ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Amid growing calls urging the Supreme Court (SC) to take suo motu notice of purported manhandling of Sindh police chief, the federal government on Thursday rejected Sindh chief minister’s claim of receiving threat of dismissal of the provincial government in case of failure in the lodging police case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Captain (r) Safdar Awan.
Addressing a session of the provincial assembly on Wednesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had said, “A federal minister gave me an ultimatum that if an FIR [First Information Report] was not registered [against Awan], the Sindh government will face consequences.”
Karachi police had arrested Awan from his hotel room early Monday morning for slogan-mongering inside the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Later in the day, claims of “kidnapping” of the provincial police chief Mushtaq Mahar to pressure the force into arresting Awan had emerged.
Amid controversy and mystery surrounding the arrest, the following day, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while taking notice of the incident, ordered an immediate inquiry into the incident.
Addressing a press conference, Minister for Information and Broadcast Senator Shibli Faraz “condemned” the “lie peddled” by Shah.
“They [Sindh government] are mentally distressed by the [lukewarm] public response offered to their rallies,” said Faraz, who was flanked by Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar.
The Sindh government was trying to hide its “incompetency and corruption” through the incident, Akbar said.
“The video footage of the incident shows Safdar sitting in the police car very comfortably,” the minister said, highlighting that it was “evident” that there was no element of force in the arrest.
When asked if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers in the province were involved in the process, Akbar said they were involved in the filing of the police case against the PML-N leader.
Akbar, while narrating the incident as it occurred, said: “A few days ago, a ruckus was observed at the Mazar [of Jinnah].”
“First, there was a ruckus. Afterward, some people from Karachi, including PTI workers, gave an application at a police station to file an FIR,” he added.
He explained under the established procedure, police receive an application and then report it. He added that police officials develop an opinion, take a legal view, and thereafter register an FIR.
“PTI’s total role in all this was that we gave an application. The laws that were [allegedly] violated were written down and a written application was given that action should be taken,” said the adviser.
Akbar aide said that after this process, “everyone’s role finished” and the role of the Sindh government started.
“After we woke up in the morning, we saw that an FIR had been registered at night and Safdar Awan was arrested,” Akbar claimed.
He also added that the claims of police breaking into the hotel room still needs to be investigated.
“The thing that came forward in camera footage was that Safdar Awan was seen leaving the hotel in the front seat of a Sindh Police vehicle,” Akbar said.
He reiterated that it was clearly Sindh Police that arrested the PML-N leader.
The PM’s aide also said he disagreed with the arrest, saying there was no point for it as Awan’s crime was a “bailable offense”. “Everyone knows where Sindh Police gets its directives from,” he said.
He also added that the Sindh CM should disclose which federal minister called him and threatened to end his government.
SBC CALLS FOR SUO MOTU NOTICE OF INCIDENT:
The Sindh Bar Council (SBC) on Thursday joined opposition leaders in urging the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the incident to address the implications the situation poses for the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country.
In a resolution, the body said it was “shocked” at reports of Mahar allegedly being abducted from his residence “by Rangers/agencies” and forced to issue orders for the arrest of [the] 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 demoralisation of the force due to this incident was a sign of “complete breakdown of the rule of law and an undeclared martial law.”
The 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 (CJP) 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 that 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”.