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The Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government on Tuesday evening averted one of the worst administrative crises after the top-ranking officers of Sindh Police decided to go on leave to protest the manner in which the force had been ‘ridiculed’ in the incident involving the arrest of Muhammad Safdar, son-in-law of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on October 19.
Safdar and wife Maryam Nawaz were attending a rally of the Opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) when he was apprehended from their hotel for allegedly disrespecting the mausoleum of Jinnah.
Violation of the sanctity of Mazar-e-Quaid
Before attending the public meeting of PDM, Maryam, along with Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar and other leaders of the party came to the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam to pay homage to the Founder of the Nation.
Safdar resorted to political sloganeering inside the mausoleum along with a large number of supporters of the PML (N) who gatecrashed and reached the heavily secured site of the final resting place of the Founder of the Nation.
Safdar chanted slogans several times along with supporters of PML (N): “Give respect to vote” that has been the most popular slogan of the party since Sharif was ousted from power in the previous regime.
Protection and Maintenance Ordinance-1971
The police lodged a case against Safdar and 200 other unidentified associates of the party for violating the provisions of “Quaid-e-Azam’s Mazar (Protection and Maintenance) Ordinance-1971”.
The ordinance, “The Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar (Protection and Maintenance) Ordinance, 1971”, prohibits all kinds of demonstrations and political activities within the premises.
It states: “No person shall organize, convene or take part in any meeting or demonstration or procession or engage in political: activity of any kind within the Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar or within a distance of ten feet from the outer boundary thereof.”
Under the ordinance, whoever contravenes any of the provisions of this ordinance shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Controversy ensued amid allegations
Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar was freed after a court granted him bail, but controversy ensued amid allegations that he was arrested by paramilitary rangers after they pressured Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mehar to sign orders for Safdar’s arrest.
The senior officers have said they want to go on earned leave “to come out of the shock of the unfortunate incident”.
The recent episode of registration of a case against Capt (R) Safdar in which police high command has not only been ridiculed and mishandled however, all ranks of Sindh police have been demoralized and shocked.
In a shock move following the recent arrest of PML-N leader retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, at least two additional inspectors general, seven deputy inspectors general and six senior superintendents of Sindh Police applied for leaves in order to “come out of… shock” caused by the “recent episode of registration of FIR against Capt (R) Safdar.”
Bilawal appeal for probe
Police decision came after PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressed a press conference, demanding 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.
The incident left the provincial government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) red-faced as the couple was their guest in Karachi where the PPP chief and Maryam had jointly addressed a political gathering against the government on Sunday night.
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 in the early hours of Monday and took him to an unspecified location before Safdar was arrested.
He also demanded to know the identities of “the two people who went inside the IG’s house” and where they allegedly took the police chief at around 4:00 am.
COAS Bajwa orders inquiry
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has taken notice of the arrest of PML-N leader retired Capt Mohammad Safdar in Karachi and order an “immediate inquiry” in the matter.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a statement said COAS Bajwa has directed the Karachi Corps Commanders to “immediately inquire into the circumstances to determine the facts and report back as soon as possible.”
Later, the Army chief also called Bilawal over the telephone to discuss the Karachi incident, according to a tweet by the PPP.
The Chairman PPP expressed his appreciation to the COAS for taking prompt notice of the Karachi incident and his assurance of conducting a transparent inquiry on the incident, it added.
Sindh IG defers leave
Later, Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar has deferred his own leave and ordered his officers to set aside their leave applications for ten days, shared Sindh police late Tuesday night, adding that the decision was taken in the larger national interest and pending the conclusion of the inquiry into how the arrest of PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar unfolded.
Sindh police said it was “immensely grateful to the Army Chief for realizing the sense of hurt that prevailed within a uniformed force, and for promptly ordering an inquiry into the matter which he has also assured will be impartial”.
“Sindh police has always been a disciplined force which beliefs in institutional harmony between all key national institutions.
Safdar’s arrest must be thoroughly investigated
THE circumstances surrounding retired Capt Mohammed Safdar’s arrest must be thoroughly investigated and the findings made known. For if there is any truth to the version increasingly gaining credence, it indicates that the rule of law in this country is in absolute peril.
The episode has certainly been a huge embarrassment to the Sindh government. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari denounced the arrest as a sad and shameful act and some PPP leaders such as Saeed Ghani tweeted that the provincial government had nothing to do with it.
The Sindh chief minister in a press conference yesterday attempted to shed some light on the episode, but only succeeded in muddying the picture even further.
In fact, the development caused extreme bitterness among the police officers who retaliated by submitting a leave of absence.
The senior police officers were extremely annoyed and upset with the way their IGP was treated. They warned that they could tender resignations if it is for their dignity.
The nation expects that justice will be done to Sindh Police so that morale and administrative autonomy of police may be reinforced for all times to come.