Why is no one ready to claim ownership of the arrest of former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, in a case involving her father, when she was a minor? Even Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz has not only denied having ordered her arrest in a case so cold that it was not closed in the years she was a minister, and her party was in office in Punjab, but he ordered her release. He was been to this by the Islamabad High Court, whose Chief Justice granted bail when approached at night, something which will not be mentioned at PTI rallies, where the opening of the courts on the night of the vote of no-confidence is so loudly decried as evidence that the judiciary was part of the alleged anti-PTI conspiracy.
There are many depressing conclusions to be drawn from Dr Mazari’s episode, but perhaps the most depressing is that those forces which were at work during the previous regime, are still at work. Dr Mazari’s tweets about the establishment’ support of the present government, were both plentiful and close to the bone. Sadly, she is not the first person to suffer at the hands of the police in this fashion, though when she was a Cabinet member, critics of the establishment were similarly picked up, again because they had criticized the establishment, often enough for supporting the PTI government.
If such behind-the-scenes manipulation is to continue by members of the establishment who feel the need to thus lash out at criticism, it will cause second thoughts among all those who supported the ouster of the PTI. The present government is committed to pursuing the cases of missing persons (which Dr Mazari, though Human Rights Minister, was unable to dispose of, mainly under the pressure of the Baloch parties which are its components. How will it fulfil this commitment if such disappearances are to recur? The temptation may be there to let the matter drop now that Dr Mazari is free, but there must be a thorough investigation of the whole incident, and if anyone has acted beyond his legal authority, that person or persons, must be penalized. Of course, the federal and Punjab governments may prefer the alternative, which is to keep quiet, in exchange for support. However, that will mean abandoning the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution, just as it accused the PTI’s government of doing.