Ali Wazir`s release – 16 Feb 2023

LONG, condemnable chapter of state persecution may be coming to a close with the release of Ali Wazir on Tuesday after two years-plus behind bars. The South Waziristan MNA and PTM leader had been held in Karachi`s Central Jail since December 2020 while being tried in a string of sedition cases af ter his arrest for a controversial speech at a rally. Mr Wazir finally won his freedom af ter a court granted him bail in the remaining case against him. Bail does not mean acquittal of course, and the threat of a trial remains hanging over Mr Wazir`s head but trying him was never the objective. This was a man who had voiced opinions that had enraged the state, and he had to be taught a lesson. The malice that underpinned his continued incarceration was glaringly apparent. Applications for bail were repeatedly turned down, and although he was acquitted of the original charge last November, three other similar cases filed against him in Karachi and one in KP`s Miram Shah kept the legislator deprived of his liberty. It did not matter that the constitutional protections guaranteed to Mr Wazir as a citizen of Pakistan including the rights to due process and to security of person were trampled underfoot. Nor did it matter that the people of South Waziristan who had elected Mr Wazir as their representative were left without a voice in the National Assembly.

Shamefully, most of his fellow legislators and sections of the media also lost their voice, willfully so, and remained silent in the face of this gross injustice.

Even more astonishing, the Sindh government, within whose jurisdiction Mr Wazir was imprisoned, appeared helpless in protecting his rights. The MNA thus did not see the outside of prison for 16 months, although he should have at least been able to attend the sessions of the National Assembly whose rules provide for production orders to be issued to detained lawmakers that enable them to do so. While this rule was not followed consistently during Imran Khan`s government, a production order was finally issued for Mr Wazir but only when his vote was needed for the no-trust motion against Mr Khan when the then premier and the establishment had clearly fallen out. Mr Wazir`s ordeal is the very antithesis of what a society based on the rule of law looks like.

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