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Imaan Mazari-Hazir granted pre-arrest bail in army defamation case

Islamabad High Court granted Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, daughter of former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, pre-arrest bail till June 9th in a case filed against her on the charges of "abusing and defaming the senior command of the Pakistan Army".

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Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the pre-arrest bail application filed by Advocate Zainab Janjua.

Charges were pressed against Imaan Mazari-Hazir in an FIR registered by Lt Colonel Syed Humayun Iftikhtar, who was representing the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 26th at Ramna Police Station, Islamabad. The FIR was registered under sections 505 (inciting people against armed forces) and 138 (abetment of act of insubordination by soldier) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

It was stated in the FIR that Mazari-Hazir had made derogatory and hateful statement against the senior leadership of army on May 21, when her mother was arrested by the police in a land-ownership and transfer case.

Read More: PTI leader Shireen Mazari picked up, arrested from her house

The FIR read Mazari-Hazir’s “derogatory statements are highly disparaging, aimed to cause and incite mutiny/intimidation amongst rank and file of the Pakistan Army”, adding that they caused “ridicule and created hatred within the Pakistan Army, while also causing unrest within the institution”. Further it was stated that “her insightful [sic] statements also aid/abets an act of insubordination by officers/soldiers of the Pakistan Army. There are reasons to believe that such [an] act will harm the reputation of [the] army and senior leadership”.

It also said Mazari-Hazir’s “act” reflected her intent to cause fear and alarm among the public “thus inducing to commit offence against the state”.

Challenging the FIR, Mazari-Hazir’s lawyer said her client is a “victim of ulterior motives and highhandedness of the complainant and others, who are highly influential”. “The FIR is ill-founded and allegations are absurd,” the petition said.

The court after hearing the plea granted Mazari-Hazir pre-arrest bail for two weeks. In a written order Chief Justice of IHC Athar Minallah said notices were being issued to the state and the complainant, Mazari-Hazir, for June 9. “In the circumstances, the petitioner is admitted to ad-interim pre-arrest bail, subject to furnishing of surety in the sum of Rs1,000 with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the deputy registrar (judicial) of this court,” the written order said. The court directed Mazari-Hazir to join the investigation and appear before the court on “each date fixed”.

As the Punjab Government distanced itself from the arrest of Shireen Mazari, a video circulated on social media in which Imaan Mazari-Hazir can be seen explicitly calling out and blaming General Qamer Javed Bajwa for the arrest of her mother. The military has often been accused by human rights activists of enforced disappearances.

Read More: IHC says govt dispel notion about forces behind missing persons

The case filed by the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the General Headquarters is interesting as the ruling of the court in this case could set a precedent since the armed forces of Pakistan are protected by law against defamation.