ISLAMABAD: Gwadar rights movement leader Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, arrested in mid-January from court premises, was granted bail on Thursday after the Supreme Court ordered his release.
Maulana Rehman — who heads the Haq Do Tehreek (HDT) and is Jamaat-i-Islami’s general secretary in Balochistan — was apprehended after a second wave of protests last year in the port city against illegal trawling in Gwadar’s waters, ubiquitous security checkpoints and a lack of trade on the Pakistan-Iran border.
He was arrested on Jan 13 over charges stemming from the killing of a policeman by unidentified assailants a month ago during the protests held by HDT supporters in December.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court took up his appeal after the Balochistan High Court rejected his bail in February.
Hidayat, who was arrested from court premises, given relief by SC
The top court’s bench — headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and also comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar — granted him bail against two surety bonds of Rs300,000 each.
After his arrest, the HDT chief was handed over to the Crimes Branch police on physical remand by an anti-terrorism court.
His arrest triggered protests in various parts of Gwadar. His supporters issued a warning last month that more demonstrations would follow if he was not acquitted.
When Maulana Rehman’s counsel told the court on Thursday that his client was apprehended from the court premises, Justice Masood wondered why the arrest had not been challenged before.
In response, the counsel explained that at the time of the incident, the Supreme Court had not yet ordered that an arrest made within the premises would be considered unlawful — a rule decided after PTI chief Imran Khan was arrested from the Islamabad High Court’s premises last week.
However, the prosecution argued against granting bail to Maulana Rehman until the judicial proceedings of the main suspect, Majid Johar, were concluded.
According to allegations, Mr Johar allegedly fired bullets, one of which hit Constable Yasir Ali of Nasirabad district who later died of wounds.
In his petition, Maulana Rehman contended that he was a law-abiding citizen who had been leading peaceful protests and could never think of committing an offence like killing since such an event could jeopardise his political movement.
Therefore, the allegations levelled against him were baseless, concocted and based on mala fide and ulterior motives, he said.
He argued that an FIR was lodged against him due to political influence, and other co-accused including Taj Mohammad, Nasir Ali, Razzaq, Inayat and Zahid had already been released on bail; therefore, the petitioner should also be freed on bail.
The petitioner said the prosecution had falsely levelled Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code against him even though the prosecution did not conduct a post-mortem examination of the cop’s body to verify the nature of the inquiry and which weapon was used. In fact, no weapon was recovered from any accused person, he said.
Besides, since the complainant in the case is a deputy superintendent of police, the entire case of the prosecution against the petitioner became doubtful, the petitioner said.
He regretted that according to the prosecution’s story, some 2,000 to 3,000 protesters were there and yet the police failed to collect any evidence from the area — a well-populated Chowk.
Mere allegations of a heinous crime, the petitioner said, was not enough ground for early rejection of the bail application by the high court, adding that the bail could not be withheld as a strategy for punishment.
Besides, no legal or moral compulsion existed to keep the accused in jail merely on the allegation that they had committed an offence punishable with death, the petitioner said, highlighting that there were many flaws in the prosecution’s case, which he said the high court and trial courts overlooked.
The FIR against Maulana Rehman was registered on Dec 30 and named three other people. It claimed that the HDT leader “provoked and incited the people sitting there (at the protest site) to pelt stones at government vehicles”, which allegedly resulted in the “shattering of car windows” of a police officer along with other losses.
The movement advocating for the rights of the people of Gwadar was launched in November 2021, with Maulana Rehman at the forefront.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2023