IHC frees Shireen Mazari after late-night hearing

Awais Yousafzai & News Desk
May 22, 2022

The IHC CJ ordered the immediate release of Mazari and asked the authorities to return the ex-federal minister’s phone to her

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PTI leader Shireen Mazari released after the IHC hearing late Saturday night. Photo: Screengrab of a Twitter video.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court Saturday night released PTI leader Shireen Mazari and ordered the federal government to hold a judicial inquiry into her arrest. Mazari was arrested during the day from outside her house in Islamabad by the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment in a land case.

The ex-minister was presented in IHC CJ Athar Minallah’s court as the judge had earlier ordered production of Mazari before him at 11:30pm after her daughter Imaan Zainab Mazari filed a plea against her mother’s arrest. The IHC CJ, noting that the arrest was apparently illegal, ordered the immediate release of Mazari and asked the authorities to return the ex-federal minister’s phone to her.

Addressing Shireen Mazari, the CJ said the arrest was regrettable, adding that when you were in the government, similar incidents had happened. He said when there was no respect for the Constitution, such incidents ought to occur. He said it was high time the political leadership thought about it.

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Speaking to journalists before entering the courtroom, Mazari said: "I still did not get my phone back." She claimed that the police did not show her the arrest warrants before taking her into custody, adding that she believes the PMLN, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were behind her arrest.

Earlier, the Islamabad Police said that the former federal minister was arrested in a case registered in the Buzdar government relating to land in the Rajanpur district.

Sources in the Punjab ACE claimed that Dr Shireen Mazari was summoned several times for questioning but she did not turn up, thus, was arrested in accordance with the law. They said Mazari would be investigated as per law.

Her arrest sparked public reaction and her daughter Iman Mazari said that her mother was dragged out of the car and taken to the Kohsar police station. “My mother was not arrested but kidnapped from home,” Iman Mazari said and added that she would not spare those who had manhandled her mother.

Speaking to journalists, she said that 'male police officers had beaten and taken her mother away.'

“I was only told that the anti-corruption wing has arrested my mother,” she said, adding that her mother was arrested without prior notice to the family. “If this government does such a thing, I will go after them,” she said, adding her mother wasn’t arrested but she would call this a “kidnapping incident”.

In response to the incident, former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan said Mazari was "violently abducted from outside her house by this fascist regime". He noted that Mazari was strong and fearless and if the "imported government" thinks it can coerce her by this "fascism, it has miscalculated.”

He claimed the PTI's anti-government campaign was peaceful but alleged that "this fascist imported government" wants to push the country towards chaos. "As if sending the economy into a tailspin wasn't enough, they now want anarchy to avoid elections. Today we will protest and tomorrow after a CC meeting I’ll announce our long march," he added. PMLN leader Ahmed Malik Khan claimed that the "government has nothing to do with Mazari's arrest" and she was taken into custody in a land encroachment case. "The land was seized through fake documents," he alleged. PMLN's Attaullah Tarar said that a case was registered against Mazari with Anti-Corruption, Punjab. "She was escorted out of her vehicle with dignity and respect," claimed Tarar, adding that allegations of police torture against Mazari are false.

Taking to Twitter, Islamabad Police issued a clarification and said that Mazari was not manhandled as opposed to the claims made by her daughter. "Dr Shireen Mazari was arrested by female police officers as per the law at the request of the anti-corruption department. News of any mishandling is baseless."

Following the call for protests by Imran Khan, the PTI workers staged protests in different cities, including Karachi, Multan, Sukkur, Nowshera, Bahawalnagar and Mianwali, against Mazari’s arrest.

Politicians, journalists, and civil society members condemned Mazari's arrest.

Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid said: “The new government is pushing the country towards anarchy.” He said that the authorities had prepared a list of people who are to be arrested as new IGPs have been appointed in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“Shireen Mazari’s arrest is the first step in this regard,” he said, warning that PTI Chairman Imran Khan "could be the next one to be arrested.”

Condemning the incident, former governor Sindh Imran Ismail wrote on Twitter: "The arrest of Mazari is a sign that the imported government is bewildered. The imported government is making the situation complicated itself."

Former minister for parliamentary affairs Ali Mohammad Khan termed the incident a “cowardly act” of the coalition government. “The government is not just nervous, it is extremely nervous,” he maintained.

In a tweet, PPP MNA Nafisa Shah stated: "Arresting Shireen Mazari, who has no allegations against her, is uncalled for, wrong! Who has ordered her arrest and why?"

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned the incident. In a tweet, he said: "Things never seem to change in the land of the pure. Shireen Mazari is my neighbour and a dear friend. Her arrest is deplorable and worst form of political oppression. People who have gone through it themselves and have cried foul in the past, why would they indulge or turn blind eye?"

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan wrote on Twitter: "HRCP condemns the arrest and manhandling of senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari. Her arrest smacks of political victimisation, which has regrettably become an entrenched practice and is deplorable no matter which party is the perpetrator. Dr Mazari is entitled to due process and the incident must be investigated immediately."

"No one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest and be assaulted. It’s shameful that a woman should be beaten. There should be accountability but allegations of corruption must never be used to politically victimised," wrote AGHS Legal Aid Cell on Twitter.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz had ordered her immediate release. In a statement issued here Saturday, Hamza said the PMLN didn’t believe in politics of revenge and it respects women. He said Shireen Mazari was respected as a woman and arrest of any woman does not conform to social norms.

He said the investigation should be conducted against the officials of the Anti-Corruption Establishment in this regard. He said had her arrest been inevitable, all the legal procedures should have been followed.

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