The government must be condemned for resorting to fascist tactics in Islamabad to arrest former minister for human rights Shireen Mazari on the orders of the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE). In a video that surfaced on social media, the former minister was manhandled by female officers who pulled her out of her car and took her into custody. According to Dr Mazari, she was being taken to Lahore and was medically examined by a male doctor on the motorway. The case which was invoked to take Dr Mazari into custody dates back to the early 70s, stemming from a dispute over land record and official negligence. Dr Mazari’s daughter, Imaan Zainab Hazir-Mazari, who is a well known lawyer and human rights activist, posted the case of her mother’s arrest on Twitter and filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court. The court specifically opened for this case at night and ordered the release of PTI leader Shireen Mazari. The case garnered much attention from social and mainstream media, and resentment against the government action. Members of all parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, strongly condemned the arrest of Dr Mazari. However, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz took a different position and narrated her own ordeals she faced during the PTI tenure. She said she was arrested by male police officers while Dr Mazari was arrested by female officers, and for all the right reasons. She also said that Dr Mazari was playing the woman-card. She reiterated that no one is above the law and if someone says they are not guilty then they should prove it in the court of law. Her stance raised many eyebrows as she herself and her family has long been saying that political victimization is a reality in Pakistan, and her family members have been fighting to prove their innocence in several corruption and money laundering cases. Contrary to her response, her cousin and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz ordered the release of Dr Mazari, saying that the action was taken without consulting him.
It is true that no one is above the law but when state agencies are used for the show of political power and personal enmities, the agenda of those in power becomes evident. The court has ruled that Dr Mazari’s arrest is illegal, and carried out without meeting legal formalities. If the PML-N government came into power for the good of the people of Pakistan, they must not use this power to intimidate their political opponents. The honourable judge rightly pointed out that such revenge-infesting acts were rampant in the previous government, Those who are in support of the actions and are justifying it have done nothing but show their true intentions with regards to their agenda of coming into power. Such political intimidation has always been governments’ standard operating procedure regardless of which party is in power and this only ruins the credibility of their promises and their words in the eyes of the people. If the PML-N coalition government wants genuine support of the people it will have to move away from such fascist policies of crushing opposition and move towards making a true change which is good for the people of Pakistan. At a time when Pakistan is on the brink of an economic crisis the government should be focused on saving the economy instead of political intimidation. So far, accountability and the rule of law, the government must go ahead with its promised reforms of the National Accountability Bureau and other institutions. The success of accountability lies in the autonomy of institutions and progressive prosecution.