The Pakistan opposition is crying foul over the ‘arrest’ of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, saying a provincial police chief was kidnapped by paramilitary forces and made to register cases against him and 200 others.
Muhammad Safdar Awan, the husband of Maryam Nawaz, Sharif’s daughter and vice-president of his PML-N party, was arrested hours after she took part in the second major rally of the newly-formed joint opposition front Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Karachi on Sunday night.
Maryam tweeted on Monday morning: “Police broke my room door at the hotel I was staying at in Karachi and arrested Capt Safdar.”
The retired captain and 200 others including Maryam were reportedly booked for sloganeering inside the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah a day earlier, and thus violating its sanctity.
Later on Monday, PDM leaders claimed at a press conference in the Sindh capital that the province’s Inspector General (IG) of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar was kidnapped by the paramilitary Rangers Force along with his deputies and forced to order the arrest of Safdar.
The Rangers swung into action after the provincial government refused to bow to pressure from the Imran Khan government to take action against Safdar, they claimed.
PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the media that police then broke into the hotel room of Maryam Nawaz and took away her husband.
Prominent journalist Hamid Mir also tweeted: “Unfortunate incident. Sindh Govt informed PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair that IG Sindh was kidnapped by Rangers at 4 in the morning he was brought in sector commander’s office where addnl IG was already present and were forced to issue the orders for the arrest of Cpt Rtd Safdar”.
Ali Zaidi, maritime affairs minister in Khan’s government and a Karachi native, rejected the opposition’s allegations as “nonsense”.
“If this is true then CM Sindh must fire IG Sindh or resign himself as his orders were followed,” he tweeted.
So far, no announcement has been made by the government regarding Safdar’s arrest.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), had hosted Sunday’s protest rally.
The police action reportedly came after Khurram Sherzaman, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party, lodged complaints against Maryam and Safdar at a police station in Karachi.
PTI leaders were reportedly angered by “slogans raised at the mausoleum” targeting Khan’s administration. Video clips circulating on social media apparently showed Safdar and several others chanting slogans against Pakistan’s government and its military leadership, from the inner circle of the mausoleum.
Political activities are banned inside the mausoleum and its immediate surroundings.
Earlier on Sunday, Maryam, Safdar and PML-N supporters had visited the mausoleum to offer prayers ahead of the PDM’s rally that was held in Karachi’s Jinnah ground, located near the mausoleum.
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