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EditorialSenator Swati's arrest

Senator Swati’s arrest

After Shehbaz Gill, another Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader and elderly Senator Azam Swati has been picked by the law-enforcement agencies for his anti-establishment tweet. His tweet may be seen as objectionable and merit a legal action, but several question marks are left by the state for its action in this episode alone. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the residence of 66-year-old Senator Azam Swati without any warrants and the permission of the Senate chairman and took him into custody. Senator Swati, when he was presented in the court, claimed that after that, “agencies” took control of him and stripped and tortured him. If the legalities had been followed in this case, a simple case of arrest would not have become a case of a government vendetta. Civil society and political circles have pointed fingers at the legislator’s detention and subsequent treatment, and many people are wondering what gives the government permission to act in such a vindictive way. Side by side, his arrest puts the establishment in the limelight, and people have drawn messages from Swati’s arrest that the establishment will not hold back for anyone – be it a senator or a commoner – if the establishment is put in the dock. A similar statement by ace lawyer and retired Senator and former minister Aitzaz Ahsan was made in media talks. Federal Defence Minister Khawja Asif says a Swati-like action may be taken against the PPP leaders.

We expect the defence minister will not execute his plans against Aitzaz Ahsan, which may anger the lawyers’ community. More than that, this will be an overstepping by the government, which in a democratic era, is following non-democratic steps. People expect the security apparatus to uphold its promise to refrain from meddling in civilian affairs. Similarly, the government must show respect for the law and due process. The government must explain its position on Senator Swati’s allegations that he was stripped naked and tortured in FIA custody. A democratic system and rules guarantee the enforcement of laws but the recent actions by this government and the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government demonstrated that the police and other law-enforcement agencies can be used to settle scores. These actions simply bring a sense of insecurity among the countrymen. The FIA accuses Senator Swati of inciting “hate among the populace and army personnel against the army commander and the Pakistani army” and that that the senator’s act of blaming and naming is an evil act of subversion to sow discord among members of the armed forces and an attempt to destroy the state of Pakistan. Senator Swati was questioned about his arrest on Thursday when he appeared before a session’s court. He clarified that he was not detained because he had broken the law, the Constitution, or someone else’s inalienable rights. The real issue is that he tweeted about the acquittal of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shehzab, in an illegal money case and the role of the establishment in the case. His comments should have been tolerated by the government but the way the government people responded to his comments raises serious concerns. The case is in the court of law, and in the coming days, we will hear more about the case – Senator Swati, law enforcement agencies and the establishment. Under General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the establishment has promised to be away from political affairs and it has demonstrated its will through actions. Acts like the arrest of Senator Swati in ghastly manners, however, bring a bad name to the government and drag the establishment into the bad press. The government must clear its position.

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