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Pakistani rights activist and politician detained for ‘interference in state affairs’

Pakistani human rights lawyer Imaan Mazari and former lawmaker Ali Wazir were arrested on Sunday and remanded to police custody

Published Date – 09:00 PM, Sun – 20 August 23


Pakistani rights activist and politician detained for ‘interference in state affairs’



Islamabad: Pakistani human rights lawyer Imaan Mazari and former lawmaker Ali Wazir were arrested on Sunday and remanded to police custody for what authorities alleged unlawful gathering, resistance and “interference in state affairs”.

Their arrests come a day after former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a close aide of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, was taken into custody under the Official Secrets Act in connection with the leakage of a confidential diplomatic cable.

Imaan, the daughter of former human rights minister Shireen Mazari, and Wazir were arrested in the wee hours of Sunday morning by Islamabad police, two days after they participated in a protest organised by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which advocates the rights of ethnic Pashtuns.

The authorities wanted both of them as part of an ongoing investigation.

According to the first information report (FIR), the two were arrested for staging a sit-in, resistance and interference in state affairs.

The FIR stated that 700 to 800 people were in attendance and several were armed with sticks and some even with weapons as they attempted to defy the authorities and march on the capital, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

The report claimed the main highway, GT Road, was blocked by the protestors that proceeded to hold a rally in the middle of the road.

It said that when the security personnel tried to stop the participants, they attacked a government vehicle, engaged in altercations with the authorities and even managed to forcefully take an anti-riot kit away from an officer.

Later, the two were presented before Duty Judicial Magistrate Ehtisham Alam Khan where another FIR of sedition and terrorism against them was also presented to the court.

The judge directed Wazir and Imaan to appear before the court again while granting the police one-day physical remand for Imaan and two-day physical remand for Wazir in the case concerning unlawful gathering.

The court ordered the authorities to produce both in the concerned court on Monday for the other FIR.
Imaan will be kept in the women’s police station till Monday by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

Only minutes before her arrest, Imaan had claimed on the social media platform X that “unknown persons” had broken into her home by “jumping over” the main gate and were trying to break her security cameras.

Her mother Shireen Mazari, who quit the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party after spending her time in police custody following the May 9 riots, however, termed the arrest an “abduction” and said plain clothes people “took my daughter away after breaking down our front door”.

“Taking away our security cameras and her laptop and cell. We asked who they had come for and they just dragged Imaan out. They marched all over the house. My daughter was in her night clothes and said let me change but they just dragged her away. Of course no warrants or any legal procedure. State fascism. Remember we are only 2 women living in the house. This is an abduction,” Shireen said on platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned Imaan’s arrest and demanded her immediate and unconditional release.

The organisation, terming the Islamabad Police’s act “unacceptable”, said on platform X.

“The manner in which the Islamabad Police broke into her home, allegedly without a warrant, is unacceptable and points to a larger, more worrying pattern of state-sanctioned violence against people exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.” Last week, Imaan reportedly addressed in Islamabad a rally of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a group of ethnic Pushtu-speaking activists highly critical of the Army, and criticised the powerful military establishment.

Imaan has been quite vocal and faced a criminal case last year for using abusive language against then Army chief Gen (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Imaan was also highly critical of her 57-year-old mother when the latter was a minister in the PTI government.
The mother and daughter once had an open duel on X in October 2021 after Imaan accused former prime minister Imran Khan-led government of “using witchcraft” to run the state’s affairs.

Reports emerged that the PTI chairman’s wife Bushra Bibi is a spiritual healer or ‘peerni’ to which Imaan tweeted that if the country was to be run by witchcraft, why was a huge amount of taxpayer money wasted on the prime minister’s oversized cabinet? Shireen in response said: “I am ashamed you would resort to such low, personalised, unsubstantiated attacks — especially since as a lawyer, you should know [that] without any proof hurling such accusations is defamation.”

A rush of tweets by people, with many supporting Imaan against her mother, followed on X, then Twitter.

Shireen announced her resignation and retirement from active politics after being released from jail following her arrest for the fourth time since May 12, when she was picked up from her residence by police and sent to jail in connection with the violence on May 9.

PTI supporters attacked civilian and military installations across Pakistan in the May 9 violence following the first time arrest of 70-year-old Khan in a corruption case. The “Black Day” violence left Khan’s party in disarray, with scores of PTI leaders quitting the party to avoid going to jail or facing charges for their involvement in the attacks.

Pakistani authorities in recent months have cracked down against dissent. Former prime minister Khan is also serving a three-year jail term after he was sentenced by a court in a corruption case earlier this month.

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