PTI’s Shehryar Afridi and Shandana Gulzar set free after IHC suspends MPO orders

PTI leaders Shandana Gulzar (left) and Shehryar Afridi ahead of their appearance before the Islamabad High Court, on August 16, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — Twitter/@PTIofficial

The detention orders against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) politicians, Shehryar Afridi and Shandana Gulzar, were Wednesday suspended with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordering their immediate release.

The two PTI leaders were held in custody by the Islamabad Police under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, which was slashed by the court during the hearing of pleas filed seeking Afridi and Gulzar’s release.

Both politicians were held by law enforcement for their alleged involvement in the May 9 riots, which were triggered after the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan earlier this year.

Afridi was first arrested from his Islamabad residence under Section 3 of the MPO Ordinance, 1960, on May 16. Despite a release order, he was immediately rearrested under the same section on May 30.

The PTI politician was then granted bail by the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on August 3. But his freedom was short-lived as Rawalpindi police once again took him into custody following his release from Adiala jail.

In response to his arrest, the former minister’s lawyer filed a plea in the IHC, requesting his release as well as the revocation of the MPO order.

Meanwhile, Gulzar was allegedly picked up by Islamabad police on August 9, after which her mother filed a petition in the IHC.

During today’s hearing, IHC’s directives also included contempt of court proceedings against the federal capital’s deputy commissioner.

Justice Babar Sattar of the IHC asked Afridi if he had a house in the capital city, to which the politician replied in affirmative and was allowed to go home. The court also ordered Gulzar’s immediate release but restricted her movement within Islamabad.

If anything happened to Gulzar, the judge said, the Islamabad Inspector General Akbar Nasir Khan and chief commissioner will be responsible.

Afridi, who was in police custody on multiple charges, appeared in the court along with his lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat, carrying a copy of the Holy Quran.

Justice Babar Sattar, during the hearing of the case, summoned Islamabad deputy commissioner to the rostrum and sought details regarding the events of May 9.

According to intelligence reports, the DC said, the politician provoked people. The DC added there are reports of Afridi’s involvement in planning the attack on the district courts in the party’s campaign against the judiciary.

Justice Sattar inquired the DC how Afridi provoked people despite being in jail.

“My eyes and ears are only intelligence reports, the DC said in his response.

When the court inquired from the Station House Officer (SHO) what information he had about Afridi planning the attack, he said someone else was in charge.

The judge asked the same question from the District Police Officer. “I was on leave at the time,” the officer said.

The court then asked the DC if a response to the show cause notice was filed. “Yes, sir. A written reply has been filed,” he responded.

When the IHC judge enquired police officials about the events of May 8 in the federal capital, Islamabad IG said action is taken on the basis of apprehensions before the incident takes place.

“We took these actions to maintain the law and order situation,” he said.

Justice Sattar termed the Special Branch’s report a “joke”, seeking the notification which allowed the arrest of the PTI politician.

Tahir Kazim, the counsel for the Senior Superintendent of Police, told the court that the reasons for quashing the first MPO orders were different.

Responding to his argument, the court said that detention orders were issued after the arrest. Action on threat alerts is based on apprehension, it added.

Justice Sattar also extended the court’s displeasure over Afridi’s repeated arrests in light of the 3MPO order and declared it “void”.

He also termed the response of the SSP operations as unsatisfactory, ordering for him to be charged as well and also ordered contempt of court action against the DC.

In his remarks, Justice Sattar said that the charge will be framed against the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad.

The court later inquired about Afridi’s meetings during his detention in the Adiala jail from the jail superintendent.

The hearing of the case was adjourned for 2 weeks.