KARACHI: A day after Karachi police arrested opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Capt (r) Safdar Awan for slogan-mongering inside the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in Sindh on Tuesday said the arrest was made in “accordance with the law”, implying a clear albeit unaddressed rift between the two major opposition parties of the anti-government Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
The police arrested Awan from his hotel room early Monday morning for shouting political slogans inside the mausoleum a day earlier which is punishable by regulations governing the premises. The arrest was made after a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against him Sunday for breaking the protocol and hurling murder threats at some individuals. The court granted him bail the same day.
Later in the day, Safdar’s wife and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz absolved the Sindh government of the “charge” of the arrest, saying she “never thought for a moment” that the provincial authorities were behind the move.
Meanwhile, Maryam and some of the PDM, the nine-party anti-government alliance, leaders had accused state agencies of “abducting” the provincial police chief to coerce the force into arresting Awan to “enforce cracks among the opposition”.
However, while addressing a press conference on the incident, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah Tuesday said the police, while conducting the raid, only “did their work”.
He announced the formation of a ministerial committee to investigate the arrest, adding that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers in Sindh had “pressurised” the police into registering the complaint, which he claimed was based on a “lie”.
“Certain facts have emerged and those will be investigated […] what occurred from 4:30 pm on October 18 till the morning of October 19 will be probed,” he said, adding that he will also appear before the committee if required.
Murad clarified, however, that he was not trying to justify Safdar’s behaviour at Jinnah’s mausoleum and that the “inappropriate” incident that took place there merited action, which would have been taken according to the law.
But, he went on to add, the PTI lawmakers used the incident to file a case under Section 506-B (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which the police accepted.
“First, a PTI MPA files a request at the police station. Officials explained to him that you cannot do this and also explained the process to him. Then another MPA comes and files another request. He is again told the procedure,” he said.
“Then another person from the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum’s board comes to the police station and files a request,” he added.
“He was told that yes it is a violation but a magistrate will take cognisance not the police,” the CM said. “They tried to pressurise the police but officials did not succumb to their pressure. The bigger the PDM rally got and the more their incompetence was revealed, they became more and more anxious and filed request upon request.”
“Scaring and threatening the police and pressurising the force is not the job of elected representatives,” Murad said, adding that the Sindh police would never do something illegal.
It was only in the morning that we got to know what had happened, Murad claimed, referring to Safdar’s arrest from the hotel.
“They [PTI lawmakers] wanted to do something illegal, their anxiety was obvious. So what they did is that they had a person file an FIR [and] I say this because PTI MPAs were present with the person at the police station,” he said.
They filed a false case, the CM said, showing a picture of the meeting between the complainant and a PTI leader. “Do they have any shame? What extent are they willing to go to achieve their goals?”
“Now let me tell you the conspiracy. Waqas gave his details to the police. When his location was traced, it was discovered that at the time of the incident stated in the complaint, he was near Baqai Medical University located on Super Highway,” Murad said, adding that he was only “stating the facts” and that a final decision was going to be taken by the court.
“Look at how they malign institutions. More than that, look at how they are using the Quaid’s mausoleum.
“When a lie [started the whole thing] then complications will arise. To cover up that one lie you will have to tell several more.”