Shireen Mazari’s arrest: IHC directs federal govt to carry out judicial inquiry

The IHC CJ, noting arrest was apparently “illegal”, orders immediate release of Mazari

Awais Yousafzai
Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai

Images showing police officials arresting PTI leader Shireen Mazari. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News Live
Images showing police officials arresting PTI leader Shireen Mazari. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News Live

  • Mazari taken into custody in case related to land dispute.
  • PTI announces country-wide protests.
  • Islamabad Police deny allegations of manhandling Mazari.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Saturday night ordered the federal government to carry out a judicial inquiry related to the arrest of former federal minister and senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari.

The ex-minister was presented in IHC CJ Athar Minallah’s court as the judge had earlier ordered to produce Mazari before him at 11:30pm after her daughter — Imaan Zainab Mazari — filed a plea against her mother’s arrest.

The IHC CJ, noting that the arrest was apparently “illegal”, ordered the immediate release of Mazari and asked the authorities to return the ex-federal minister’s phone to her.

Speaking to journalists before entering the courtroom, Mazari said: "I still did not get my phone back."

The ex-federal minister claimed that the police did not show her the arrest warrants before taking her into custody, adding that she believes PML-N, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were behind her arrest.

'Federal govt was not aware of matter': Advocate-General Islamabad

Mazari was presented in the courtroom at 11:40pm.

At the outset of the hearing, Inspector-General Islamabad Muhammad Ahsan Younas told the court that he assumed office today.

IHC CJ told the inspector-general that no member of the National Assembly (MNA), belonging to the PTI, has been de-notified yet and the court has already issued a directive that no MNA should be arrested before informing the NA speaker.

“There is one Constitution and the court runs on that Constitution […] the IG will have to take responsibility; I cannot say that the [court’s] registrar is responsible,” the IHC CJ said.

Moving on, Advocate-General Islamabad Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon told the IHC that the "federal government was not aware of the matter."

In response, the IHC CJ said how could police from any province come to the capital and arrest people.

The advocate-general told the IHC that the anti-corruption department had arrested Mazari in coordination with the capital’s police.

IHC CJ Minallah said to date, the case of journalist Matiullah Jan has not been resolved. “The court will not tolerate such incidents in its jurisdiction […] tell me, who will probe this case?”

The advocate-general told the court that if the prerequisite legal requirements were not fulfilled in the arrest of Mazari, then action will be taken against those responsible.

He added that once the government got to know about the arrest, they ordered her immediate release.

“If an arrest was made in a case, then how was an order made for her release?” the IHC CJ said.

For her part, Mazari’s daughter told the court that she wanted a judicial inquiry to be initiated to probe her mother’s arrest.

The advocate-general Islamabad also told the court that the ex-minister had resigned from the assembly. At this, the IHC CJ said that although she has resigned, the speaker had not yet de-notified her.

“In the past MNAs have been arrested who are still in custody […] the political leadership should sit down and ponder over this matter,” Justice Minallah said, terming Mazari’s arrest “unfortunate”.

The ex-minister told the court that she believes PM Shehbaz and Sanaullah are behind her arrest. In response, Justice Minallah said during “your government, bigger incidents took place, this will happen when you don’t respect the Constitution.”

“The court kept hearing the case related to missing persons, but the government did not do anything,” he lamented, adding: “The Constitution should be respected.”

The court then ordered the government to carry out a judicial inquiry, release Mazari and her phone, and said that once the TORs are prepared for the judicial inquiry, they should be produced before the court.

Shortly after the hearing, Mazari reached her residence.

The arrest 

Punjab’s anti-corruption department had arrested PTI leader Mazari today afternoon, but hours after the authority's move, Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz ordered her immediate release.

The former human rights minister, according to Geo News, was taken into custody in a case related to the encroachment of a piece of land in District Rajanpur.

In a three-page order, IHC CJ Athar Minallah said: "The authorities shall explain under what authority of law the fundamental rights of Dr Shireen Mazari were violated while she was within the jurisdiction of this Court."

The IHC's order came after the PTI leader's daughter, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, filed a petition against her mother being "illegally abducted by officials of the Punjab Police".

The court noted that the ex-federal minister was not de-notified as a member of the National Assembly, therefore, her arrest was not in line with the law as before any MNA's arrest, the NA speaker should be informed.

The case against the PTI leader was filed at the request of Deputy Commissioner Rajanpur, after which, the Anti-Corruption Establishment Punjab registered the FIR.

Mazari is accused of encroaching upon a piece of land. A complaint was lodged against her on March 11, 2022, while AC Rajanpur was directed to inquire into the matter.

The official concerned prepared the report of the case on April 8 and in the light of this, the Anti-Corruption Establishment registered a criminal case under its Rules 2014.

Following the arrest, the PTI moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and announced to hold country-wide protests later today.

