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Pakistan arrests senator for comments on army chief


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s federal police have arrested a senator for his critical comments against senior military officials, colleagues from his political party Tehreek-e-Insaf said on Sunday. It was the second time he had been taken into custody in as many months.

Azam Khan Swati, a senior member of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party which represents Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was picked up early Sunday from his residence in a suburb of Islamabad hours after speaking at a rally led by Imran Khan in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. .

Swati was charged with defamation and appeared before a judge on Sunday who allowed the Federal Investigation Agency to question the senator for two days. He was being held in a facility in Islamabad.

Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari said a team of FIA officials arrested Swati after pressing the outgoing army chief over details of his financial holdings.

“It seems that freedom of expression in Pakistan today is reserved for the powerful state, whether in a press conference, public speech, press release or on social media. . For others, including parliamentarians, this right is denied,” Mazari said.

Federal authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The Federal Investigation Agency, headquartered in the capital Islamabad, is a border control, criminal investigation, counterintelligence and security agency under the control of the Home Secretary, according to its website.

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

In his short speech at the Rawalpindi rally on Saturday, Swati challenged Bajwa to tell the nation before leaving office what assets he has accrued while serving and how. “I am a citizen of Pakistan asking for you and I will keep asking you until I get the answer,” he said.

The previous day, the senator had used foul language while referring to the outgoing army chief and other senior army officers on social media.

Khan, the former prime minister, said he was shocked by Swati’s arrest and said Pakistanis should speak out against what he called state fascism. “I am shocked and appalled at how quickly we are descending into a banana republic, more of a fascist state,” he said.

The military’s media wing released a statement criticizing what it called social media propaganda regarding Bajwa assets. He said some groups had published misleading, exaggerated or fabricated details about his and his family’s finances.


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