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Police arrest close aide of former Pakistani PM Khan for sedition

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Islamabad

Pakistani police on Tuesday arrested a close aide to former Prime Minister Imran Khan for allegedly inciting army officers to mutiny.

Shahbaz Gill was dragged from his vehicle and tortured before being taken into custody just outside Islamabad, the national capital, according to the opposition party Khans Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Footage broadcast by local television stations showed smashed windows from Gills’ car.

This is a kidnapping not an arrest, Khan tweeted. Can such shameful acts take place in any democracy? Political workers treated as enemies. And all this to make us accept a government of crooks supported by foreigners.

Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah revealed hours later at a press conference that police officers had arrested and subsequently registered a sedition case against the opposition figure on behalf of the State.

Gill, a US national, was charged with encouraging a mutiny or attempting to divert a soldier, sailor or airman from duty, the minister said. The accused will appear in court tomorrow morning and the court will decide.

The allegations against Gill stemmed from his comments during a live broadcast on Monday by ARY News, one of Pakistan’s most popular channels. He spoke of alleged divisions in the military following the ousting of Khans from power in a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April.

Then-opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif then became the new prime minister of a multi-party coalition government.

PTI leader and Supreme Court lawyer Faisal Hussain, along with independent legal experts, have dismissed the charges against Gill, saying the country’s constitution grants its citizens the right to free speech.

Suspended Media

Shortly after ARY News aired the comments in question, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, or PEMRA, ordered cable operators across the country to immediately block the channel’s transmission until further notice. .

The state regulator then sent an official show cause notice to the broadcaster, accusing it of airing false, hateful and seditious content. He went on to claim that Gills’ comments aired by ARY News amounted to inciting [the rank and file] armed forces towards revolt.

The broadcaster dismissed PEMRA’s accusations as illegal. PTI leaders and rights advocates also criticized the move as an attempt to stifle media freedom in Pakistan.

HRCP strongly opposes the disruptions of @ARYNEWSOFFICIAL. PEMRA must refrain from arbitrarily deleting channels and protect the right of all media to freedom of expression, exercised responsibly, the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan tweeted.

Critics say sedition allegations are often used to intimidate and harass media outlets and journalists who criticize the powerful military institution.

Khan alleges the United States colluded with Sharif and other opposition parties to overthrow his nearly four-year-old government, charges Washington vehemently denies. He dismissed the Sharifs administration as an imported government.”

The deposed prime minister has also indirectly accused Pakistan’s military leadership of supporting what he claims is a US-sponsored regime change plot allegedly instigated by his efforts to conduct Pakistan’s foreign policy independent of influence. American.

Gill’s arrest on Tuesday comes as Khan, the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, plans to address a large rally on August 13 in Lahore, capital of the country’s most populous central province of Punjab. , which is led by the PTI and its political allies.

The rally takes place a day before Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day from British colonial rule in 1947.

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