Sindh province in Pak on edge over fight between police and army

Massive protests erupted in Pakistan last week to topple Imran Khan govt. (Pic: Twitter)

New Delhi (NVI): Sindh province in Pakistan is on the edge after a virtual revolt by the police against the army for humiliation meted out to its top officer.

The police brass en masse, from the rank of Inspector General of Police to the level of Assistant Sub-Inspector, announced decision to go on long leave in protest against the army’s ill-treatment, which they all said had hit the morale of the police force.

The police force is angry over the illegal confinement of IGP of Karachi Mushtaq Mehar by the personnel of paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and coercion to make him sign arrest warrant against Mohd Safdar, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after a rally by opposition parties in Karachi on October 18. The Rangers are controlled by the Pakistan Army.

The protest by the police force led to panic and anxiety in Pakistan and triggered all kinds of rumours and speculations, like clashes between police and army in Karachi.

However, hours later, the Sindh Police tweeted past midnight that the decision regarding long leave had been deferred for 10 days as Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had promised an impartial inquiry into the incident related to Mehar.

The Sindh police, in a series of tweets, said the “unfortunate incident” had “caused great heartache and resentment within all ranks of Sindh Police”. It thanked the army chief for ordering investigation into the incident and looked forward to its result in 10 days.

Mehar said he considered taking leave of absence but changed his mind and asked his officers to defer going on leave for 10 days in view of the investigation ordered. He did not say who abducted him or who forcibly took him to the offices of the Rangers.

Pakistani commentators, including senior journalists, are slamming the notorious Pakistan Army, albeit in a veiled manner because of fear of reprisal.

“Having power does not mean that you will trample upon other institutions. Power should be used to strengthen institutions,” commented a veteran Pakistani journalist in an attack on the Pakistan Army which has a record of bulldozing and suppressing all other institutions in Pakistan, including the polity and judiciary.

Describing the incident involving the Karachi IGP as “insulting”, the journalist said, “I would like to say more but will desist because I can be targeted (by the army).”

At the Karachi rally held under the banner of Pakistan Democratic Movement, Safdar had led the gathering to chant: “Give respect to the vote!” This is seen as criticism of the Pakistan army.

Nawaz Sharif, who is in London and has blamed Bajwa for ousting him as Prime Minister in 2017, told reporters that he would not be cowed down by the tactics like targeting his son-in-law and vowed to continue his fight against the all-powerful army, come what may.

Sharif, a three-time Prime Minister, has had a hostile relationship with the army, which dethroned him in a coup in 1999 and imprisoned him for months, before being rescued by the intervention of Saudi Arabia.

In 2017 again, he was ousted from power over corruption charges, which he says were falsely foisted on him by the army.