Pakistani dissidents granted bail, remain in prison over other cases

Islamabad, Aug 28 (EFE).- A prominent Pakistani human rights activist and an ethnic minority leader were granted bail on Monday in a sedition case over speeches against the military at a rally organized by a Pashtun ethnic movement earlier this month, however they are set to remain in prison due to other cases pending against them.

Human rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Ali Wazir were arrested after a rally on Aug. 18, in which both were heard speaking against enforced disappearances and criticizing the powerful military for their alleged role in them.

PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen had confirmed the bail on social network X, formerly Twitter, and welcomed the court decision.

However, Mazari was rearrested immediately after being released from the Adiala jail in the city of Rawalpindi.

“Yes she has been arrested again from outside the jail (…). We don’t know the details yet but the Islamabad police arrested her saying there is another case on my daughter,” Shireen Mazari, the mother of the lawyer-turned politician, told EFE.

Meanwhile the PTM confirmed that Wazir also had another case registered against him and would remain in prison unless a separate bail was granted.

Wazir was arrested the day after the PTM rally, while the movement said that several of its workers had been detained even before the event.

Mazari was picked up from her home during the early hours of Aug. 20 by police and plainclothes officers, who barged into her house in Islamabad, according to Shireen, who is the former Pakistani minister of human rights.

At the time, nonprofit Amnesty International had condemned Mazari’s arrest over the alleged lack of a warrant, while Human Rights Watch had said that it was an attempt to silence critical voices in Pakistan.

A pair of cases were registered against the two at Islamabad’s Tarnol police station and the Counter-Terrorism Department police station.

Pashteen said on Monday that Mazari had got bail in both the cases while Wazir had obtained it in one.

In the rally, PTM workers and leaders protested against rights abuse by the military, which has been accused of extra-judicial killings, kidnappings and enforced disappearances among other violations of the locals’ rights in the heavily militarized northwestern tribal belt as part of its “war on terror.”

In videos circulated on social media both Mazari and Wazir could be seen the criticizing the military establishment and demanding the return of the victims of enforced disappearances.

Pashtuns account for around 30 million of Pakistan’s 207-million population, most of them living in border areas close to Afghanistan, which has witnessed continuous armed conflict since the formation of the rebel group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2007.

In Pakistan, where the military has been in power for half of the country’s independent history, it is almost a taboo to criticize the institution, which has repeatedly warned the PTM to stop its protests in the past. EFE


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