• Court orders inquiry; ex-minister accuses Shehbaz and Sana of orchestrating her arrest
• PTI holds countrywide protests for her release
ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic series of events, senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader and former minister Dr Shireen Mazari, who was picked up by a joint team of the Islamabad police and the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) from outside her residence on Saturday, was freed late in night on the Islamabad High Court (IHC) order.
The IHC also ordered a judicial inquiry into her arrest and asked the federal government to frame its ToRs.
“The authorities shall explain under what authority of law the fundamental rights of Dr Mazari were violated while she was within the jurisdiction of court,” said Chief Justice Athar Minallah while taking up the matter in the late hours of Saturday evening after summoning the Islamabad police chief, deputy commissioner and interior secretary.
When she was produced before the court just before midnight, in compliance with a court order, Dr Mazari told the chief justice police arrested her without any arrest warrant and a plainclothes official snatched her mobile phone, which was still not returned to her. She said police forcibly disembarked her from car and shifted her to another vehicle. She said she told them she was 70 but they did not listen and instead tortured her. They parked the vehicle near Chakri Interchange for her medical checkup that she refused, she added.
When the court pointed out that she could not be arrested without National Assembly speaker’s permission as the ECP had not denotified her, ACE deputy commissioner, Islamabad, Irfan Nawaz claimed the Punjab home secretary made a call to the Islamabad chief commissioner about the arrest.
While observing that prima facie Dr Mazari’s arrest was illegal, the court ordered her release and directed the Islamabad police chief to return her mobile phone to her. At this juncture, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said those who had snatched the phone might have downloaded “the required data”.
Justice Minallah observed that some of the lawmakers, who had been taken into custody in the past, were still behind bars.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, she accused PM Shehbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah of orchestrating her arrest.
Soon after the story broke, the PTI gave a call for protests across the country over what they termed the “abduction” of the ex-minister.
The PTI as well as Imaan Hazir Mazari, a civil rights activist and Dr Mazari’s daughter, alleged security officials had “abducted” her and she was manhandled by male officials before being forcefully shifted to a vehicle, ostensibly to take her to Dera Ghazi Khan, where an FIR had been registered against her.
Refuting the allegation as baseless, the police said she was “arrested by female police officers as per law on the request of the anti-corruption department”.
Footage showed the law enforcers asking her to come with them, but when she resisted, women personnel had to drag her out of her car. Unidentified voices in the footage could be heard telling her “there is no issue” and the matter could be discussed “peacefully”.
“You are using violence. Don’t you take my phone,” Dr Mazari could be heard saying in the video of her arrest.
Her daughter later filed a habeas corpus petition under Article 199 of the Constitution before the IHC, seeking her recovery through Advocate Faisal Hussain and others and obtained temporary relief when Justice Minallah ordered the federal interior secretary to produce Dr Mazari before the court by 11:30pm.
Earlier, Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz had also ordered the authorities to release her. After his intervention, Ms Imaan blamed the “establishment” for the incident.
Charges against her
Dr Mazari was picked up from outside her house at Islamabad’s sector E-7 in connection with a case registered with the D.G. Khan ACE on April 11.
A police officer told Dawn that the ACE had approached the Kohsar police to seek help in taking her into custody without any arrest warrant. He said the PTI leader was held and brought to the police station after getting permission from senior police officers and the ACE officials immediately left for D.G. Khan with Dr Mazari, whereas officials at the Kohsar police station did not mention the incident in the daily diary (roznamcha).
PTI leader Fawad blamed CM Hamza for ordering her arrest. PTI Secretary General Asad Umar claimed that the government wanted to arrest several PTI leaders, including Imran Khan. He said that a police party and a prison van had reached Mr Khan’s Banigala residence, but party workers stopped them.
Earlier, PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar told reporters in Lahore this was not a ‘fake’ case like those instituted against his party leaders during the PTI’s time in government.
PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz said Dr Mazari should face the charges and the PTI should not use the ‘woman card’. “There must be a reason behind ACE action against Ms Mazari. This is a case of illegal transfer of 800-kanal land. If she proves herself innocent I will be with her,” she added.
According to the FIR, Dr Mazari and her family allegedly tampered with the record of 38,900 kanals of land. Her father allegedly had transferred around 50,000 kanals out of over 78,000 kanals to bogus companies. In 1971-72, a land commissioner had held an inquiry into the transfer and found the record missing. The inquiry report included the names of Shirin Mazari, Wali Mohammad Mazari and other family members.
Ikram Junaidi from Islamabad, Zulqarnain Tahir from Lahore and Tariq Saeed Birmani from Dera Ghazi Khan also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022