KARACHI: A judicial magistrate on Monday granted bail to 17 activists, including a former lawmaker, belonging to the Altaf Hussain-led Muttahida Qaumi Movement held for staging a protest demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club a day before.

Former MPA Nisar Panhwar and 16 others were arrested for holding an alleged unlawful assembly and provoking people for rioting outside the KPC on the occasion of Independence Day.

On Monday, the investigating officer produced them before the magistrate to seek their physical remand for interrogation.

He submitted that the MQM-Altaf leader, Panhwar, had unlawfully held a large demonstration outside the press club and chanted slogans that provoked the protesters, including women and children, for rioting.

He requested the magistrate to grant their 14-day physical remand in police custody for interrogation and completion of investigation and other legal formalities.

On the other hand, the defence counsel moved applications seeking grant of post-arrest bail to the suspects and their release arguing that they had held a peaceful demonstration, but the police with mala fide intentions arrested them for ulterior motives.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the magistrate granted post-arrest bail to the suspects against a surety of Rs5,000 each.

The magistrate ordered the authorities concerned to release them forthwith if their custody was not required in any other case.

According to the police, the protesters while carrying portraits of MQM founder Hussain raised slogans in his favour and delivered ‘provocative’ speeches. “Since [carrying] picture of Altaf Hussain is banned, the area police took into custody 17 persons and lodged an FIR against them,” the police added.

They were booked in a case under Sections 147 (rioting), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Artillery Maidan police station.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022

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