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Calls Mount for Judicial Notice of ‘Karachi Incident’

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Sindh Bar Council, opposition leaders call on Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of alleged abduction of Sindh police chief

The Sindh Bar Council has joined opposition leaders in urging the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the alleged abduction of Sindh’s top cop to address the implications the situation poses for the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country.

In a resolution issued on Wednesday, the elected body of lawyers in Sindh province said it was “shocked” at reports of Sindh Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Mahar being abducted from his residence “by Rangers/agencies” and forced to issue orders for the arrest of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Mohammad Safdar.

“Till now, this report has not been contradicted by the relevant authority and has been tacitly confirmed by the Sindh government,” it said, adding the leave applications submitted by dozens of senior police officers over the demoralization of the force due to this incident was a sign of “complete breakdown of the rule of law and an undeclared martial law.”

The Bar Council regretted that the judiciary had remained a “silent spectator in the face of this creeping martial law,” noting that it was rather being seen as a facilitator of elements seeking extra-constitutional roles. “For several years now, Bars throughout Pakistan (and a handful of bold judges) have been protesting against the interference by covert agencies/establishment in judicial affairs. However, unlike the Sindh police, the judiciary is yet to take a strong stance against such interference,” it added.

Calling upon Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to “urgently” take suo motu notice of the ongoing crisis and fix it for hearing before a full court bench, the Bar Council said it feels that unless this trend of “military interference in civil and judicial administration is immediately reversed, it will permanently damage the public reputation and trust, not only in the government and the judiciary of Pakistan, but also the beloved Armed Forces of Pakistan.”

Opposition calls

The Sindh Bar Council’s concerns have also been voiced by opposition leaders, who have said the judiciary must take notice of the looming constitutional crisis.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, speaking to reporters in London, said he felt the “respected judiciary should take notice and that they are capable of taking suo motu notice against such actions [Karachi incident].”

While he did not specifically cite the alleged abduction of Sindh’s IGP, Sharif lauded the provincial police force for registering their protest against the alleged over-reach by the security establishment. “These actions are out of pure anger and revenge. Why? Because I am speaking the truth about these ‘state above the state’ policies that have hurt Pakistan,” he said.

Senior PMLN leader Ahsan Iqbal has also claimed that the incident is “of a very serious nature.” He told a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday that if the Supreme Court were to take suo motu notice of it and confirm the federal government’s role in it, it could even lead to the sacking of the entire government.

On Thursday, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also hit out at the judiciary’s “silence,” questioning how a constitutional crisis had been ignored by a Supreme Court that had earlier ousted elected prime ministers through suo motu notices.

Early on Oct. 19, Sindh Police took Safdar, the husband of PMLN Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, into custody over a case of “attempted murder” and “violating the sanctity of Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum.” He was released on bail 11 hours later, but the incident provoked a national crisis after it emerged that Sindh’s top cop had allegedly been abducted and forced to sign off on the arrest orders. While the incumbent government’s ministers were earlier seen threatening the police with penalties if they did not register the case, they have since sought to distance themselves, claiming the situation has been “concocted” by the opposition.

The opposition maintains that the government is reacting to the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement’s anti-government rallies and is trying to pressure it into abandoning the movement.

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