Tension in Pakistan: a collaborator of Imran Khan was arrested again in the midst of a crackdown on his followers

A protest by followers of Imran Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan (REUTERS / Fayaz Aziz / File Photo) (FAYAZ AZIZ /)

Pakistani authorities arrested a top aide to the former prime minister on Monday Imran Khan a few hours after she was released, amid a crackdown on Khan’s followers.

Shireen Mazari, who served as human rights minister under Khan’s government from 2018 to 2022, was arrested last Thursday in the capital Islamabad on charges of inciting violence. She was released on Monday by court order, but hours later she was arrested again.

Mazari has been a vocal critic of the Pakistan military and the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who replaced Khan after he was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament in April 2022.

Authorities launched a crackdown after Khan’s supporters attacked public property and military installations following his arrest earlier this month.

Mazari’s daughter, Imaan Mazari, filed a petition with a higher court arguing that her mother’s arrest was illegal. As she reported, the Lahore High Court ordered the release of her mother on Monday.

It was not clear on what charges Mazari was arrested on Monday. Initially arrested earlier this month and later released by a high court in Islamabad, she has several legal cases pending against her.

This event is the last episode of the political drama that has engulfed Pakistan after Khan’s arrest, sparking days of protests and violence unprecedented in years. Ten Khan supporters were killed in clashes with police.

A group of people throw rose petals on army soldiers to show their solidarity with the Pakistan Armed Forces (REUTERS / Fayaz Aziz)
A group of people throw rose petals on army soldiers to show their solidarity with the Pakistan Armed Forces (REUTERS / Fayaz Aziz) (FAYAZ AZIZ /)

Supporters of the popular opposition leader attacked security forces and set fire to government and military property. Troops were deployed to contain the violence, which only subsided after Khan was released.

Since then, Khan has eased his campaign against the government, denouncing the violence and demanding an independent investigation to determine who was behind the riots.

Sharif’s government, for its part, has arrested nearly 4,000 supporters of Khan and his opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the past two weeks. It has also vowed to prosecute all those involved in attacks on military and public property.

On Monday, Pakistan’s National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, passed a resolution denouncing the attacks on military installations and public property, and He promised to try all those linked to the recent violence in the military and anti-terror court.

Imran Khan (REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)
Imran Khan (REUTERS/Mohsin Raza) (MOHSIN RAZA/)

In his speech at the assembly, Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said that “We have videos showing Khan’s sisters” and close family members among the rioters at the residence of a high-ranking regional military commander, which was burned down.

Sharif, in the southwestern city of Quetta, said those who were involved in attacks on public property and military installations were “enemies of Pakistan” and vowed to try them in military courts.

The prominent human rights group Amnesty International and the Pakistan Human Rights Commission have expressed concern about government plans to use military courts to try civilians. On Monday, Khan’s party also asked the Supreme Court not to allow the government to hold military trials against protesters arrested in the recent clashes.

Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat supporters carry flags in support of the Pakistan Armed Forces (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Supporters of Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat carry flags in support of the Pakistan Armed Forces (REUTERS / Akhtar Soomro) (AKHTAR SOOMRO /)

Khan, who went from being a cricket star to an Islamist politician, has claimed that his ouster was part of a plot by the United States and Sharif, with the help of the Pakistani army, allegations all three have denied.

Khan says he faces almost 150 legal cases against him and fears he will be arrested again on Tuesday, when he is due to appear before the National Accountability Authority in Islamabad to answer questions related to a corruption case.

(With information from AP)

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