• PDM condemns raid on hotel room
• Says IG ‘kidnapped, forced to sign’ arrest order
• Sees PTI govt behind move
• Bail granted to PML-N leader in FIR lodged by an absconder in terror case
• Bilawal says arrest against traditions of Sindh
KARACHI: Just hours after the massive power show of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Bagh-i-Jinnah, the political battle between the federal government and opposition parties turned ugly on Monday morning when police raided the hotel room of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president and arrested her husband, putting the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) administration in Sindh into an awkward position that distanced itself from the move before the 11-party alliance unanimously held the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led Centre responsible for it.
The PDM leaders alleged that it was an attempt by the federal government and its agencies, which “kidnapped the provincial police chief and forced him into signing the arrest order” for PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar on charges of vandalising at Jinnah’s mausoleum and hurling murder threats at some individuals.
The daylong episode, with several turns and twists, came to a close with a court granting bail to him and the disclosure at a press conference in the evening that the complainant of the case against Mr Safdar was himself wanted to police in a last year terrorism case.
The early morning raid on the room of Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Capt Safdar at a hotel, off Sharea Faisal, by the law enforcement agency set off a political storm shortly after she broke the news of the raid and arrest of her husband by the police in the PPP-ruled Sindh. “Police broke my room door at the hotel I was staying at in Karachi and arrested Capt. Safdar,” Ms Nawaz tweeted.
While the brief tweet came as a shock to many, all component parties of the democratic alliance, including the PPP, decided to stick to their aggressive stance against the PTI government. Due to its administrative control of police in Sindh, the PPP came under spotlight as it joined the opposition’s stance and condemned the arrest.
The PML-N vice president in her tweet also shared a short video of their hotel room, showing the door latch and lock broken.
However, the Sindh police in the evening tweeted: “The arrest of Captain (retd) Safdar was done according to law and the investigation will be impartial. Due process will be followed in all respect”.
According to the content of the FIR registered on a complaint of one Waqas Ahmed Khan, he (Capt. Safdar) was arrested on charges of violating sanctity of the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, damaging official property there and allegedly threatening the complainant with dire consequences. Around 200 other people were also booked in the case lodged at the Brigade police station.
According to the FIR copy reviewed by Dawn, the complainant said: “My plea is that the police should initiate legal proceedings against Capt. Safdar and 200 others over charges of violating sanctity of the premises of Quaid-i-Azam, insulting his grave, raising political slogans inside its premises, threatening me of killing and damaging official property.”
While Mr Safdar was booked by the Brigade police station in Karachi cantonment area, he was moved to the Aziz Bhatti police station in Gulshan-i-Iqbal for undeclared reasons. After more than eight hours, the PML-N leader was produced in an armoured vehicle before the judicial magistrate east who approved his bail in “violating the sanctity of Mazar-e-Quaid” case and instructed him to submit surety bonds worth Rs100,000.
As dust settled and facts started emerging amid all the speculations and media noise, the top leadership of the PPP, which governs Sindh, came up with the condemnation of Mr Safdar’s arrest and showed solidarity with the League.
Action against traditions of Sindh: Bilawal
“We strongly condemn the arrest [of Capt Safdar’s],” said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a brief statement after contacting Ms Nawaz over phone. He said: “The Sindh government was kept unaware about the action and the arrest.
“This is a sad and shameful act. We show full support and solidarity with Maryam Nawaz. The way arrest was made, it’s against the tradition of Sindh. The chief minister has been asked to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.”
His thoughts were seconded by her, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and other opposition alliance leaders, who gathered at a local hotel in second half of the day and held a press conference to denounce the arrest, to warn the PTI government and to level serious allegations against Prime Minister Imran Khan and the security establishment. At the presser, too, the PPP leadership condemned the arrest and showed unawareness about the police action. Maulana Fazl and Ms Nawaz took a step forward to “expose” the forces behind the entire episode.
The PDM president termed the move an attack on the “respect of the political leadership” and said Ms Nawaz was not alone in this battle. He exonerated the PPP leadership and its government from the raid on the hotel and arrest of Mr Safdar and explained how it unfolded.
“When the Inspector General of [Sindh Police] denies to take any action against him [Mr Safdar] the former was kidnapped, kept hostage in the office of a powerful force for four hours and was forced to register an FIR [against the PML-N leader],” he said before asking the media to determine who actually was running the government.
Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and senior leader, who was representing the PPP in the presser, agreed with the Maualana. He said: “She [Ms Nawaz] is our guest.. our sister.. our daughter. The people around Pakistan know that how the people of Sindh respect their guest, daughter and sister. They can go to any extent to protect their honour, life and property. We are really ashamed of what has happened to her. It’s condemnable and cannot be tolerated.”
Sitting along with Balochistan National Party leader Akhtar Mengal and Awami National Party’s Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Ms Nawaz said she had got further details about the arrest of her husband as he directly shared more facts with her.
“I never thought even for a moment that the PPP was behind this,” she said in reply to a question. She said: “Maulana Sahab has already explained but I can give further detail along with the names. The Sindh IGP was forcibly taken to a sector commander’s office and asked to sign the arrest order. When the IG sahab showed reluctance, he was told that the arrest would be carried out by the Rangers. After his signatures were forcibly taken on the arrest order, he was told that police would make the arrest.”
Earlier sharing the details of her husband’s arrest, she said the door of their hotel room was banged repeatedly in the early hours of the morning, waking them up. As her husband opened the door, she said, some policemen informed him about his arrest order and he requested them to let him change and take his medicine but they broke open the door. “Safdar asked them to let him change and take his medicine, since he is diabetic, but they broke the door lock and latchet and came inside. Safdar asked them to wait outside and not to enter the bedroom as I [his wife] was inside but they did [not care] and arrested him,” said Ms Nawaz.
She said an impression was created to show that the PPP-led Sindh government was behind all this. “But Bilawal called me and he was very angry [at the police action]. Similarly, Sindh chief minister also called me and said he never expected that like this would happen to us. I never thought even for a moment that PPP was behind this.
“They [the PTI government] thought they can drive a wedge between the PDM [member parties]. We know things like this would happen. We are prepared as well.”
Slogans at mausoleum
Also defending her husband for the slogans raised during their visit to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum on Sunday, Ms Nawaz asked what was wrong in that gesture. “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 myself. We all know who hates the vote ko izzat do (honour the vote) slogan. We all know who these namaloom afraad (unidentified persons) are.”
The PML vice president said the so-called murder threats by her husband to any individual at the Mazar-i-Quaid was a ‘ridiculous’ charge at a crowded place where one couldn’t hear the other person’s voice amid so much hustle bustle.
To strengthen her arguments, she came up with details of the complainant of the newly registered FIR against her husband.
She said: “The complainant Waqas Ahmed Khan is already an absconder of terrorism court who was booked [in terrorism case] in 2019 by the Site Superhighway police.”
As she wondered, “Didn’t they find any clean man to register such ridiculous and baseless case?” the response came from Maulana Fazl sitting beside her: “Jaldi Mai Aisa Hee Hota Hai [in haste only such arrangements are possible].”
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2020