Police officials escort the arrested leader of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Fawad Chaudhry (centre), to present him before a court in Lahore on January 25, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Imran Khan’s aide, was arrested from outside his residence on Wednesday morning over sedition charges.

The arrest came after he held a press conference outside Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore where PTI supporters had gathered early Wednesday morning amid speculations that Imran Khan might be arrested.

Fawad Chaudhry’s brother confirmed the arrest on Twitter. “My elder brother and former federal minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has been illegally picked up from his house in Lahore by unknown persons in vehicles without number plates,” said Faisal Hussain, who is a lawyer.

Around 10am on Wednesday, videos on social media showed that Fawad Chaudhry was brought to the Cantt court in Lahore amid tight security by officials of the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department and police.

Islamabad police said that a case had been registered against Fawad Chaudhry at the Kohsar police station in Islamabad on the complaint of the secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for using “threatening language against the ECP and its members”. In a statement on Twitter, Islamabad police said that Fawad attempted to “incite violence against constitutional institutions and inflame the sentiments of the people”.

Khan denounced the arrest, claiming on Twitter that it left no doubt that Pakistan has become a place “devoid of rule of law.” He urged followers to “stand up for our fundamental rights” to prevent the country from drifting toward “a point of no return.”

Shireen Mazari, a spokesperson for Khan’s party, said Chaudhry was taken in handcuffs straight to court by police in Lahore.

Chaudhry’s wife, Hiba Fawad, told reporters that security forces were rough with her husband, pushed him into a vehicle and whisked him away.

“There is a procedure to follow if you want to arrest someone,” she said. “It cannot happen that ten or twelve people enter a house, detain someone, throw him into a vehicle and take him away without telling the family where are they taking him.”

Footage released later by the party showed Chaudhry’s supporters gathered at the court and throwing rose petals at him as police led him toward a courtroom.

Angered over his arrest, hundreds of Chaudhry’s supporters blocked a key highway in Jehlum, his home city in Punjab province, to demand his release.

The arrest comes as PTI chief Imran Khan announced that the party would stage protests throughout the country against allegedly pro-ruling government Mohsin Naqvi’s appointment as caretaker chief minister of Punjab.

Previously, PTI leaders Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill had also been arrested in sedition cases for “criticising state institutions.” -- with inputs from AP