News Analysis | Are Progressives Really Silent On The Arrest Of Azam Swati?

News Analysis | Are Progressives Really Silent On The Arrest Of Azam Swati?
Why is activist Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir tweeting in support of PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati?

This was as much the subject of social media discussion as was the content of her tweet that went viral on Monday, November 28 – wherein she, in her own way, exposed positions of those ‘neutral’ and ‘ideological’ in the country.

She tweeted that the silence of “progressives” on the arrest of Swati for using obnoxious language against the military was “shocking, and even worse is their justification of it”.

She said, criticism of the state, government or public officials — however “harsh”, is “not a crime”.

Imaan’s tweets in Urdu language stated that people who raised their voices against state violence were routinely silenced -- “This is because the system is for military hooligans who use the law and the courts as tools for their bullying”.

Imaan also took a jab at the Pakistan Democratic Movement, and said that they had succumbed to the same people that mistreated them just recently. “What respect will they give to the vote when they can’t even respect their own political struggle?” she asked.

An advocate of free speech, Imaan had condemned Swati’s arrest in October as well, when the senator was taken into custody for using inappropriate language for General Bajwa. She had tweeted on October 13, 2022 that the sole purpose of the criminal justice system is to protect the feelings of generals – “This is pathetic and a mockery of the law.”

Imaan got caught up in a similar case as Swati, where the target was the same but the treatment mild. A case was registered against Imaan in May this year for using derogatory language against the army and its senior leadership after her mother, former Information Minister Shireen Mazari, was arrested from outside her residence on May 21.

However, this time round, Imaan has expressed resentment on the silence of the progressives. In a brazen and loud attack, she has tried to mock them and has questioned their ideological position in the cesspit of Pakistani politics. In doing so, she has exposed the distance between the ‘neutral’ and ‘ideological’.

It is time for the progressives to take a stand – to the right, left or wherever -- on the concepts of democracy. It is PTI’s Swati this time. It could be one of their own the next time.

Nevertheless, Imaan’s outrage on Twitter generated some reactions.

Ammar Ali Jan, historian and member of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement, commented, “The treatment being meted out to Azam Swati is deplorable. Instead of focusing on economic, climate and security challenges facing our region, our rulers are busy harassing an elderly citizen. Pakistan will continue to sink if we don't change our priorities.

Journalist Benazir Shah said, “Regardless of his past conduct, Azam Swati is a senior parliamentarian, who has levelled serious allegations of torture and misconduct. Rather than probing the allegations, the state has decided to arrest him yet again.

Another journalist Mubashir Zaidi wrote, “FIA again arrests Senator Swati for ‘highly obnoxious’ tweets against military officials. This is #fascism

Columnist Muzamal Suharwardy said, “Azam swati arrest a clear message from New establishment of zero tolerance”