A famous Pakistani human rights lawyer who criticized the country’s powerful military has been jailed again, just hours after a judge granted her release.
Imaan Mazari-Hazir was scheduled to be released on Monday night, but she was arrested on a second terrorism charge.
She was arrested a week ago, drawing considerable anger.
Analysts say the crackdown has intensified since protesters protesting the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Imran Khan stormed military sites in May.
“There has been a massive overreaction to the events of May 9.” However, the establishment does not want to be viewed as solely focused on Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf [PTI] party. As a result, they are increasingly targeting other parts of society,” noted journalist Cyril Almeida told the BBC.
The reason for the second charge against Ms Mazari-Hazir was not immediately obvious.
The incident is captured on video outside Islamabad’s Adiala jail, where she is being kept in judicial jail.
Zainab Januja, her lawyer, stated that police had not supplied a copy of the allegations against her or an arrest warrant.
“They only informed us that there is another case against her at a different police station,” she explained to the BBC. “The police will present her in court for remand within 24 hours.” We don’t know why or in what circumstance she was detained now.”
In recent weeks, a number of PTI members have been re-arrested after obtaining bail.
Ms Mazari-Hazir was arrested two days after a rally organized by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rights group in Islamabad on August 18. Videos widely circulated on social media show her giving a speech in which she aggressively criticizes the military over suspected kidnapping, an allegation the army has long denied.
“You are being stopped as if you are terrorists, while the real terrorists are sitting in GHQ [Pakistan’s military headquarters],” she addressed the rally attendees.
Ms Mazari-Hazir reported on X (formerly Twitter) that “unknown persons” were breaking down the security cameras in her home and that the gate to her property had been “jumped over” moments before she was arrested.
Shireen Mazari, her mother, claimed that security agents violated arrest orders and legal procedures.
Ms Mazari, the country’s human rights minister under Imran Khan, stated on X that police had barged in, ransacked her daughter’s room, snatched her phone and laptop, and taken her away forcibly.
“They didn’t even let her change out of her pajamas,” she told the BBC the next day.
Ali Wazir, a former politician and co-founder of the PTM rights group, was also seized by police in Islamabad.
They were later charged with opposition and terrorism in an anti-terrorist court. Police have accused them of spreading anti-state propaganda.
Ms Mazari-Hazir hurried to her very concerned mother and gave her a long hug just before her transfer to prison.
‘Laws to muzzle dissent’
Murtaza Solangi, the federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting, told the BBC that Ms Mazari-Hazir’s remark was a “condemnable act.”
“I can’t even imagine the outcome of such speeches.” Pakistan is a nuclear power. “How can anyone claim that the commander or chief of the army, sitting in the Headquarters, is involved in terrorism?”
However, many observers see these arrests as part of a greater effort to silence voices critical of the military.
Human Rights Watch described the arrests as an attempt to “suppress dissent, emphasizing the importance of upholding due process” in a statement last Thursday.
“In arresting Imaan Mazari and others, Pakistani authorities are using vague, overbroad anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent.” “The government should uphold the right to due process,” according to the statement added.
Nida Kirmani, a sociology professor and human rights campaigner, was among those who spoke out against the “harsh” arrests.
She claimed that Ms Mazari-Hazir and Mr Wazir had been “unfairly targeted for exercising their right to free expression.”
“Sadly, I am not shocked,” she told the BBC, alluding to Ms Mazar’s re-arrest shortly after being granted free.
“At the moment, the security state is hyper-paranoid and insecure, which increases their capacity for human rights violations.” Tolerance for disagreement was always poor, but it is now non-existent.”
According to Mr. Almeida, the situation in Pakistan is “just as bad as some of the worst times.”
He, like many others, believes that measures employed to suppress dissent in places such as Balochistan province and once federally managed tribal territories are now being deployed “more centrally.”
The increased crackdowns come at a time when Pakistan is controlled by a caretaker administration largely regarded to have strong ties to the military establishment.
Pakistan has experienced significant political upheaval, economic insecurity, and increased security worries during the previous two years.
In the middle of all of these issues, many were hoping for a new election to offer some stability.
However, the polls, which were scheduled for this autumn, are now likely to be postponed. Many people are concerned about Pakistan’s democratic future.