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ISLAMABAD: Dr Shireen Mazari, a senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has written to special rapporteurs of the United Nations (UN), calling for their intervention to cease ‘the fascist Pakistani regime’s misuse of the blasphemy law’ against former Prime Minister Imran Khan and other PTI leaders.

Mazari, who is also a former human rights minister, in her letter dated May 2, 2022, addressed to the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, special rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, and special rapporteur on the freedom of religion and belief, sought to take notice of alleged misuse of blasphemy in Pakistan by government.

It stated that Pakistan had been engulfed in a political crisis ever since the Imran Khan-led government was ousted in the aftermath of a regime change scheme and replaced with a government led by Shehbaz Sharif, who she alleged had been named in multiple money-laundering and corruption cases.

In March, Mazari recalled, Imran’s government had concluded in a cabinet meeting that there had been a ‘US-backed regime-change conspiracy’ against the former prime minister assisted by the establishment and opposition political parties.

Mazari criticises registration of case against party chairman

“This conclusion was premised upon the content of a cipher message received from Pakistan’s envoy in Washington DC detailing a formal meeting between Donald Lu of US State Department with the envoy and three other members of the embassy along with note-takers on both sides.”

The cipher message, the letter stated, reflected the anger of the US over Imran’s visit to Russia just as the Ukrainian military conflict was about to begin. It continued that if the no-trust motion against Imran succeeded, all would be forgiven.

Mazari continued that the events which followed included the submission of the no-confidence motion, the National Assembly of Pakistan’s deputy speaker’s rejection of the motion and the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s intervention in the matter which ultimately resulted in Imran Khan’s ouster.

“Since then, there has been a groundswell of public anger reflected in huge rallies by Imran Khan’s parties across the country as he leads a movement for the restoration of democracy and sovereignty of Pakistan,” the letter added. However, it added, the government, backed by ‘establishment’, had responded with repressive measures.

Subsequently, Mazari drew UNHCR’s attention to what she called three major human rights violations conducted against Imran.

She mentioned ‘a complete blackout’ of media coverage by state-owned media as well as almost all private channels through a carrot (advertisements) and stick (establishment). In this connection, the government-controlled PTCL, which provides cable connections to cable operators, has denied this access to any private channel seen covering Khan’s massive rallies.

The second violation highlighted by Mazari was the registration of blasphemy cases against Imran and PTI leaders in connection with the Masjid-e-Nabwi incident where Shehbaz Sharif and his federal ministers were heckled by a crowd of Pakistani pilgrims.

She claimed that it was not a planned incident as similar treatment had taken place with opposition members at other places as well.

“To use the Madina incident as an excuse to file charges of blasphemy means endangering the lives of Imran and the party’s leadership,” writes Mazari.

“It also provides for making immediate arrests and one member of the NA from the PTI-allied party was immediately taken into custody on arrival at Islamabad airport on blasphemy charges,” she added.

The letter added that even though an FIR was not registered, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had warned Imran and his supporters of arrests.

Mazari requested the United Nations Special Procedures mechanism to intervene with the Pakistani government to: immediately cease the ‘misuse of the blasphemy law’ against political opponents, stop media censorship, and stop denying the right to peaceful protest through repressive measures and blocking of protest sites.

She alleged that the Sharif administration has openly been misusing blasphemy law of the country against PTI leaders along with its chairman Imran Khan in wake of Madina incident with his minister especially interior minister Rana Sanaulllah openly threatening PTI leadership of actions under the pretext of FIRs filed against them by different people all over the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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