Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar has decided to defer 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.
In a shock move following Safdar's arrest on Monday morning, Sindh IGP, at least two additional inspectors general, seven deputy inspectors general and six senior superintendents of Sindh police on Tuesday applied for leave in order to "come out of […] shock" caused by the "episode of registration of FIR against Capt (R) Safdar".
According to the applications — all of which were identical — submitted to IGP Mahar, the officials said that it had become hard for them to "discharge [their] 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 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.
Following the string of leave applications, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Safdar and "investigate your institution [and] how it is operating in this province".
Moments later, Gen Bajwa took notice of the incident and also spoke to Bilawal over the phone. Bilawal, accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, visited the IG to smooth over matters.
Sindh police, late Tuesday night, tweeted: "The unfortunate incident that occurred on the night of 18/19 October caused great heartache and resentment within all ranks of Sindh police.
"As a result, Sindh IG 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."
Sindh police said it was "immensely grateful to the Army Chief for realising 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". The force said it was also grateful to Bilawal and Sindh CM "for coming to the IG House and showing solidarity with the police leadership".
"Sindh police has always been a disciplined force which believes in institutional harmony between all key national institutions and has always been cognisant of its responsibility to serve and protect the citizens of this province and thus, keeping this in mind, Sindh IG 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."
Leave en masse
Those who submitted leave applications included Special Branch AIG Imran Yaqoob, Forensic Science Division AIG Dr Samiulah Soomro Counter Terrorism Department DIG Omer Shahid Hamid, Headquarters DIG Saqib Ismail Memon, Hyderabad DIG Naeem Ahmed Shaikh, East Zone (Karachi) DIG Capt (r) Asim Khan, South Zone (Karachi) DIG Javed Akbar Riaz, Larkana DIG Nasir Aftab, Special Branch DIG Qamar-uz-Zaman and SSP Intelligence Tauqeer Muhammad Naeem, Sukkur SSP Irfan Ali Samo, Anti-Violent Crime Cell SSP Abdullah Ahmad, Badin SSP Shabir Ahmed Sethar, SSP Korangi Capt (r) Faisal Abdullah Chachar and East Zone (Karachi) SSP Sajid Amir Sudozai.
At least three station house officers (SHO) also applied for a leave of absence, citing similar reasons. According the applications submitted to their respective SSPs, the SHOs said that "media reports [...] ha(ve) demoralised all ranks".
Those who applied for a leave included Korangi SHO Inayatullah, Shahra-i-Noorjehan SHO Imdad Ali Khowaja and Tipu Sultan SHO Shahrafat Khan. Similar leave applications were also submitted by junior police officials to their superiors across Sindh.
Shortly after the news surfaced, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, in a tweet expressed her appreciation for the Sindh police.
"I salute the Sindh police!" she tweeted, alongside a quote of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Reports of kidnapping
The development comes a day after the arrest and subsequent release on bail of PML-N leader retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in Karachi.
Following Safdar's arrest, 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 inspector general of police was kidnapped and forced to register the first-information report against Maryam, her husband Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of the Quaid's mausoleum.
In the audio clip circulating on Twitter, Zubair purportedly said that Chief Minister Murad Shah confirmed to him that police was pressured into making the arrest. "When they (police) refused to do that, Rangers kidnapped [the IGP]," Zubair said.
PML-N vice president Maryam had also 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."
The allegation was denied by Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi as "nonsense narrative".
Earlier today, CM Shah addressed a press conference where he said the police "did their work" and acted in "accordance with the law" to book and later arrest PML-N leader Safdar in Karachi.
On October 18 — the day of the rally hosted by PPP in Karachi — Safdar had visited the Quaid's mausoleum along with party workers and Maryam, where he jumped inside the perimeter of the founder's resting place and raised slogans, a move that had drawn widespread criticism.
The next day, he was arrested by police from his hotel room on charges of violating the sanctity of Jinnah’s mausoleum and hurling murder threats at some individuals. Safdar was later released on bail.
The arrest drew widespread criticism from the opposition and some leaders of the PDM, including Maryam, had claimed in a presser after Safdar's arrest that the move was an attempt to enforce cracks among the opposition by the federal government and its agencies. The PPP administration, which was left in an awkward position, distanced itself from the move.