Pakistan’s court orders release of former human rights minister

Islamabad: A top court in Pakistan on Monday ordered the release from jail of Shireen Mazari, a close aide of former prime minister Imran Khan even as several other senior party leaders and thousands of workers remain in detention following the May 9 protests.

Justice Chaudhry Abdul Aziz of the Rawalpindi Bench of the court issued an order to release Mazari, who served as the minister for human rights from 2018 to 2022 and was arrested on May 12 from his house in Islamabad after a crackdown was launched on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party following the violence.

Her daughter Imaan Mazari-Hazir had challenged the arrest in the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The judge ruled that Mazari, 57, should be set free if not named in any case and directed the former minister to submit an affidavit to the deputy commissioner that she will not be involved in any such disruptive activity in the future.

However, it is not clear when she will be allowed to walk out of jail as several cases have been filed by police against PTI leaders and workers for their alleged role in the May 9 violence, which has been termed as “Black Day” in the history of the creation of Pakistan.

Mazari’s daughter told the media that the former minister was arrested three times in a week but the court in its ruling ordered his release. “The government should think and not destroy homes like this,” she said.

Mazari-Hazir also lambasted Khan, 70, by saying that “it is a pity that party chief Imran Khan has forgotten the workers and leadership”.

The former minister’s arrest came after a series of arrests of several other PTI leaders, including Imran Khan, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Omer Cheema, Ali Mohammad Khan, Senator Ejaz Chaudhry and others.

All of these leaders other than cricketer-turned-politician Khan were arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), after widespread violence by the supporters of the PTI chief who took to the streets after his arrest.

Mazari has been a vocal critic of Pakistan’s military and the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The order of her release comes as the government prepares to press charges against workers and leaders involved in the violence that left more than 10 persons dead.

However, the PTI party claims that more than 40 persons were killed and thousands injured in the crackdown following the arrest of Khan from the premises of Islamabad High Court.

Prime Minister Shehbaz said on Sunday that those involved in attacks on military installations would be tried in the military courts while those charged with attacks on the civilian building would be prosecuted under civilian laws.