Pakistan Arrests Opposition Leader Critical of Military

Anti-corruption authorities in Pakistan arrested a female opposition leader Saturday on land-grabbing allegations dating back five decades, a move that critics swiftly condemned as politically motivated.

Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari, a vocal critic of the powerful Pakistani military for its alleged meddling in politics, was dragged out of car and taken into custody near her residence in the capital, Islamabad, according to witnesses and video footage of the incident.

Mazari faces investigation and prosecution for an offense her family allegedly committed in 1972, when she was six years old, according to the police complaint registered against her late last month.  

The detainee served in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Cabinet until an opposition-led parliamentary vote of no-confidence toppled his nearly four-year-old government in early April and political rival Shehbaz Sharif replaced Khan as the head of the new ruling coalition.

“Her arrest smacks of political victimization, which has regrettably become an entrenched practice and is deplorable no matter which party is the perpetrator,” the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said on Twitter, while denouncing Mazari’s arrest and “manhandling.”  

The rights monitoring group demanded the incident be investigated immediately.

Former prime minister Khan also took to Twitter to denounce the Sharif government, saying Mazari was “violently abducted from outside her house by this fascist regime.”  

Khan has accused the United States of conspiring with Sharif-led Pakistani opposition parties to oust him from power and condemns the ruling coalition as an “imported government.”  

Sharif rejects the accusations as lies, and U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month “there is absolutely no truth to the allegations.”

Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, has held massive anti-government rallies across Pakistan since his ouster last month to demand early elections. He said on Sunday he would announce details of a long-promised march on Islamabad.

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