He has now been released
Bilal Farooqi, a Karachi-based journalist associated with the Express Media Group, was picked up from his house in DHA by two men in plain clothes and a policeman, his wife told SAMAA Digital Friday.
At 1:40am, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab tweeted that Bilal had been released.
According to his wife, the same people returned to Farooqui’s home after an hour and asked for his mobile phone. She added that Bilal had left his phone at home when they first came to take him.
The wife was informed that Farooqi has been taken to the Defence police station. “I was afraid so they dialled a phone number and made me talk to Bilal for a minute,” she said.
A source confirmed that Bilal was in police custody but didn’t disclose the details, saying it was a “sensitive” matter.
South Senior Superintendent of Police Shiraz Nazir confirmed to SAMAA Digital that Farooqi has been arrested. An FIR has been registered too under Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code and sections 11 (hate speech) and 20 (harming the reputation or privacy of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016.
A person can be imprisoned for up to seven years if convicted under Section 505. Section 11 is punishable by a jail term of seven years. Section 20 is punishable by a jail term of three and/or a fine of Rs1 million.
The FIR, lodged by a man named Javed Khan, said Farooqi was posting “extremely provocative” content based on “religious hatred” on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The complainant, who works as a machine operator at a factory in Landhi area, has accused the journalist of trying to “defame” the armed forces of Pakistan. His posts could be used by the enemies of Pakistan for their “unjustified motives,” said the FIR.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was “deeply concerned” over the arrest of Farooqi in Pakistan. “He should be returned home immediately,” the CPJ said in a tweet.
Sameer Mandhro, Farooqui’s colleague at The Express Tribune, told SAMAA Digital he visited Defence police station along with other senior journalists and they were told Farooqi wasn’t there.
“I checked the lock up twice,” said Mandhro. “The SHO wasn’t there but the head moharar told us Bilal wasn’t there and he didn’t know where he is.”
South SSP, however, said the journalist was at the Defence police station. “He is under custody of Investigation Defence,” SSP Nazir told SAMAA Digital.
Human rights activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir said he met Farooqi at the Defence police station and got him uncuffed. The lawyer said he will be representing Farooqi before the court.
“They (the police) are not allowing people to meet him because they are under pressure,” Nasir told SAMAA Digital.
“He is fine and will be presented before the court tomorrow morning,” he said.