Pakistan arrests senator over comments about army chief

Imran Khan says shocked over Azam Khan Swati’s arrest, asks Pakistanis to raise their voices against 'state fascism'



Azam Khan Swati. — Courtesy: Twitter
Azam Khan Swati. — Courtesy: Twitter

By Agencies

Published: Sun 27 Nov 2022, 9:48 PM

Federal police in Pakistan have arrested a senator belonging to former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Sunday for comments critical of top military officers.

It was the second time Azam Khan Swati was taken into custody in as many months.

Swati was picked up early on Sunday from his residence in an Islamabad suburb hours after he addressed an Imran Khan-led rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. He was charged with libel and appeared before a judge on Sunday who allowed the Federal Investigation Agency to interrogate the senator for two days. He was being held at a facility in Islamabad.

Khan said he was shocked at Swati’s arrest and said Pakistanis should raise their voices against what he called state fascism. “I am shocked and appalled as to how rapidly we are descending into a banana republic, rather a fascist state,” he said.

Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari said a team of FIA officials detained Swati after he pressed the outgoing army chief on details of his financial assets. “Seems freedom of speech in Pakistan today is reserved for the powerful state, be it in a press conference, a public address, a press statement or on social media. For the rest, including parliamentarians, this right is denied,” Mazari said.

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Swati had been arrested in October for using “obnoxious and intimidating” language to criticise army chief General Qamer Javed Bajwa, state institutions and other government officials. At a court appearance at the time he alleged that he was stripped and tortured. A court released him on bail days after his arrest.

In his brief speech at the rally in Rawalpindi on Saturday, Swati challenged General Bajwa to tell the nation before leaving his position what assets he has accumulated while serving and how. “I am a citizen of Pakistan asking you and will continue to ask until I got the reply,” he said.

The senator a day earlier used foul language when referring to the outgoing army chief and other senior military officers on social media.

The army’s media wing issued a statement criticising what it called propaganda on social media about Bajwa’s assets. It said some groups posted misleading, exaggerated or fabricated details about his and his family’s finances.


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