An anti-corruption unit from Karachi detained Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh in Lahore, spokesperson of the Lahore police said, hours after the PTI said he was arrested by "plain-clothed" men "in the middle of the night" from Punjab's capital.
Lahore police spokesperson Syed Mubashir confirmed the development to Dawn.com, saying that Lahore police had assisted the Anti Corruption Establishment in the exercise. But the arrest was not made by Lahore police and Haleem was in the ACE's custody.
Earlier, PTI secretary general Asad Umar said on Twitter that Sheikh was arrested by "plain-clothed men in the middle of the night". "This is not even arrest. It is kidnapping. No rule of law left in the country. This situation is a test for both bar and bench, media and human rights groups," he said.
Umar's tweet followed multiple posts on social media by Haleem's daughter, Ayesha Haleem, who said the incident occurred at 3:30am. She also shared video clips. Dawn.com has not been able to verify the clips independently.
In a video statement on Twitter, Ayesha said: "I don't know whether this is an arrest or a kidnapping, as there was no warrant. Neither his lawyers nor his family knows of his whereabouts."
She added that Haleem had indicated multiple times, particularly during the last week, that there was a threat to his life. "He had written letters to relevant authorities, including the chief justice of Pakistan, telling them that there was a threat to his life and that he had received information that plans had been devised to take him into custody and cause him harm."
Ayesha alleged 20 to 25 police mobile units were stationed around their residence during the last week and monitoring people, as well as Haleem's whereabouts. She added that the mobile vans included vehicles that were part of the Chief Minister House's security detail. Moreover, she continued, "there were individuals in civilian clothes, many of whom had criminal backgrounds".
"Maybe the Peoples Party (PPP) sent its jiyalas — God knows what. But what I want to highlight is that right now, we don't know where Haleem Adil Sheikh is, who took him away, and what is his condition. For the past three-and-a-half hours, nobody knows anything about his whereabouts," Ayesha said.
"If there is any authority left in this country that can enforce the law and protect human rights, can it tell me where is my father? Who took him away? Whether he is safe? How may we talk to him? How can his legal team meet him? What's his crime?"
She alleged Haleem had been "politically victimised" by the Sindh government in the past as well as he had been "exposing" them. She recounted that he was booked under terrorism charges a month ago and the time of the offence mentioned was when Haleem was visiting a television channel for a live programme.
"If he goes to cast his vote in the election, a case is registered against him," she added. "So I just want to ask is there any law, is there anyone who is left to see what's happening in this country."
In a subsequent tweet, she said the Lahore police had denied arresting Haleem.
"Lahore police say ... they have no idea where he is and that they do not know of any plans for his arrest," she said. So i ask #WhereIsHaleemAdil and WHO TOOK HIM."
She elaborated that the family had contacted the Gulberg police station in Lahore, from whose jurisdiction Haleem was taken away. "The police officer laughed at our faces and said he has no idea where @HaleemAdil [is] and that they have no information about the arrest," she tweeted.
In separate tweets, Ayesha reiterated Haleem "has been very clear that Sindh police have plans to TAKE HIS LIFE IN CUSTODY. They have already gotten him beaten up in jail before and this time my father even wrote to IG, Add IC, CJ Sindh and CJ Pakistan indicating the threats to his life".
She also stressed that Haleem could not be arrested without the permission of Sindh Assembly speaker as he was the leader of the opposition in the house.
"Also, what arrests are made in the middle of the night without any warrants by people in civilian clothes?! Is this an arrest or a kidnapping!?" she further questioned.
Plea filed for Haleem's recovery
Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the Lahore High Court for Haleem's recovery by Advocate Amir Saeed Rawn.
The Punjab inspector general of police and others have been made respondents in the plea, which states that men in plain clothes had picked up Haleem in Lahore on Tuesday night.
Police had been approached, yet there was no update on Haleem's whereabouts, the plea said, adding that the PTI leader had not been presented before any court until now.
The court was requested in the plea to issue directives for presenting Haleem before the LHC.
Following Ayesha's statement, several PTI leaders condemned the alleged picking up of Haleem.
Former Sindh governor Imran Ismail said Haleem had already said there was a threat to his life. "He made it clear that he was facing danger by the Sindh government."
He said while it was not made apparent that Haleem had been arrested, "we suspect that criminals from the Sindh government kidnapped him".
Ismail said Sindh government would be responsible in case of any harm to Haleem.
Separately in a tweet, Ismail described Haleem's "arrest" as "tactics of dictatorship".
"We are not being told where Haleem bhai is. His crime is that he spoke the truth, which the incumbent imported [government] cannot tolerate. Courts and institutions should deliver justice".
PTI MPA Raja Azhar said in a statement that "we have been subjected to cruel actions since the day new government came to power".
"[We are] harassed after being falsely accused of corruption and encroachment. We will not allow the thuggery of the Sindh and Punjab government," he said, adding that Haleem's crime was that he raised voice for the vulnerable in Sindh.
Azhar said both Sindh and Punjab government would be responsible in case of any harm to Haleem.
PTI parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Khurram Sher Zaman, in his condemnation, apparently made an allusion to the Sharif and Bhutto families, saying that the "meaning of politics for two families was revenge".
He claimed that the two families had subjected Haleem to revenge, adding that a trend of not questioning corruption was being set in the country.
"Hamza Shehbaz and Murad Ali Shah are cut from the same cloth. If the Sindh government cannot take criticism, it should let go of the province," Zaman said, urging the chief justice of Pakistan to take immediate notice of the incident.