IT has been a long time coming, but MNA and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Ali Wazir has finally been granted bail by the Supreme Court after he was detained in 2020. The apex court observed that Mr Wazir could not be kept in jail as the other suspect in the case was granted bail — a correct and just decision which was long awaited by the MNA who is accused of making incendiary remarks against state institutions.

During the hearing, the bench made some interesting observations. One, that the state has on other occasions released individuals after negotiations. The second was a question raised by a judge who wondered whether the issues raised by Mr Wazir should not have been discussed in parliament. One of the judges went so far as to observe that the treatment meted out to Mr Wazir differed starkly to another co-accused in the case, and dubbed it a case of ‘good Taliban and bad Taliban’ — a euphemism that speaks volumes for the state’s duplicitous approach towards those criticising it.

That an elected MNA has been repeatedly denied bail and prevented from attending parliament for being critical of the state reflects sadly on the fragile state of our democracy and the state’s intolerance towards certain groups. It is only natural to draw parallels between how the government has handled the TLP case and Mr Wazir’s situation; the extremist group has been coddled while the MNA has languished in custody.

Unlike the TLP, Mr Wazir did not break public infrastructure, block roads or raise slogans that could be considered hate speech. He is one of the leaders of a movement demanding justified rights. To try an elected politician in an ATC, one who himself has lost family members to terrorism, is a travesty. Unfortunately for Mr Wazir, this is just one of the cases against him; he still awaits bail in others. The government must rethink its policy of isolating Pakhtun rights activists and address their grievances, instead of punishing them.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2021



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