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Sindh Police Rise in Defiance Against ‘Abduction’ of Chief in Pak

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Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar was allegedly abducted and made to sign the arrest warrant for Captain (retd) Safdar Awan.

A serious controversy has broken out in Pakistan after an Inspector General of Police (IGP) was allegedly forced into ordering the arrest of Captain (retd) Safdar Awan, the husband of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, for chanting slogans at the tomb of the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi.

The Arrest

On 19 September, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that her husband and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, retired Captain Muhammad Safdar had been arrested from a hotel in Karachi.

The arrest came just hours after the PML(N) Vice President criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government at a massive rally of People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) – an alliance of 11 opposition political parties which have joined hands to challenge the Imran Khan government backed by the Pakistan Army. He was later released on bail.

The ‘Abduction’

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has ordered an inquiry into Safdar Awan’s arrest after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari questioned the army and the ISI about the incident in a tweet.

Pakistani media quoted Bilawal alleging that the Sindh Police chief was abducted by Pakistan Army and its intelligence wing for a few hours before Safdar Awan was arrested. Bilawal insinuated that Pakistan military had pressurised the Sindh Police to act against Safdar Awan.

The Dawn newspaper reported that a purported voice message by PML(N) leader and former Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair was shared by a journalist in which Zubair alleged that the Sindh Inspector General of Police, Mushtaq Mahar, was kidnapped and forced to register an FIR against Maryam, her husband Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum.

The Defiance

The incident has sparked anger among the police ranks as Sindh Police have announced protests while about a dozen officers, including the IGP, have rendered their leave requests for a month.

The leave applications submitted by Sindh Police officers to IGP Mahar said that it had become hard for them to “discharge duties in a professional manner” due to the stress caused by Safdar’s arrest.

“The recent episode of registration of FIR against Capt (R) Safdar in which the police high command has not only been ridiculed and mishandled, but all ranks of Sindh Police have been demoralised and shocked. In such stressful situation, it is quite difficult for me to discharge my duty in a professional manner,” the letters read.

After the sudden leave requests from senior police officers from across the Sindh province, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah reassured the government’s support to the Sindh Police at every stage.

Later, IGP Mahar decided to defer his own leave and ordered his officers to set aside their leave applications for 10 days.

In a tweet, the Sindh police said the decision was taken “in the larger national interest” and pending the conclusion of the inquiry into how the arrest of PML(N) leader Safdar unfolded.

The Politics

Maryam Nawaz, on 20 October, claimed that her husband’s arrest was aimed at dividing the opposition’s anti-government alliance.

“Don’t blackmail me through my family and people around me. Come arrest me if you have courage,” The Express Tribune quoted Maryam as saying at a presser.

“Sindh chief minister also called me and said that he never expected that something like this would happen with me. I never thought even for a moment that PPP was behind this… They (PTI) thought they can drive a wedge between PDM – we know things like this would happen, we are ready as well,” she added.

Exiled former Pakistan PM Sharif on Wednesday, had said, “Two parallel governments are controlling Pakistan. People should know who picked up the (Sindh Police) IG, who made him register the FIR and who made the police to arrest Safdar.”

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