Authorities in Pakistan have arrested a prominent human rights lawyer and a former lawmaker in overnight arrests in the capital, Islamabad.
Rights activist and lawyer Imaan Mazari-Hazir was taken away by police officials and “men in plain clothes and masks” from her home in the early hours of Sunday, her mother and Pakistan’s former human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, wrote in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
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Moments before the arrest, Mazari-Hazir posted on X that “unknown persons” were breaking down the security cameras in her home and that the gate to her house was “jumped over”.
Soon after the arrest, Mazari’s mother said “no arrest warrants or legal procedure” was followed by security officials.
“We asked who they had come for and they just dragged Imaan out. They marched all over the house. My daughter was in her night clothes and said let me change but they just dragged her away,” the former member of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government wrote in a post on X.
Unknown persons breaking down my home cameras banging gate jumped over
— Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir (@ImaanZHazir) August 19, 2023
Just now police women, plainclothes people and r ager types took my daughter away after braking down our front door. Taking away our security cameras and her laptop and cell. We asked who they had xome for and they just dragged Imaan out. They marched all over the house. My…
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) August 19, 2023
“We have been informed by the Islamabad Police that Imaan has been arrested and is in their custody,” Zainab Janjua, a lawyer and Mazari’s colleague, told Al Jazeera from Islamabad.
“Imaan’s phone, laptop, her mother’s phone and [house security] guard’s phone have been illegally confiscated by the authorities,” she said.
Ali Wazir, a former lawmaker and co-founder of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Protection Movement or PTM) rights group was also arrested by police in the Pakistani capital.
In a post on X, the Islamabad Police said both were “wanted for investigation” and all action against them “will be taken in accordance with law”.
Mazari-Hazir was later escorted into a court in the capital, where she made a victory sign with her hand.
‘Pattern of state-sanctioned violence’
The arrests came a day Mazari-Hazir and Wazir participated in a PTM rally in the capital.
In a video posted on X and verified by Al Jazeera, Mazari-Hazir is seen addressing the crowd.
“You are being stopped, as if you are terrorists,” she tells the crowd, adding, “while the real terrorists are sitting in GHQ [Pakistan’s military headquarters].”
According to Usama Khilji, a rights activist, the arrest was “a clear violation of due process, rights and her right to dignity as no warrant was shown and no case was quoted in the middle of the night”.
“Every citizen must be accorded right to dignity, privacy of home, and due process as per the constitution,” he told Al Jazeera.
“They also took her mother’s phone, and her guard’s phone after beating him up.”
The overnight arrests have been condemned by local and international rights organisations, political leaders and activists on social media.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the arrests point to “a larger, more worrying pattern of state-sanctioned violence against people exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly”.
HRCP strongly condemns the arrest of lawyer @ImaanZHazir. The manner in which the @ICT_Police broke into her home, allegedly without a warrant, is unacceptable and points to a larger, more worrying pattern…
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) August 20, 2023
Rights group Amnesty International urged Pakistan’s government to “immediately and unconditionally” release Mazari and said her detention “would be a violation of her rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression”.
Pakistan: Amnesty International is deeply concerned with the reports of the arbitrary arrest of lawyer and human rights defender Imaan Mazari. According to her mother, authorities in plainclothes forcibly entered her home and took @ImaanZHazir away with no warrant at…
— Amnesty International South Asia, Regional Office (@amnestysasia) August 20, 2023
With additional reporting by Abid Hussain