ISPR announces probe after PPP chairman calls on COAS, ISI DG to investigate reports of harassment of the Sindh IGP
Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday night took notice of the alleged abuse of Sindh’s top cop and ordered an immediate inquiry into the incident, according to a statement issued by the military’s media wing.
The Chief of the Army Staff has directed the Karachi Corps Commander to “immediately inquire into the circumstances to determine the facts and report back as soon as possible,” read the statement, which did not specify the “incident” that was to be probed.
The statement was issued within minutes of Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urging the Army chief, as well as Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, to investigate reports of the Sindh inspector general of police being pressured into arresting Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s Mohammad Safdar after the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s Karachi rally. The press conference was prompted by police officers across Sindh submitting leave applications and refusing to continue working to protest harassment and demoralizing of their institution.
The PPP confirmed the inquiry in a posting on Twitter. It said that Gen. Bajwa had called Bhuto-Zardari and discussed the Karachi incident. “The chairman PPP expressed his appreciation to the COAS for taking prompt notice of the Karachi incident and his assurance of conducting a transparent inquiry on the incident,” it said.
On Monday, Sindh police arrested PMLN Vice-President Maryam Nawaz’s husband, Mohammad Safdar, over an attempted murder case that many in the government tried to portray as police action against him raising slogans at Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum. The complainant was later revealed to be a PTI worker who is himself a proclaimed offender in a terrorism case and who, according to the Sindh chief minister, was not even at the mausoleum during Maryam’s visit according to phone records.
After the arrest, a voice recording started circulating on social media in which a man, purportedly PMLN leader Mohammad Zubair, can be heard claiming that Sindh’s inspector general of police was kidnapped and forced to register the FIR against PMLN leaders and arrest Safdar. These claims were echoed by Maryam Nawaz and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl)’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who claimed the IG was told that once he approved the arrest orders, paramilitary Rangers would fulfill them.
Government ministers have maintained this is a “fake” narrative.
In his press conference on Tuesday evening, the PPP chairman said all top officers of Sindh Police were wondering “who had surrounded” the inspector general of police’s house early on Monday morning and ‘abducted’ him to an unknown location prior to Safdar’s arrest.
Condemning the manner in which a First Information Report was registered against Safdar and other PMLN leaders and workers, Bhutto-Zardari said the arrest had shamed him. He also demanded to know the identities of “the two people who went inside the IG’s house” and where he had been taken.
“I call on DG ISI Faiz Hameed and Chief of Army Staff Gen Bajwa to investigate your institution; how it is operating in this province,” he said, adding that the provincial government was also conducting its own inquiry, as already announced by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
He also stressed that the rumors could damage the armed forces’ “institutional integrity” and should be clarified. “There should be some red lines, which are not to be crossed,” he said. “I think many red lines were crossed in this incident which should not become a precedent,” he added.
Promising that the Sindh government would ensure a probe into the incident, he said Sindh Police officers were “resigning or going on leave” because the incident had become a “question of their honor.” He said it was “unacceptable” for police to be respected, adding that no interference in their duties would be tolerated.
He also stressed that the entire PPP and Sindh government stood with the police department.
In a posting on Twitter, PMLN chief Nawaz Sharif said the incident was “clear proof of our [PDM] narrative of a ‘state above the state’.” While he did not name anyone, he said the alleged abduction and disrespect of police had “made a mockery of the elected provincial government’s authority” and “maligned the Pakistan Army.”