‘My mother has been kidnapped’

Speaking to journalists, Mazari’s daughter, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, confirmed the development, saying that "male police officers have beaten and taken her mother away."

She warned the new government that she would not “spare any of them if something happens to her mother.”

“I was only told that the anti-corruption wing has arrested my mother,” she said, adding that her mother was arrested without prior notice to the family.

“If this government does such a thing then I will go after them,” she said, adding her mother wasn’t arrested but she would call this a “kidnapping incident”.

As against Imaan's claim that male officers had arrested her mother, footage aired on Geo News shows several female police officials present at the site of the arrest, trying to drag Mazari out of her car after she started resisting the arrest. 

Mazari's message to Hamid Mir

In a message to senior journalist Hamid Mir two days ago, Mazari had said that she was "unaware of the matter and that she was seven years of age when the land reforms took place in 1958."

The ex-federal minister said in 1971, she was studying at the London School of Economics (LSE) in England. The PTI leader also added that "we had won cases in the Supreme Court and Lahore High Courts", without going into the specificities of the cases.

The former minister said that she was having the files pertaining to the matter searched at her village, adding that she does "not even own 500 acres of land."

Party will protest today: Imran Khan 

In response to the incident, former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan said Mazari was "violently abducted from outside her house by this fascist regime".

The PTI chairman noted that Mazari was strong and fearless and if the "imported government" thinks it can coerce her by this "fascism, they have miscalculated!"

The ex-premier claimed the PTI's anti-government was peaceful but alleged that "this fascist imported government" wants to push the country towards chaos.

"As if sending the economy into a tailspin wasn't enough, they now want anarchy to avoid elections. Today we will protest and tomorrow after CC meeting. I’ll announce our long march," he added.

PML-N responds

PML-N leader Ahmed Malik Khan claimed that the "government has nothing to do with Mazari's arrest" and she was taken into custody in a land encroachment case.

"The land was seized through fake documents," he alleged.

PML-N's Attaullah Tarar said that a case was registered against Mazari with Anti-Corruption Punjab.

"She was escorted out of her vehicle with dignity and respect," claimed Tarar, adding that allegations of police torture against Mazari are "false".

Islamabad police deny allegations of manhandling

Taking to Twitter, Islamabad Police issued a clarification and said that Mazari was not manhandled as opposed to the claims made by her daughter.

"Dr Shireen Mazari was arrested by female police officers as per the law at the request of the anti-corruption department. News of any mishandling is baseless."

Protest take place in cities across country

Following the call for protests by Khan, the PTI workers staged protests in different cities in the country against the arrest of Mazari, including in Karachi, Multan, Sukkur, Nowshera, Bahawalnagar, and Mianwali.

The workers staged protests at Karachi's Shahrah-e-Faisal and the police were called to prevent any mishap. However, the traffic was affected due to the protest. Meanwhile, the traffic is moving from the Karachi Airport to Saddar during the protest.

Former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, PTI's Khurrum Sher Zaman and Bilal Ahmed Ghaffar and others were present in the protest.

Condemnations pour in

Following Mazari's arrest, politicians, journalists, and civil society members condemned Mazari's arrest. 

Speaking to Geo News, former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said: “They [the new government] is pushing the country towards anarchy.”

He further said that the authorities had prepared a list of people who are to be arrested as new IGs have been appointed in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“Shireen Mazari’s arrest is the first step in this regard,” he said, warning that PTI Chairman Imran Khan "could be the next one to be arrested". 

Condemning the incident, former governor Sindh Imran Ismail wrote on Twitter: "The arrest of Mazari is a sign that the imported government is bewildered".

"The imported government is making the situation complicated itself."

Meanwhile, former minister for parliamentary affairs Ali Mohammad Khan termed the incident a “cowardly act” of the coalition government.

“The government is not just nervous, it is extremely nervous,” he maintained.

PPP MNA Nafisa Shah stated: "Arresting #ShireenMazari, who has no allegations against her is uncalled for, wrong! Who has ordered her arrest and why?"

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned the incident.

"Things never seem to change in the land of the pure. Shireen Mazari is my neighbour & a dear friend. Her arrest is deplorable and worst form of political oppression. People who have gone through it themselves & have cried foul in the past, why would they indulge or turn blind eye?"

Senior journalist Hamid Mir asked PML-N to "clear its position".

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) wrote on Twitter: "HRCP condemns the arrest and manhandling of senior PTI leader @ShireenMazari1. Her arrest smacks of political victimisation, which has regrettably become an entrenched practice and is deplorable no matter which party is the perpetrator. Dr Mazari is entitled to due process and the incident must be investigated immediately."

"No one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest & be assaulted. Shameful that a woman @ShireenMazari1 should be beaten. There should be accountability but allegations of corruption must never be used to politically victimised," wrote AGHS Legal Aid Cell on Twitter.