The lawmaker had been imprisoned in December 2020 over allegedly making speeches maligning state institutions
The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to lawmaker Ali Wazir and ordered his immediate release, observing that his co-accused in the case had already been released on bail and there was no longer any justification to keep him in jail.
A three-member bench, led by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, set bail at Rs. 400,000 after hearing Wazir’s appeal against a Sindh High Court ruling that had denied him bail. That appeal had been filed after an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi had earlier dismissed a similar appeal for his release.
The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader had been arrested on allegedly making speeches maligning state institutions at a PTM rally in Karachi on Dec. 6, 2020. A day later, a first information report was lodged against him at the Sindh capital’s Sohrab Goth police station. He was taken into custody in Peshawar on the request of the Sindh police on Dec. 16.
According to the appeal filed before the Supreme Court, Wazir’s counsel maintained that his client was innocent and had not committed the offenses under which he had been arrested. It also noted that the FIR had contained no independent witnesses, contending that the parliamentarian had been implicated in a false case. Similarly, it said that no evidence had been provided to prove that Wazir had attempted to conspire against the state or promote enmity between different groups.
The appeal also noted that Wazir had no prior criminal record, adding that he had been arrested due to a political rivalry with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Denying Wazir’s bail in June, the Sindh High Court had ruled that a “tentative” assessment of his speech had found that he had used “uncouth, vulgar, obscene and uncivilized language” against “institutions of the state,” adding that his speech “may have the potential” of inciting unrest.
While claiming that “healthy and constructive criticism” was permissible, the court had ruled that a distinction must be drawn between criticism and contemptuous statements, adding that freedom of expression did not permit the voicing of comments that could destabilize the country.
Wazir, along with 10 others, was indicted in the sedition case last month. All the accused have pleaded not guilty and would proceed to trial.
In a posting on Twitter, PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen hailed the apex court’s decision and thanked everyone who had voiced support for Wazir. “Finally, Ali Wazir granted bail by the SC. He remained incarcerated for more than a year on politically motivated charges in Karachi prison. Hope that [co-accused] Hanif and Owais will also be released soon,” he said. “Thanks to all political parties, lawyers, journalists and everyone who raised voice for Ali,” he added.