March 21, 2023
By Rehan Piracha
An anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Tuesday remanded Bol News channel bureau chief Siddique Jan in police custody for a single day after his arrest last night in connection with clashes outside the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) during the court appearance of former premier Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case.
Siddique Jan, who was handcuffed with a plastic band, was brought to court amid tight security. The Anti-Terrorism Court judge, Raja Jawad Abbas inquired from the journalist whether he had been tortured in police custody, however Siddique Jan replied that he had not faced torture.
Siddique Jan’s lawyer Barister Ali Ashfaq told the court that his client had neither been nominated in the FIR nor had he committed any offences mentioned in it. The prosection’s alleged account that his client had obstructed police personnel in the performance of their official duties, was also part of the said FIR, he added.
Siddique Jan’s lawyer said his client had not been on the rooftop of the FJC building, however he had been on the rooftop of nearby Chaudhary Plaza along with other journalists on the day of the clashes between police personnel and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf supporters.
Siddique Jan was covering the incident with 10 other journalists from the Chaudhry Plaza rooftop, 50 meters away from the FJC, his lawyer told the court. In fact, he said, that Siddique Jan had helped revive the police officer who had inhaled teargas, by giving him water on the rooftop. Upon regaining consciousness, the policeman had begun shelling again and Siddique Jan had requested him to stop firing tear gas canisters, the lawyer added. He also played a video clip of the incident in the court.
Meanwhile, the investigation officer said that Jan had stopped the police from firing the tear gas shells and sought his physical remand for conducting his photogrammetry test and the forensics of the video from Lahore. The judge sent Siddique Jan on a 24-hour police remand and directed that he be produced before the court tomorrow.
PFUJ, journalists condemn arrest
On Monday, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned Siddique Jan’s arrest, adding that every government has resorted to harassing journalists in the country.
PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari said the government should refrain from taking such repressive measures against media personnel. “The harassment and kidnap of journalists is a red line for the PFUJ,” they said.
The PFUJ office-bearers lamented that journalists continued to be arrested for the performance of their official duties. They said the PFUJ would launch a country-wide strike to protest arrests and abduction of journalists.
In a tweet, senior journalist Hamid Mir reminded that the right of freedom of speech is freedom above all for those whose views one disliked most.
Senior journalist Munizae Jahangir also condemned Siddique Jan’s arrest in a terrorism case and urged the government to drop charges against him.
“Targeting journalists for political revenge is a reprehensible act and a stain on any democratic government. The government should withdraw the case against Siddique Jan and release him immediately,” she tweeted.
صحافی صدیق جان کی دہشت گردی کے مقدمے میں گرفتاری کی مذمّت کرتی ہوں. صحافیوں کو سیاسی انتقام کا نشانہ بنانا قابل مذمت عمل ہے اور کسی بھی جمہوری حکومت کے لئے ایک دھبہ ہے. حکومت کو چاہئے کہ صدیق جان پر درج مقدمہ واپس لے کر فوری طور پر رہا کرے #صدیق_جان_کورہاکرو @RanaSanaullahPK… https://t.co/HQ7CBtHJsc
— Munizae Jahangir (@MunizaeJahangir) March 21, 2023
HRW slams terror charges against PTI protesters
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the police in Pakistan have used abusive measures in the escalating confrontation between the police and supporters of Imran Khan.
“Police have charged protesters with batons and detained them under sweeping counter-terrorism laws,” HRW said in a statement released from New York.
“The authorities should appropriately prosecute any of the former PM’s supporters who have engaged in unlawful acts of violence, uphold the right to peaceful protest, and refrain from the unlawful use of force.
“The use of Pakistan’s vague and overbroad anti-terrorism provisions against opposition protesters is very worrying,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW. “If the authorities believe that Khan or his supporters’ actions have resulted in violence or constituted a real threat to public safety, they should be charged under the appropriate laws.”