The Islamabad High Court (IHC), in late hours of Saturday, ordered the release of PTI leader Shireen Mazari and instructed the government to conduct a judicial inquiry.
The court issued the orders hours after instructing the interior secretary to produce the PTI leader at 11:30pm. Mazari was manhandled and arrested from outside her Islamabad residence earlier in the day by police officials over a land ownership and transfer case.
At the onset of the hearing, Mazari told the court: “I was stopped on the Motorway for an hour. A male doctor tried to conduct my medical examination. They did not have a female officer with them. Officers of Anti-Corruption Punjab were taking instructions on the phone. My bag was also searched without a warrant, and I have still not been given my phone back.”
“There was another person with the anti-corruption officials and he probably was with the ISI,” she added.
At this, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah rued that the government had not taken any action on enforced disappearances. “These incidents happen when the Constitution is not respected. Every government exhibits woeful behaviour on constitutional violations.”
Mazari told Justice Minallah that she was 70 and sick but was still subjected to torture.
The chief justice remarked: “This court will not compromise on its jurisdiction. The abduction of Matiullah Jan has not been probed till date.”
At this, the deputy attorney general replied: “We cannot work 24/7. Work on Matiullah Jan’s case is ongoing and we will conclude the investigation soon.”
The chief justice wondered how it was possible that no one knew the details of Mazari’s arrest.
He reminded newly appointed Inspector General (IG) of Islamabad police, Dr Akbar Nasir Khan that the head of the organisation was ultimately responsible. “Tell us till when can you complete the investigation [in Mazari’s case]?”
“I have taken the charge just today. This incident had happened prior my taking of charge,” the capital police chief replied.
Mazari’s daughter requested the court to order a judicial inquiry — a request that was granted as the chief justice ordered Mazari’s release until the probe was conducted.
The chief justice also dismissed a petition regarding Mazari’s daughter over her remarks against Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa. “Imaan Zainab Mazari is a bit emotional but she is a respected member of the bar [association].”
The advocate general, meanwhile, thanked the court for opening its doors late night. “The political parties will now have to acknowledge that the court is here to ensure constitutional protection even at night.”
After the hearing, when Mazari was asked if she was targeted for her recent Twitter activity, she said: “It is possible”.
Either Sana, Shehbaz or agencies behind my arrest: Mazari
Prior to the start of the hearing, Mazari was brought to the high court by Islamabad police, whose officers flanked her as she walked into the court premises. Outside the court, she was reunited with her daughter Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir.
In a walking interview with reporters, when asked who was behind her arrest, Mazari said: “[It was either] PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah and Shehbaz Sharif or the intelligence agencies.”
When asked how she was treated, she said: “I will tell that in the court. They dragged me out of the car, did not show any warrant.”
When asked again that on whose order she was arrested, Mazari responded: “This we do not know yet but those who were taking me to Lahore, they said Rana Sanaullah and Shehbaz Sharif. The torture that they have done on me, I will tell it all.”
IHC reopens late night, outside of usual working hours
The IHC reopened late night and outside its usual working hours after Mazari’s daughter filed the petition against her mother’s arrest.
READ: Matter of ‘extreme urgency’ can be brought before court anytime
In a three-page court order, available with Dawn.com, the high court said that when it has already given orders that no MNA can be arrested without the permission of the Speaker of the National Assembly, and since Mazari is still an MNA on account of not having been de-notified form her seat, then “under what authority of law the fundamental rights of Dr Shireen Mazari were violated?”.
The IHC issued directives for the interior secretary and also summoned Islamabad Inspector General of Police Dr Akbar Nasir Khan and Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon.
The court said that its order should also be sent to Islamabad Advocate General Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon and Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali.
Earlier today, Mazari’s daughter, in a tweet, claimed Mazari was “beaten and taken away by male police officers”, adding: “All I have been told is that Anti-Corruption Wing Lahore has taken her.”
Officials of the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) confirmed to Dawn.com that Mazari had been taken into custody.
READ: ‘Smacks of political victimisation’: Condemnations pour in from all quarters on Shireen Mazari’s arrest
Islamabad police disagreed with the version of Mazari’s daughter, saying: “Dr. Shireen Mazari was arrested by female police officers as per the law on the request of the anti-corruption department. News of any mishandling is baseless.”
In available footage of her arrest, which was aired by broadcasters, Mazari could be seen being dragged out of a car by female police personnel while she could be heard protesting: “No. Don’t touch me.”
Unidentified voices in the footage could be heard telling her that “there is no issue” and the matter could be discussed “peacefully”. “You are using violence. Don’t you take my phone … you b*****d,” Mazari could be heard saying in response.
Allegations against Mazari
A first information report of the case against Mazari, filed by Anti-Corruption Unit in Dera Ghazi Khan on April 11, said that Mazari had inherited land from her father Ashiq Mohammad Khan. Of that land in Rojhan, the FIR alleges, Mazari transferred 800 kanals to Progressive Farm Limited by way of “forgery”.
The FIR claims that according to assistant commissioner Rojhan, there was no trace of these companies in the record of department of revenue and thus, “these companies are bogus.” In the FIR, Mazari has been accused of conspiring with local land authorities to make “fake” land transfers.
PTI moves IHC against Mazari’s arrest
Soon after, Mazari’s daughter petitioned the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the arrest as the IHC staff, which had retired for the day, returned to the court premises.
The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, urged that it be accepted and a production order be issued for Mazari.
