Govt, opposition trade blame over ‘Karachi incident’

Updated 22 Oct 2020

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Minister for Information Shibli Faraz addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — APP
Minister for Information Shibli Faraz addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Continuing their war of words on the Karachi incident, the government and the opposition on Wednesday accused each other of bringing state institutions face to face only to achieve political gains.

Two key federal ministers alleged that the Sindh government was behind the whole incident whereas the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had once again dragged the army into politics and created a confrontation between the Centre and the province.

The opposition leaders also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Imran Khan over the whole issue which, according to them, forced Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to intervene and order an inquiry.

“This was basically the responsibility of the prime minister. He is nowhere. The whole Sindh police are getting demoralised.... Can I say that the prime minister is intentionally doing it as his party is not in the government in the province,” said PDM vice president and senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Raja Pervez Ashraf at a news conference after presiding over a meeting of the PDM.

PDM leaders question PM’s silence over issue; minister sees ‘sinister role’ of Sindh government in episode

Mr Ashraf said that since the COAS had made a timely intervention and promised to come out with the inquiry report within 10 days, they had decided not to lodge their protest over the incident and wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

Interestingly, when Mr Ashraf said that they would not lodge a protest over the issue, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) leader Akram Durrani announced that they would continue to highlight the issue and would raise it at the upcoming public meeting in Quetta on Oct 25.

Mr Durrani said they could not sweep the issue under the carpet and would talk about it at the Quetta public meeting and find out a way to lodge their protest over it.

PDM secretary general and senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said both the Pakistan Rangers and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) functioned under the prime minister and reported to him. He said the prime minister should have talked to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah soon after the incident and made an attempt to know the facts.

Mr Abbasi said it was after a complete silence from the Centre that finally PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had to make an appeal to the army chief and the ISI head to intervene and the COAS immediately responded and talked to Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

“The Centre has attacked the province. This is not a minor issue. What if the provincial police force had opened fire on the Rangers? Who had ordered the Rangers to kidnap the IGP?” asked Mr Abbasi, terming it a “dangerous move” by the Centre.

Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal on the occasion said the incident was so serious that if the Supreme Court took a suo motu notice of it, the federal government could be sacked.

The emergency meeting of the PDM was presided over by Mr Ashraf in the absence of its president Maulana Fazlur Rehman who was not present in Islamabad.

PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that the Sindh IG was abducted for the sole purpose of raiding Maryam Nawaz’s room and, therefore, any investigation excluding answers to this incident would be incomplete and inconsequential. She demanded that those found guilty apologise to the daughters of the entire nation, including Maryam Nawaz, and this fact be made part of the report.

Ms Aurangzeb said if the Constitution, law and its enforcers could not protect Maryam Nawaz, no woman in Pakistan was safe. “The nation wants to know who did this horrendous act on whose directives and why,” she added.

Hours after the PDM leaders’ meeting and presser, federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said he saw a “sinister role” of the Sindh government in the incident. He criticised the opposition for “shifting the war against their corruption towards the institutions”, saying the nation would hold the alliance accountable for their stance.

The minister said the opposition parties had politicised the issue which had made Pakistan a laughing stock internationally. “They (opposition) have tried to spark conflict among the institutions [and] are trying to create uncertainty and unrest. The people will hold them accountable for this,” he added.

Condemning the “drama” staged at the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum by Mohammad Safdar, he regretted that instead of denouncing it, the PPP had made it a political incident. The manner in which the Sindh government reacted to Mr Safdar’s arrest and the move later by Mr Bhutto-Zardari to convince top Sindh police officers to defer their leaves over the episode, he said, “shows that the Sindh government apparently played quite a sinister role” in the incident.

The minister rejected Maryam Nawaz’s claim that the police had broken their room’s door at their hotel to arrest her spouse Safdar.

Referring to the PDM’s anti-government movement, he said the opposition had united only to protect their interests and “sabotage their future accountability”.

Mr Faraz also made Ms Nawaz and Mr Bhutto-Zardari target of his criticism, saying they were in politics because of their families and inheritance. He said Maryam Nawaz considered herself as Benazir Bhutto.

“Benazir was a highly educated woman of class. Only clothes, shoes and make-up will not cut it; if you talk about the people you will have to live like them,” he said.

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted there was no doubt that the Sindh police officers had made the decision to go on protest leave after getting a signal from Bilawal House in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020