ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to member of the National Assembly from Waziristan and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Mohammad Ali Wazir on the principles of consistency when other co-accused have already been released despite facing similar allegations.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood had taken up the bail plea of Ali Wazir against the Sindh High Court order rejecting his petition seeking bail after arrest.

MNA Mohsin Dawar and PTM leader Manzoor Pishteen were present in the courtroom when the case was taken up by the apex court.

Ali Wazir was arrested on charges of making incendiary speeches against state institutions at a public meeting in Karachi in December last year. The first information report (FIR) against him was lodged at Sohrab Goth police station the same month.

Observes that except for framing charges against petitioner, no evidence yet produced in court

His counsel Advocate Salahuddin Khan Gandapur told Dawn that his client was also facing similar cases and, therefore, the acceptance of his bail application did not mean that he would be released any time soon. The SHC had in June this year upheld the Anti-Terrorism Court’s order dismissing the bail plea of Ali Wazir who is facing the allegations of criminal conspiracy, making hate speech, promoting enmity between linguistic groups, disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, criminal intimidation, waging war against the state, terrorism, etc.

In its order, the apex court said the petitioner (Ali Wazir) had been behind bars for the last one year but except for framing charges against him, no evidence had yet been produced before the court concerned.

“We have heard counsel for the petitioner and Prosecutor General for Sindh Dr Fiaz Hussain Shah at great length,” the order said, adding that allegations against the petitioner, co-accused Noorullah Tarin, Sher Mohammad and others were that they delivered speeches against the state institutions. However, the stance of the petitioner’s counsel was that the hate speeches were delivered by all of them, but other accused had been granted bail.

“We have gone through the order of the ATC which indicates that Noorullah Tarin and Sher Mohammad were released on bail,” the Supreme Court observed, adding that the prosecutor general had informed the court that the speech of the petitioner was available on record, but other speeches were not available.

“The FIR clearly indicates that all the speeches made during the rally were hate speeches and from the record it was difficult to differentiate the speeches. In that eventuality the petitioner is granted bail,” the order said, adding that the petitioner had been behind bars for almost 11 months and in almost one year only the charges had been framed without further proceedings. Thus the petitioner was granted bail subject to deposit of surety bonds of Rs400,000, the order said.

Justice Tariq Masood, while expressing his surprise, asked if the case at hand related to security and sovereignty of the country, how other co-accused were released on bail, wondering whether the matters with others had been sorted out.

Without naming the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the court regretted that the state was releasing people after entering into negotiations as if no laws were applicable in the areas where people were being martyred. Apparently the apex court was not happy when it observed as if the courts were sitting here only to reject bail applications.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, a member of the SC bench, wondered whether parliament should not discuss the allegations levelled by Ali Wazir, adding that the grievances highlighted by the member of parliament should have been redressed.

“Why our own [people] are being turned into strangers?” Justice Mandokhel asked, wondering what would become of him in case his complaints turned to be true. “The treatment being meted out to the petitioner seems discriminatory and reminds us of the dealings with the good Taliban and bad Taliban.”

When senior counsel Abdul Latif Afridi mentioned some gathering in the tribal area, the court said what to talk of events in Waziristan when in Lahore mob had martyred 15 police officers recently, but the accused were later released by the government. The senior counsel argued that being a member of parliament Ali Wazir enjoyed the constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression.

Justice Tariq Masood, however, observed that the court did not distinguish between an ordinary citizen and a member of parliament, adding that all citizens enjoyed similar right to freedom of expression.

Latif Afridi said Ali Wazir had lost six of his family members during the fight against terrorism and asked why a person whose family members were martyred did not even have the right to raise his voice against discrimination.

Advocate Gandapur argued that his client was booked for delivering a speech in Pashto language but the case against him was registered on the complaints of a Sindhi man and a Punjabi man who did not even understand Pashto. Though the bench expressed surprise over invoking sections relating to terrorism against the petitioner, it said the court would not give any observation in this regard as it might prejudice the case pending before the trial court against the petitioner.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2021

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