PML-N supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday termed the report of the inquiry carried out by the army into the events leading up to and following the arrest of his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar in Karachi as a "cover-up", saying the report was "rejected".
"Inquiry report on Karachi incident is a cover-up scapegoating juniors and shielding the real culprits. Report “Rejected”," the ousted premier tweeted.
No other leader from the PML-N has commented on the party's official stance on the report. However Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the spokesperson of the opposition's Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, termed the development in the inquiry "a victory of the democratic forces".
In a statement, he said the PDM had demanded that the inquiry be made conclusive. "Now those responsible should be brought to justice. PDM will hold further consultations in this regard," he added.
Meanwhile, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, whose party is also part of the 11-party alliance and who had urged Gen Bajwa to investigate the incident, welcomed the development as "good news".
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."
Nawaz's comment comes hours after the military's media wing announced that officials of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, involved in the "Karachi incident" had been removed pending further departmental proceedings for acting "overzealously".
"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," an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.
The concerned officers "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", it added.
The announcement was made after 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 was completed, according to the ISPR.
Nawaz's use of the term "rejected" in his tweet is an apparent reference to the April 29, 2017, tweet sent out by former ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor which had "rejected" the directives issued by the Prime Minister's Office when Nawaz was the premier regarding an inquiry report concerning a story published in daily Dawn. The story reported the details of a high-level civil-military meeting.
The following month, the Pakistan Army had "withdrawn" the tweet, saying it had become infructuous.
Fall out of Safdar arrest
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 Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on Gen Bajwa and ISI Director General Faiz Hameed to investigate the circumstances of Safdar's arrest in Karachi last month.
On October 19, PML-N leader 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 Sindh 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 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 failed to convince the police hierarchy that was in low morale following the episode and which applied for leaves en masse. Later, Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar 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.
'It was never a comedy'
The announcement by the military's media affairs wing of the removal of officers over the Safdar arrest saga elicited a variety of responses from journalist and analysts.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas, apparently referring to the PTI leadership terming the alleged abduction of the Sindh IG as a "comedy", tweeted: "It was never a comedy what happened on Oct 19th with IGP, Sindh. Army inquiry just confirmed that some officers did [cross] their red line. PTI government put itself in an embarrassing position."
Journalist and former Dawn editor Abbas Nasir said Bilawal had asked the army and ISI chiefs to hold an inquiry, adding that "he has had his wish granted."
Activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir in a tweet said the alleged desecration of the Quaid's mausoleum "is no excuse to act where one has no jurisdiction otherwise all citizens will take [the] law in their hands, stating that police response was 'slow & wanting'".
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi 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?"
Journalist and TV host Zarrar Khuhro said he was wondering "where all the many tweeps who were so sure this was a 'drama' done by Sindh police are".
Journalist Talat Hussain commented that the ISPR statement had "informed the nation that the incident involving the Sindh IG and his senior associate had, in fact, taken place".
"But the prime minister was saying this matter was a 'drama'. Sir, what is this confusion?" he wrote.
With additional reporting by Javed Hussain in Islamabad.