It also requested that the concerned law enforcement agencies be directed to produce the PTI leader and subsequently be restrained from “extending threats” to the petitioner and her family.
“It is in the public knowledge that the petitioner’s mother was a furious critic of the violation of human rights in the hands of the law enforcement agencies. […] It is also on record that petitioner and her mother were often made target[s] for their bold and straightforward stance with regard to human rights violations in the country,” the petition said.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was at his residence when he was informed about the urgent nature of the petition.
PTI leaders submit application for FIR against arrest, Hamza
PTI leaders Asma Qadeer, Zille Huma and Anita Mehsood submitted an application in the Kohsar police station for the registration of a first information report (FIR) against Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz over Mazari’s “kidnapping”.
In the application, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the PTI leaders stated that the video of Shireen’s “arrest” was available. According to the rules, they said, the ACE Punjab had to record the details of its arrival and departure from the capital at the Kohsar police station, since Islamabad was not a part of Punjab.
However, this was not done so, the application noted, adding that it “meant Hamza Shehbaz was responsible for this entire incident”.
“Therefore, an FIR should be registered against those responsible, who can be seen in the video, and Hamza Shehbaz for this illegal action and Shireen Mazari’s kidnapping,” it stated.
Punjab CM Hamza orders Mazari’s release after backlash
Following the intense backlash, CM Hamza ordered Shireen’s release, saying that he did “not agree with” the arrest and that action will be taken against the anti-corruption staff that was behind the incident.
“As a woman, Shireen Mazari should be respected,” he said in a statement. “The arrest of a woman is not in line with our social values.”
“Following the investigation, if the arrest is unavoidable then the law will find its way,” he said, adding that “the PML-N, as a political party, believes in respecting women.”
The chief minister said he condemned the use of “shameful language” against fellow PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz but “revenge is not our style”. He was referring to former prime minister and PTI leader Imran Khan’s misogynistic remark made on Friday in Multan.
He instructed Rawalpindi Police to have Shireen freed from the anti-corruption officials’ custody.
Mazari’s daughter terms arrest “a kidnapping”
Outside the Kohsar police station, a visibly distraught Imaan gave a brief statement to the media, in which she termed her mother’s detention a “kidnapping”.
“She was kidnapped — I won’t say she was arrested,” she said, standing alongside PTI senior leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Shibli Faraz. “When someone is arrested, the police inform you on what charge [a person] is taken away for,” she added.
“I don’t know where she is. She has been forcibly disappeared by this government because they think women are soft targets.”
She then said: “I won’t spare anyone if anything happens to my mother.”
She then walked away and said she would let the PTI officials speak.
When he spoke, Chaudhry agreed with Imaan’s characterisation of the detention being a kidnapping. “This is an abduction. We don’t know about her whereabouts. This is a grave human rights violation.”
He added that the manner in which this government picked up a woman and “subjected her to violence and tore her clothes and the inhumane way she was taken [is condemnable]”.
Dr Mazari is a respected academic and is well known for her services to human rights, Chaudhry said.
“This is declaration of war by the government, and if that is the case, it’s a declaration of war from our end as well. Now if there has to be a fight then it will be a fight.”
Meanwhile, former special assistant to the prime minister on political communication, Shahbaz Gill, asked PTI workers to reach the capital’s Kohsar police station.
‘Dozens of cases’
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s spokesperson, MPA Malik Ahmad Khan, said that Shireen’s family “tampered” with land records and “forcefully took it back from poor farmers”.
“According to the report of the federal land commission, action was taken against the revenue officers in the area at that time and Shireen Mazari was the beneficiary. The land is in their possession. There are more than 200 petitioners,” he said in a press conference in Islamabad.
Khan added that investigation should be conducted into the “blatant fraud”.
He said the case was registered in March when the PTI was in power. “Warrants had been issued. There was a judicial order to arrest. We are not the complainants but justice will be done.”
The spokesperson disclosed that the FIR from March was not the only one, rather, dozens of cases had been registered in 2008 and 2013, adding that cases had been lodged against Shireen’s entire family.
“We are specifically saying that they forged documents, destroyed revenue records, grabbed land and filled incorrect information.”
He also called the former minister a “fraudulent character and bad-mouth”
PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar, who addressed the press conference alongside Khan, advised the PTI that they should “not worry (aap ne ghabrana nahi hai)”.
“You [took over] 800 kanals of land and now you’re saying your clothes were torn.”
Politicians condemn ‘violent abduction’
Meanwhile, former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan said Shireen was brave and fearless and if the government believed it could “coerce her through this fascism”, it had made a miscalculation.
“Our movement is completely peaceful but this fascist imported govt wants to push the country towards chaos. As if sending the economy into tailspin wasn’t enough, they now want anarchy to avoid elections,” he claimed.
Imran said the PTI would protest today and he would announce the date for the party’s planned long march to the capital after a meeting of the core committee tomorrow.
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said party workers across Pakistan would protest against Shireen’s “illegal detention”.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry also said that party workers should take directions from their local leadership and come out for protests.
PTI Punjab president Shafqat Mahmood condemned what he termed the “illegal and brutal kidnapping” of the former minister. He also announced that the party would hold a protest at Lahore’s Liberty roundabout at 8pm.
PTI leader Farrukh Habib also condemned the detention. “Shireen Mazari was insulted by male police officers and was dragged away and arrested,” he said on Twitter. “Officials had also visited her house a few days ago.”
Former law minister Babar Awan lashed out at the “shameless and show-off” government for detaining Shireen, saying it was proving that no one was safe.