Imran Khan's close aide quits party and active politics after arrest
Former Pakistan Minister Shireen Mazari

Islamabad: Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s former human rights minister and a close aide of ousted prime minister Imran Khan, on Tuesday quit the party and announced her retirement from active politics following her arrest over the recent violence.

Mazari, 72, made the announcement after she was released following her arrest for the fourth time since May 12 when she was picked from her residence by police and sent to jail. She served as the minister for human rights from 2018 to 2022, under Khan’s regime.

Addressing a press conference here, she condemned the violence after the arrest of Khan on May 9, adding that she had given a similar undertaking in the Islamabad High Court.

“Not only the May 9 and 10 violence, but I’ve always condemned every kind of violence especially against state institutions and symbols like the General Headquarters, Supreme Court and Parliament,” she said.

She then announced to quit Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party as well as active politics, saying the arrest had adversely affected her health and family.

“From today, I’m not part of PTI or any active party because first [for me are] my family, my mother and kids,” she said.

Feeling the heat of legal processes, several PTI leaders have quit the party but none of them had enjoyed the stature of the liberal-minded Mazari. Her decision to part ways with Khan is being considered as a big political loss to the party.

Civil society including journalists expressed dismay at her decision and Geo News anchor Hamid Mir termed her retirement a “huge loss” for democracy and human rights activism.

Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said the development was “an absolute disgrace for the government, the military and the country at large.”

Mazari was arrested for the fourth time on Monday after the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court had directed authorities to set her free if she was not required under any other case.

Her daughter Imaan Mazari-Hazir talking to the media after the court orders had said that “the government should think and not destroy homes like this”.

Mazari-Hazir had also lambasted Khan, saying that “it is a pity that party chief Imran Khan has forgotten the workers and leadership”.

Mazari was first arrested on May 12 from her residence in Islamabad as part of a crackdown launched by the federal government on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters following the May 9 attacks on military installations and government buildings.

On May 9, violent protests erupted after the arrest of Khan by paramilitary Rangers. His party workers vandalised a dozen military installations, including the Lahore Corps Commander house, Mianwali airbase and the ISI building in Faisalabad. The Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi was also attacked by the mob for the first time.

Police put the death toll in violent clashes to 10 while Khan’s party claims 40 of its workers lost their lives in the firing by security personnel.

Thousands of Khan’s supporters were arrested following the violence that the powerful Army described as a “dark day” in the history of the country.

Mazari has been a vocal critic of Pakistan’s military and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Khan had lamented Mazari’s re-arrest, saying that such actions by the government showed the “plight of the mighty”.

The former minister’s arrest had came after a series of arrests of several other PTI leaders, including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Omer Cheema, Ali Mohammad Khan, Senator Ejaz Chaudhry and others.

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All of these leaders other than Khan were arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), after widespread violence by the supporters of Khan who took to streets after his arrest.

Shehbaz said on Sunday that those involved in attacks on the military installations would be tried in the military courts while those charged with attacks on the civilian targets would be prosecuted under civilian laws.

Also Read | Pak anti-terrorism court grants pre-arrest bail to Imran Khan

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