Islamabad, Pakistan – A senior politician and former federal minister belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been arrested on sedition charges, deepening a political crisis in the country.
Fawad Chaudhry, vice president of the PTI, was arrested on Wednesday morning for allegedly inciting violence against officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
PTI, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has been criticising the election body since the appointment of media tycoon Mohsin Naqvi as interim chief minister of the politically crucial province of Punjab.
Earlier this month, Khan, whose PTI-led coalition was in power in Punjab, ordered the dissolution of the provincial legislature. Four days later, the assembly in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was also dissolved by the party.
The dissolution of the assemblies was part of Khan’s bid to force early general elections in Pakistan, a demand he has been making since April last year when he was removed from power after losing a parliamentary vote of confidence.
Pakistan’s constitution says new elections must be held within three months of the dissolution of a provincial legislature if the house fails to set up an interim government.
But Pakistan has also been historically conducting national and provincial elections together, which is what PTI had hoped while dissolving the two assemblies it held.
However, the ECP did not announce new polls and instead placed Naqvi as interim leader in the Punjab province. The move led to PTI leaders making public statements against the poll panel.
“The ECP is acting like a clerk. Somebody from the government calls ECP and passes an order, and ECP commissioner, like a clerk, just signs the order and passes it on,” Chaudhry said during a news conference outside Khan’s residence in Lahore on Tuesday.
“If you are so weak, why are you here? Go sit in your homes,” he said, adding that his party will “keep chasing” such officials and “punish” them.
“If this oppression against us continues, you will have to pay for it,” he added.
In their FIR (first information report), police said the politician “threatened and harassed” the ECP officials and their family members.
“This speech has created a risk for ECP members and their families’ life,” it said. “The accused has tried to provoke conflict and differences between national institutions so that hatred is spread between the public and these institutions.”
Chaudhry’s arrest has been slammed by his party which said the country has become “lawless”.
“We will take all legal and constitutional remedies to lodge our protest and we will not let it go. We will not be deterred,” his younger brother Faisal Hussain Fareed said.
Pakistan has become a lawless state at the hands of these lawbreaking lawmakers and corrupt law enforcement officers!
All hell bent on pushing this country towards anarchy!
— Ali Haider Zaidi (@AliHZaidiPTI) January 25, 2023