June 23, 2022

By Umer Zaib Khan

KARACHI: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader and parliamentarian from North Waziristan Ali Wazir was pictured detained at Jinnah Hospital Karachi, barefoot and fettered. The images generated public outcry, with civil society and human rights activists demanding his release and condemning the still-undecided 16-month-old charges against him.

Last year, the chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari fiercely criticized Imran Khan’s government for failing to ensure Wazir’s participation in the budget sessions of the National Assembly. Demanding production orders for Ali Wazir Bhutto-Zardari had said, “If the budget is passed without Wazir’s participation, it will give the impression that the budget has been passed by an incomplete house through electioneering“.

A production order is a legal instrument that allows parliamentarians in the custody of law enforcement, but not convicted of a crime, to attend parliament for important sessions they should not miss, because they may be innocent of the crime they are accused of.

This year, despite production orders being issued for his participation in the National Assembly by speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, Wazir was not allowed to participate in the budget session, robbing his constituents of their constitutional right to be represented by their chosen candidate until the candidate is disqualified from office.

Former Senator from PPP Farhatullah Babar said “Frustrating production orders of Ali Wazir issued by the speaker is an affront, [an] insult of the Parliament. Speaker must order an inquiry even if nothing comes out. Ordering inquiry itself will expose the tinpots, the bullies and their feet of clay”

Academic and researcher Nida Kirmani said “Some of us had hopes that this govt would be relatively better than the last in terms of human rights. The continued harassment of the Baloch, the sidelining of Mohsin Dawar from any position of authority, & the inhumane detention of Ali Wazir have proved us wrong.”

Political worker and journalist Ismat Shahjahan condemned the government’s failure to provide Wazir with healthcare in prison. “They attempted to assassinate Ali Wazir before his release. Ali was denied medical treatment throughout his imprisonment but shifted to a hospital to deny him the right to attend assembly sessions on the one hand, and assassinate him inside the hospital on the other hand,” she said.

At Jinnah hospital in Karachi, Wazir is worried for his life. Claiming there have been two attempts to kill him in the short duration of time he has been there, Wazir has requested he either be allowed to attend the budget session in Islamabad or be returned to jail.

“I should be taken to Islamabad to attend the budget session and raise the problems of my constituency,” Wazir said while speaking to the media. If that is not possible, he said “I demand that I should be sent back to the jail as I feel insecure here.”

Politician and rights activist Afrasiab Khattak, commenting on Wazir’s arrest, said “Hardcore terrorists convicted by courts for killing hundreds of citizens are released by presidential clemency, but Ali Wazir remains imprisoned without court conviction for criticizing anti-democratic forces.” 

Wazir was booked for making allegedly seditious remarks made in a Pashto speech at a Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement gathering. Hundreds of Pakistani rights activists have been abducted and jailed under flimsy sedition charges by government or military higher-ups.

“Ali’s unjustifiable incarceration proves that the GHQ calls the shots and the civil dispensations are mere puppet shows. It remains to be an unannounced martial law which can humiliate/harass members of Parliament for demonstrating the hegemony of de facto over the de jure.” continued Khattak, arguing Wazir’s incarceration is motivated by his remarks criticizing senior military leaders for human rights violations in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Wazir has been in prison for more than 15 months, charged for making insulting and incendiary speeches against state institutions at a PTM protest rally in Karachi on December 6, 2020. Delays in court have prolonged his imprisonment, despite the fact that prosecution lawyers have been unable to furnish a single piece of evidence to support the charges brought against the parliamentarian to date.


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