In Pakistan, police and military in direct conflict over arrest of Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law

Mohammad Safdar, center, son-in-law of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leaves after a court granted him bail, in Karachi, Pakistan on October 19, 2020. Pakistani police briefly detained Safdar on Monday, accusing him of leading a crowd in a chant against the military at the tomb of the country's founder.   | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan’s Sindh Police chief has deferred his leave and asked his officers to set aside their leave applications for ten days “in the larger national interest” after Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, an issue that brought the paramilitary forces and police in direct conflict in the country’s largest city.

In a series of tweets, Sindh Police said on Tuesday that the “unfortunate incident” that occurred on the night of 18/19 October caused “great heartache and resentment” within its ranks, referring to the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Sharif’s son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar.

The incident

Opposition parties have alleged that the Sindh police chief was reportedly forcibly taken away by paramilitary Frontier Corps from his home in Karachi in the wee hours of Monday and pressurised to order for the arrest of Safdar.

“As a result, IG Sindh decided to proceed on leave and subsequently all ranks decided that they would also apply for leave to protest the humiliation meted out to Sindh police. This was a spontaneous and heartfelt reaction and made on an individual rather than a collective basis, because every single member of the department felt an acute sense of disrespect,” it said.

The Sindh Police thanked Gen Bajwa for “realising the sense of hurt that prevailed within a uniformed force, and for promptly ordering an inquiry into the matter”.

“IG Sindh has decided to defer his own leave and ordered his officers to set aside their leave applications for ten days in the larger national interest, pending the conclusion of the inquiry,” it said.

The Sindh Police also thanked Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah for showing solidarity with the police leadership. The PPP is the ruling party in Sindh province.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Shah met IGP Mushtaq Mahar and other top officers to assure them that the government was with them.

“Sindh government is with its police in their difficult time. We will not let police be demoralised under any condition,” he said.

He asked the police officers to continue their duties in an objective and independent manner and said his government would try to address their grievances.

The police officers decided to delay their leave for 10-days.

Direct conflict

On Tuesday, Sindh IGP, at least two additional inspectors general, seven deputy inspectors general and six senior superintendents of police decided to go on long leave in protest over the siege of Inspector General House that brought the law enforcement agency and security establishment in direct conflict, Dawn reported.

Safdar was arrested on Monday from his hotel room in Karachi for raising slogans at the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder M.A. Jinnah just before the second rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s — an alliance of 11 Opposition parties.

He was released on bail on the same day and flew back to Lahore, but the PPP which rules the province while distancing itself from the incident wondered who had ordered the arrest of Safdar.

Controversy had already been brewing over the circumstances surrounding Safdar’s arrest, with PML-N leaders claiming that the police had been put under pressure to pick him up.

Sindh Police’s Digital Media Cell had tweeted, then deleted, then tweeted again a statement defending Safdar’s arrest, saying it was done “according to the law”, Geo TV reported.

Following the controversy, Gen Bajwa directed the Karachi Corps Commander to “immediately inquire into the circumstances to determine the facts and report back as soon as possible”.

“Taking notice of the Karachi incident, the COAS has directed Karachi Corps Commander to immediately inquire into the circumstances to determine the facts and report back as soon as possible,” a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations — the military’s media wing — said on Tuesday.

Back story

Safdar, a retired Army officer, and his wife PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz were in Karachi to attend the rally of the Opposition parties when he was arrested. Police allegedly forcibly entered their room in the hotel after breaking the latch of the door. The Opposition parties are holding nationwide protests against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The incident left the provincial PPP government red faced as the couple was their guest in Karachi.

Mr.Bilawal in a press conference said that all top officers of Sindh Police were wondering “who were the people who surrounded” the Sindh police chief’s house on Monday and took him to an unspecified location before Safdar was arrested.

He had demanded that the Army chief and the ISI chief should probe the matter as the paramilitary Frontier Corps, controlled by the Army, was accused of forcing the police to arrest Safdar.

He also demanded to know the identities of “the two people who went inside the IG’s house” at around 4 a.m.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that opposition parties were targeting institutions to create uncertainty.

“They have tried to spark a conflict between the institutions [and] are trying to create uncertainty and unrest. The people will hold them accountable for this,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:42:56 AM |

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