PML-N's vice-president Maryam Nawaz and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday claimed that retired Captain Mohammad Safdar was arrested with the aim of dividing the opposition's anti-government alliance, with Maryam saying she never thought "for even a moment" that the arrest was carried out at the Sindh government's behest.
Instead, while answering a journalist's question at a press conference in Karachi, Maryam alleged that the Sindh inspector general of police was forcibly "taken to the sector commander's office and asked to sign on the arrest orders".
She claimed that when the IGP showed reluctance, he was told that the arrest would be carried out by the Rangers. "After his signatures were forcibly taken on the arrest orders, he was told police would carry out the arrest."
Her statement came hours after an audio clip emerged on Twitter in which PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair, who was recently appointed as spokesman for PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, purportedly said that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah told him the IGP was kidnapped and forced to register the FIR against Maryam, Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's mausoleum.
Attempts by Dawn to reach the Sindh IGP's office for comment were unsuccessful.
"Police broke my room door at the hotel I was staying at in Karachi and arrested Capt Safdar," Maryam had said via a tweet early morning. According to her, she was sleeping when the police allegedly "barged in".
At the press conference, she narrated the order in which the arrest took place.
"We reached home late after the jalsa. We were sleeping when early in the morning I thought I heard someone's door being knocked on loudly. I woke up my husband and said the loud knocks were on our door.
"Safdar opened the door and police were standing outside who said we are here to arrest you. Safdar told them he'll change and take his medicine, since he is diabetic, but they broke down the door and came inside.
"Safdar asked them to not enter since I [his wife] was inside but they did and arrested him," she said.
The government is trying to give the impression that the Sindh government is behind this, said Maryam, "but Bilawal had called me and he was very angry".
"Sindh chief minister also called me and said that he never expected that something like this would happen with me," said Maryam. "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 defended the slogans raised during her visit to Jinnah's mausoleum on Sunday, saying: "What is wrong with repeating Quaid-i-Azam's stance at his mausoleum? What is wrong with Madar-i-Millat (mother of the nation) slogans? No one chanted slogans for Nawaz Sharif or me."
Citing a video clip, she said PTI workers had also resorted to "rowdiness" during a visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Quaid's mausoleum but they were never held accountable.
"We all know who hates the vote ko izzat do (honour the vote) slogan [...] We all know who these namaloom afraad (unidentified persons) are."
Without naming anyone, she added: "Now that you have become zameeni makhlooq from khalayi makhlooq, you will do this?"
She denied that murder threats were issued while the slogans were being raised. "There were so many people, who would have heard this threat and why would anyone threaten to kill you?" she asked.
Maryam said the complainant in the case, Waqas Ahmed Khan, "is an absconder from an anti-terrorism court".
She said Safdar had been receiving threats "from the highest levels" for a long time.
"If someone thinks they can scare Nawaz Sharif with such tactics, they are wrong. Instead of blackmailing me through my relatives, if you have the courage, come and arrest me."
She said former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf made "blunder upon blunder" towards the end of his rule and added that the PTI government's "situation will soon be the same".
"I am not angry; whatever we do, we will do after giving it proper thought. We are not in a hurry," Maryam said about her party's future course of action.
At the end of her press conference, Maryam said she and her husband would depart from Karachi together because Safdar had been granted bail.
Rehman said the manner in which the arrest was carried out was shameful. "Is this the respect for a woman in our society?"
"This is a government of force, of oppression which does not consider itself bound to the law and the Constitution," said Rehman alongside Maryam.
He said after only two public meetings by the opposition, the PTI-led government appears unnerved. "Their [PTI] days are numbered."
Rehman, who is heading PDM, said that this arrest was "done through a conspiracy to create differences between PML-N and PPP" but the government failed to create a rift between the opposition parties.
"This attack is not on Maryam but on entire PDM. Maryam is a guest of the Sindh government [...] PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has regretted this act."
Rehman claimed that the Sindh police chief, after he refused to take any action against Safdar, was "kidnapped" and "kept hostage for four hours" and made to register the first information report (FIR) against the PML-N leader.
He demanded that Safdar should be released forthwith and those who took the law in their hands should apologise.
Addressing the press conference alongside Rehman, PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said no society could allow such a "shameful" act.
He said the act of "barging into the room of members of a respectable family" while they were sleeping could not be condemned enough.
He said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was "kept uninformed" of this act, which showed the PTI government was "panicking".
According to Ashraf, Bilawal and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had expressed sadness over the incident. He said Maryam was a guest of Sindh.
He said Bilawal had asked Shah to hold a "complete investigation" into the incident, adding that the details of the inquiry will be presented before the nation.
While speaking in the Senate on Monday, former Senate chairman and PPP leader Raza Rabbani too condemned Safdar's arrest. He said it was said that the arrest was made "according to the law" but noted that the FIR against Safdar was the first case registered under the relevant law.
He said if the Sindh government and chief minister were not taken into confidence before arresting the PML-N leader, "then it is another attack on provincial autonomy".
"This is another practical step towards imposing One Unit system," Rabbani added.
Arrest after PDM rally
Early Monday morning, Captain Safdar was taken into custody by the police. According to Maryam, she was sleeping when the police allegedly "barged" into her and Safdar's hotel room.
The arrest comes after an FIR was registered against Maryam, Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of the Quaid's mausoleum. The complainant, Waqas Ahmed, alleged that the PML-N leaders, along with 200 of their followers, reached the Quaid's grave where Safdar jumped over the grill surrounding it.
Workers and supporters of PML-N accorded a historic welcome to Maryam when she arrived in the metropolis on Sunday afternoon to attend PDM's second power show.
At the public meeting, she called Prime Minister Imran a “coward” and accused him of using the armed forces for his face-saving and declaring opponents as traitors only to save his skin and hide incompetence.
With additional reporting by Nadir Guramani in Islamabad.