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IHC stops police from arresting Imaan Mazari

By Awais Yousafzai
March 05, 2022
IHC stops police from arresting Imaan Mazari

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday stopped police from arresting lawyer and human rights activist Imaan Zainab Hazir-Mazari in a criminal conspiracy case.

The Islamabad police Thursday filed a case against Imaan — the daughter of Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari — after she took part in Baloch students' protest outside the National Press Club on March 1.

Hundreds of Baloch students had staged a sit-in outside the press club. Imaan Mazari and Member of National Assembly Mohsin Dawar had also joined the sit-in. Sources said that in a bid to disperse them, the Islamabad police had baton-charged the protesters.

A first information report (FIR) had been registered against Imaan at the Kohsar Police Station in Islamabad. In today's hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah — hearing a plea filed by Imaan to de-seal the FIR against her — said he would not allow anyone to be harassed over criticism.

The court directed the police to provide a copy of the FIR to the petitioner and noted that muzzling the voice of students from Balochistan was tantamount to mutiny. "We will not let this happen [...] the students of Balochistan should be heard," he said.

During the proceedings, the petitioner's lawyer said the protest was staged after a student from the Quaid-e-Azam University went missing. The lawyer contested that as the students were protesting, the police resorted to the use of force, resulting in several students getting injured.

At this, a police officer present in the courtroom said that not only were students hurt, but police personnel also suffered injuries. The lawyer told the judge that the court should look into the matter of missing Baloch students. In response, IHC Justice Minallah told him that a separate petition would have to be filed for it.

Later, the judge summoned the interior secretary and IGP Islamabad in a personal capacity at the next hearing. Our correspondent adds from Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement, meanwhile, said that the cases lodged against Dawar, Imaan and scores of Baloch students and supporters—reportedly on grounds of criminal conspiracy, rioting and sedition—are a travesty.

“Many of the protesters were also assaulted by the police at the site. It is unfathomable that the state chooses to persecute with impunity those who are asking for nothing more than the truth about enforced disappearances: a grim sign that we are inching closer to the makings of a police state,” the statement concluded. Meanwhile, the police spokesperson has denied registration of any FIR on charges of sedition. In the FIR registered, Dawar’s name is not there, the police spokesperson clarified. The report said that the Islamabad administration had asked the protesters to confine themselves to the press club on which they refused to talk to the police and had a scuffle with them in which three policemen got injured. The spokesperson said it was because of this incident that an FIR was registered against those who were igniting riot.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) strongly condemned the registration of a treason case against Imaan. In a statement, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said that first the Baloch students who were demonstrating for their rights were baton-charged and when Mazari protested against this brutal treatment, she was booked under in a treason case with which is highly condemnable.

The two leaders of the union said that Mazari had always come to the rescue of those people suffering from state repression. "She has not raised her voice for missing persons but also defended the rights of the marginalised sections of society by throwing her support behind them. Registration a treason case against such a great rights defender would create embarrassment for Pakistan at international level."

They warned the government against using sledgehammer approach to stifle dissenting voices and prevent peaceful protests. The government has no right to snatch the fundamental rights of the people which are enshrined in the Constitution, they added. Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) also, meanwhile, condemned baton charge against Baloch students and registration of FIR under sedition charges against Imaan.