KARACHI: Afaq Ahmed has been on the verge of release several times, but his seven-year wait may finally be over. On Friday, the Sindh High Court struck down the provincial government’s orders to detain Ahmed, the chairperson of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H) under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) act.
As the chief law officer of the province failed to defend the grounds of detention, a division bench of the Sindh High Court comprising Chief Justice Musheer Alam and Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh ordered the immediate release of Afaq Ahmed.
The court order said: “Heard the arguments of both the learned counsel for the petitioner as well as AG Sindh. For the reasons to follow, impugned detention order dated 29-11-2011 is struck down. The petitioner shall be released forthwith if not required in any other case.”
Ahmed has not walked free as yet. According to the MQM-H, the political leader may possibly be released by Saturday afternoon. “Some formalities have to be completed before a release order is issued in his favour by a trial court,” party sources told The Express Tribune.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan denied that there had been any claim that Ahmed had been detained for his party’s links with the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Wassan also said he “did not have any knowledge” that Ahmed has been told that all cases will be dropped against him if he leaves the country.
Ahmed’s application was heard on Friday in the Sindh High Court. Advocate General Sindh Abul Fattah Malik questioned the maintainability of an application treated as a petition and argued that applicant should have filed a fresh petition to challenge the home department’s detention order of November 29. However, Malik was unable to provide any reasons to justify further detaining Ahmed.
In his arguments, Ahmed’s counsel Khurram Maqsood cited 22 judgments by superior courts regarding detaining citizens. He stated that the home department has rescinded the most serious allegation of collusion between MQM-H and a banned militant outfit for spreading sectarian hatred.
He also referred to a modified order of detention issued by the home department on December 13, which followed a meeting a day earlier between Home Department Additional Chief Secretary Waseem Ahmed and Afaq Ahmed in Central Prison. In the meeting, Afaq rejected all conditional offers to secure his freedom. The revised MPO order said: “The detenue Afaq Ahmed also rejected the suggestion to live outside Karachi and initiate his free movement from outside Karachi for sometime so that his conduct can be assessed but he rejected.
“In view of above, it is clear that detenue Afaq Ahmed is adamant to undertake activities in Karachi upon his release which will be prejudicial to public peace and may result in bloodshed in the city.”
Khurram Maqsood maintained that the Sindh government’s moves were aimed at appeasing its ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and all grounds mentioned in the detention order are baseless and ill-founded and could not serve as a justifiable basis for detaining any law abiding citizen.
He referred to articles 4, 5, 9, 10 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan and appealed to the court to declare the detention order illegal.
The bench, through a short order with reasons to be recorded later, struck down the detention order and ordered that Ahmed be released if he is not wanted in any other case. Ahmed has already been admitted bail in all the cases pending trial against him.
The provincial home minister did not have a game plan earlier in the day. “I have just heard that the application he (Afaq) submitted in the court against his detention has been approved,” he told reporters at the Sindh assembly and added that “we will now have a meeting to discuss next steps.”
Wassan strongly denied that Ahmed was being detained under pressure from political allies. “We would not do this, and neither do any of our political allies want this. He was detained based on a report from the police and agencies that there were fears of a terrorist attack during the month of Muharram. Ahmed was also ordered to be released at the same time which is why he was detained.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2011.
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