs, invoking each others' families in mud-slinging speeches.
Imran, a former cricket star, was turned out of office as the economy slid backwards and he lost the backing of the military establishment, which is considered the true powerbroker in Pakistan.

Imran was shot in the leg at a political rally in November and blamed the assassination attempt on an army officer and Shahbaz Sharif, without offering evidence.

The nation of more than 220 million is in dire economic straits with runaway inflation, scant foreign exchange reserves and stalling bailout talks with IMF lenders.


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