ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday directed Islamabad police to shift PTI leader Shahbaz Gill to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for another medical examination and submit a report on the condition of his health.
The court issued the directives as it suspended a plea by police seeking the physical custody of the PTI leader for another eight days.
Gill, who has been arrested in connection with the FIR registered against him for allegedly inciting mutiny among armed forces, was produced before Judicial Magistrate Raja Farrukh Ali Khan earlier today following the expiry of his two-day remand.
He was taken to court in an ambulance from Pims, where he was shifted late on Wednesday night after he complained of breathing problems amid reports of him being subjected to torture while in police custody.
Footage from outside the courtroom showed officials crowding around Gill, who appeared to be having difficulty breathing, as he arrived in a wheelchair.
In a video shared by the PTI’s official Twitter account, Gill could be seen crying out for his “mask” while being taken to the courtroom. The tweet described the scene as “heartbreaking”.
During the hearing, police asked the court to extend the PTI leader’s physical remand for another eight days. The judicial magistrate noted that the court had previously granted police two-day physical remand of Gill. “Why are you making a request for eight [more] days?” he questioned.
The judge also questioned whether the previous physical remand remained “uninitiated”. “Was the earlier two-day remand technically uninitiated? Were police able to investigate during the two days’ time?” He also asked police to clarify whether they were asking for a new remand or seeking an extension of the previous one.
While presenting his arguments, Gill’s lawyer, Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, contended before the court that his client’s illness was there for everyone to see. “His issue is genuine,” he said, adding that his medical report also pointed towards the fact that he was tortured. “You can see. [Gill] has been presented before the court in a wheelchair and along with an oxygen cylinder,” the lawyer said.
Advocate Chaudhry contested the police’s plea for Gill’s custody, saying that extending the PTI leader’s physical remand would endanger his life.
After reading out the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order on Gill’s physical remand — in which the matter of Gill’s remand was referred back to the trial court — the lawyer said the prosecution had given assurances that Gill would be kept in the hospital till Monday.
The lawyer further argued that according to the remand papers submitted by police, they were admitting that Gill’s two-day remand had finished. “It is proven that the investigating officer was given Gill’s custody from Adiala Jail,” Advocate Chaudhry added. He also alleged that police had interrogated Gill at the hospital.
For his part, Gill said that the medical report submitted to the court was fake. “The real report is not the one which they have submitted,” he claimed, urging the court to seek his actual report.
While presenting his arguments, the police prosecutor contended that the law did not state that a sick person could not be remanded to police custody. “The life of every suspect is precious and the investigator exercises complete caution,” he said.
Special public prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi said even if the court allowed Gill’s physical remand, it was the responsibility of the investigating officer (IO) to take care of the suspect’s health.
“Gill’s medical examination was conducted when he was admitted [to the hospital],” he said, adding that the IO had sought permission from the hospital management for investigation yesterday but his request was denied.
The public prosecutor also said that jail doctors were present during the hearing in the Islamabad High Court. “They [the doctors] told the court that when they visited Gill, he had no issues and his reports were normal.”
Here, Advocate Chaudhry interjected and said jail doctors had said no such thing. “Let me talk. Don’t do this,” Abbasi retorted.
Subsequently, the judicial magistrate intervened and instructed the prosecution to continue their arguments, adding that Chaudhry would later be given time to respond.
Continuing, Abbasi, quoting the jail doctors, said that Gill had complained of his condition the day court had decided to pass its verdict on the physical remand.
He then pleaded with the court to accept the application for extending Gill’s physical remand.
At that, Advocate Chaudhry pointed out that the medical report concerning the condition of Gill’s lungs had not been presented to the court. He added that if the court allowed, he could present Gill’s medical history.
The lawyer argued that earlier, the court had issued notices for case dismissals in light of the medical history and physical remand could not be granted in such a case.
The judge then suspended the hearing and reserved the verdict on the plea.
Separately, Islamabad police claimed in a tweet that the board constituted for Gill’s medical examination had declared him to be “fit”.
Police alleged that Gill was pretending to be sick in order to use his illness to “create hurdles in the way of the investigation”.
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman, meanwhile, asserted that the government would investigate the claims that Gill was tortured but brushed aside concerns of it actually taking place.
“The pictures that were shown to us depict no signs of torture,” she said while speaking in the Senate on Friday. “But if Gill has been tortured, we will surely investigate it.”
Rehman further assured that everyone had the right to a fair trial. “Their leader [Imran Khan] has been saying […] appeals are being made to neutrals […] there is no question of torture,” the minister added.
Later, opposition members in the Senate registered their protest against the government by chanting slogans and gathered near the speaker’s dias.