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Mazari released after IHC’s late evening orders

Former minister taken into custody in land dispute case

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday night ordered the federal government to carry out a judicial inquiry into the arrest of former federal minister and senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shireen Mazari.

Mazari was presented in IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah’s court, as the judge had earlier ordered to produce her before him at 11:30pm after her daughter – Imaan Zainab Mazari – filed a plea against her mother’s arrest, saying she was “illegally abducted by officials of the Punjab Police”.

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The IHC chief justice, noting that the arrest was apparently “illegal”, ordered the immediate release of Mazari and asked the authorities to return the ex-minister’s phone to her. Talking to journalists before entering the courtroom, Mazari said, “I still did not get my phone back.” She claimed that the police did not show her the arrest warrants before taking her into custody, adding that she believed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were behind her arrest.

Mazari was presented in the courtroom at 11:40pm. At the outset of the hearing, Islamabad Police Inspector General Muhammad Ahsan Younas told the court that he had assumed office earlier in the day. The CJ told the IG that no member of the National Assembly (MNA), belonging to the PTI, had been de-notified yet, and the court had already issued a directive that no MNA should be arrested before informing the NA speaker.
Moving on, Islamabad Attorney General 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 the police from any province come to the capital and arrest people. The attorney general told the IHC that the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab had arrested Mazari in coordination with the capital’s police.

For her part, Mazari’s daughter told the court that she wanted a judicial inquiry to be initiated to probe her mother’s arrest. ACE Punjab had arrested PTI leader Mazari in the afternoon, but hours after the authority’s move, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz ordered her immediate release. The former human rights minister was taken into custody in a case related to the encroachment of a piece of land in Rajanpur district.

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The case was filed at the request of Rajanpur deputy commissioner, after which, the ACE Punjab registered the First Information Report (FIR). Mazari is accused of encroaching upon a piece of land. A complaint was lodged against her on March 11, 2022, while the Rajanpur AC 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 ACE registered a criminal case under its Rules 2014. In a message to senior journalist Hamid Mir three 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”.

Following the arrest, the PTI moved the IHC and announced to hold countrywide protests later in the day. 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!”

Following the call for protests by Imran Khan, the PTI workers staged protests in different cities, including in Karachi, Multan, Sukkur, Nowshera, Bahawalnagar and Mianwali. PML-N leader Ahmed Malik Khan claimed the “government has nothing to do with Mazari’s arrest” and she was taken into custody in a land encroachment case. PPP MNA Nafisa Shah also condemned the incident in a tweet, saying, “Arresting #ShireenMazari, who has no allegations against her is uncalled for, wrong! Who has ordered her arrest and why?”
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar wrote, “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?”

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