The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Tuesday said that officials of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, involved in the "Karachi incident" have been removed pending further departmental proceedings for acting "overzealously".
In a statement, the military's media affairs wing said that the court of inquiry constituted to redress the grievances of the Sindh inspector general, on the orders of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, has been completed.
"The court of inquiry has established that on the night of Oct 18/Oct 19, officers from Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) and ISI sector Headquarters Karachi were considerably seized with the fall out of the desecration of Mazar-e-Quaid.
"They were under increasing public pressure to ensure prompt action as per the law. Assessing the response of police authorities against this developing yet volatile situation to be slow and wanting, in a charged environment, the concerned officers decided to act, rather overzealously," the ISPR statement said.
"They were indeed experienced enough to have acted more prudently and could have avoided creating an unwarranted situation that led to the misunderstanding between the two state institutions.
"Based on the recommendations of the court of inquiry, it has been decided to remove the concerned officers from their current assignments for further departmental proceedings and disposal at GHQ," the statement added.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who had urged Gen Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of PML-N leader retired Capt Mohammad Safdar in Karachi last month, welcomed the development.
While addressing a public meeting in Gulmit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Bilawal said: "I have received good news that the chief of army staff [ordered] an inquiry, that inquiry has been completed and action has also been taken. We should welcome this step."
He went on to say that such steps "lead to an increase in the integrity of institutions".
"The democratic way is that whenever there is a mistake, it should be probed and if someone has committed a mistake, action should be taken against them," he said. "We hope that this is a beginning and we will take this forward. We will have to work together for the democratic system and for Pakistan."
Last month, the ISPR said the Army chief had taken notice of and ordered an immediate inquiry into the "Karachi incident".
At the time, the ISPR did not specify which incident it was referring to. However, the statement came minutes after PPP chief Bilawal called on Gen Bajwa and ISI Director General Faiz Hameed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of PML-N leader retired Capt Mohammad Safdar in Karachi.
On October 19, Safdar, who was staying at a Karachi hotel with his wife — PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz — was arrested for "violating the sanctity of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's mausoleum" a day after the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had staged a rally in the city.
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 Quaid's mausoleum.
In the audio clip circulating on Twitter, Zubair said that Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah confirmed to him that police was pressured into making the arrest. "When they (police) refused to do that, Rangers kidnapped [the IGP]," Zubair had said.
Maryam had also alleged that the Sindh police chief was forcibly "taken to the sector commander's office and asked to sign on the arrest orders".
The Sindh chief minister had addressed a press conference later and said that a ministerial committee would investigate the mysterious "circumstances" that led to the early morning raid on Maryam's hotel room and arrest of her husband, but defended the police action against Safdar once an FIR had been lodged against him.
However, the presser had failed to convince the police hierarchy that was in low morale following the episode and had applied for leaves en masse. Later, Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar had decided to defer his own leave for 10 days and ordered his officers to do the same after Gen Bajwa took notice of the incident, spoke to Bilawal over the phone and promised an immediate inquiry.
At the start of the month, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had said that the inquiry into the "alleged abduction" of the Sindh inspector general and additional inspector general, and the "storming of Maryam's room" had not been made public despite Gen Bajwa's "personal assurance".
"Does this nation have the right to know the reasons for delay? The matter wasn’t so complicated to have taken more than few hours," he had said on Twitter.
FIR was 'fake', police tell court
On Monday, police had declared the FIR registered against Safdar for 'violating the sanctity' of the Quaid's mausoleum as fake in the charge sheet submitted to a local court in Karachi.
The investigation report concluded that neither the complainant, Waqas Khan, nephew of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Haleem Adil Sheikh, joined the investigation nor was the veracity of his claims established during the probe, which showed that he was not present at the mausoleum when the alleged offence took place.
According to the FIR, Safdar, Maryam and a cohort of their supporters violated the sanctity of the mausoleum by creating a ruckus and chanting fiery political slogans inside. They were also accused of intimidating people.
Govt wonders whether Sindh will take action against 'mutiny'
Asked about the ISPR announcement at a press conference later in the day, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the government appreciated that the Pakistan Armed Forces' "self-discipline and self-accountability" came into action and they removed two officers over the incident.
He said the matter would not have become so "complicated", and the Rangers would not have had to get involved, if the FIR of the incident had been registered on time.
But he said the Sindh government too had to answer whether it would hold an inquiry against the provincial police chief and other officers who staged "a sort of mutiny".
Faraz further said after the armed forces had taken their decision in a timely manner, "it our duty on the civilian side to set the example that what is wrong, is wrong."
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi also asked in a tweet whether after the military's action, the Government of Sindh will "take any action against police officers involved in the 'mutiny' of submitting [en masse] resignations or will [it] sleep as usual?"
He said it was high time for police reforms in Sindh, "but I expect nothing from the criminals ruling Sindh as they have been historically involved in protecting criminals & looting public money!"