KARACHI: Different human rights and civil society organisations have expressed serious concern over mass arrests and arbitrary detention of political leaders and workers and supporters of PTI, including prominent journalist Imran Riaz Khan, and asked the authorities to immediately stop the crackdown and release them.

In separate statements issued on Tuesday, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Equidem, Civicus and Forum Asia said authorities must stop clamping down on the opposition through mass arrests, arbitrary detention and charging people under vague anti-terrorism laws.

Alarmingly, they said, Imran Riaz Khan, a prominent journalist known for his support of the PTI, was arrested on May 11 and police have failed to produce him before a court and his fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Former human rights minister Dr Shireen Mazari, they said, was arrested on May 17, and minutes after being released on the orders of the Islamabad High Court, was rearrested under fresh charges. On May 22, the Lahore High Court ordered her immediate release, but she was detained again.

US urges ‘uniform application of democratic principles’

Reporters Without Borders has also expressed fears for the missing TV anchor’s life.

‘Uniform application of democratic norms’

Separately, the US has urged Pakistan to apply democratic principles and human rights to all citizens.

“We call for the respect and equal application of democratic principles, freedom of expression, and rule of law around the world, and of course in Pakistan,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

But he also clarified that the United States “did not have a position on one political candidate or another inside Pakistan”.

Separately, in a recent interview with NPR, Derek Chollet, the counsellor to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, advised the military to stay out of politics.

“We obviously want to see elections happen on time. We want them to be free and fair. We do not take a position on who will lead Pakistan,” Mr Chollet said.

Anwar Iqbal in Washington also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023

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