ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday night ordered a judicial inquiry into the arrest of ex-human rights minister Shireen Mazari and told the police to immediately release her from custody.
The ex-minister was brought before the court 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.
Speaking to journalists before entering the courtroom, Mazari said: "I still did not get my phone back."
The ex-federal minister claimed that the police did not show her the arrest warrants before taking her into custody, adding that she believes PML-N, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were behind her arrest.
The former human rights minister, according to Geo News, was taken into custody by Punjab's anti-corruption department in a case related to the encroachment of a piece of land in District Rajanpur.
Mazari was presented in the courtroom at 11:40pm.
At the outset of the hearing, Inspector-General Islamabad Muhammad Ahsan Younas told the court that he assumed office today.
IHC CJ told the inspector-general that no member of the National Assembly (MNA), belonging to the PTI, has been de-notified yet and the court has already issued a directive that no MNA should be arrested before informing the NA speaker.
“There is one Constitution and the court runs on that Constitution […] the IG will have to take responsibility; I cannot say that the [court’s] registrar is responsible,” the IHC CJ said.
Moving on, Advocate-General Islamabad Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon told the IHC that the "federal government was not aware of the matter."
In response, the IHC CJ said how could police from any province come to the capital and arrest people.
The advocate-general told the IHC that the anti-corruption department had arrested Mazari in coordination with the capital’s police.
IHC CJ Minallah said to date, the case of journalist Matiullah Jan has not been resolved. “The court will not tolerate such incidents in its jurisdiction […] tell me, who will probe this case?”
The advocate-general told the court that if the prerequisite legal requirements were not fulfilled in the arrest of Mazari, then action will be taken against those responsible.
He added that once the government got to know about the arrest, they ordered her immediate release.
“If an arrest was made in a case, then how was an order made for her release?” the IHC CJ said.
For her part, Mazari’s daughter told the court that she wanted a judicial inquiry to be initiated to probe her mother’s arrest.
The advocate-general Islamabad also told the court that the ex-minister had resigned from the assembly. At this, the IHC CJ said that although she has resigned, the speaker had not yet de-notified her.
“In the past MNAs have been arrested who are still in custody […] the political leadership should sit down and ponder over this matter,” Justice Minallah said, terming Mazari’s arrest “unfortunate”.
The ex-minister told the court that she believes PM Shehbaz and Sanaullah are behind her arrest. In response, Justice Minallah said during “your government, bigger incidents took place, this will happen when you don’t respect the Constitution.”
“The court kept hearing the case related to missing persons, but the government did not do anything,” he lamented, adding: “The Constitution should be respected.”
The court then ordered the government to carry out a judicial inquiry, release Mazari and her phone, and said that once the TORs are prepared for the judicial inquiry, they should be produced before the court.
Shortly after the hearing, Mazari reached her residence.
Speaking to journalists, Mazari’s daughter, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, confirmed the development, saying that "male police officers have beaten and taken her mother away."
She warned the new government that she would not “spare any of them if something happens to her mother.”
“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 then I will go after them,” she said, adding her mother wasn’t arrested but she would call this a “kidnapping incident”.
As against Imaan's claim that male officers had arrested her mother, footage aired on Geo News shows several female police officials present at the site of the arrest, trying to drag Mazari out of her car after she started resisting the arrest.
In a message to senior journalist Hamid Mir two days ago, Mazari had said that she was "unaware of the matter and that she was seven years of age when the land reforms took place in 1958."
The ex-federal minister said in 1971, she was studying at the London School of Economics (LSE) in England. The PTI leader also added that "we had won cases in the Supreme Court and Lahore High Courts", without going into the specificities of the cases.
The former minister said that she was having the files pertaining to the matter searched at her village, adding that she does "not even own 500 acres of land."
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."
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".
The PTI chairman noted that Mazari was strong and fearless and if the "imported government" thinks it can coerce her by this "fascism, they have miscalculated!"
The ex-premier claimed the PTI's anti-government 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 CC meeting. I’ll announce our long march," he added.
Condemning her arrest, former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said that such tactics will strengthen their movement.
Talking to Geo News, he said that the government has changed the police officers in Islamabad and other cities. “PTI Chairman Imran Khan could also be arrested,” feared Sheikh Rasheed. He said that PTI’s workers are being arrested across the country.
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."
Meanwhile, 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.
PPP MNA Nafisa Shah stated: "Arresting #ShireenMazari, 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.
"Things never seem to change in the land of the pure. Shireen Mazari is my neighbour & a dear friend. Her arrest is deplorable and worst form of political oppression. People who have gone through it themselves & have cried foul in the past, why would they indulge or turn blind eye?"
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) wrote on Twitter: "HRCP condemns the arrest and manhandling of senior PTI leader @ShireenMazari1. 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 & be assaulted. Shameful that a woman @ShireenMazari1 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.
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