The politics of PPP in Sindh surrounding the arrest of Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar husband of Maryam Nawaz reminds many of the painful story of ASI Asghar Mugheri of Larkana who had allegedly committed suicide when insulted and beaten by a PPP leader.
After Safdar’s arrest, CM Sindh, Murad Ali Shah and later Bilawal Bhutto did press conference taking position that almost 40 plus officers of Sindh police including IGP are proceeding on leave to protest against the attitude of Sindh Rangers with IGP. Argument was that Sindh police officers felt deeply humiliated by Sindh Rangers forcing IGP to issue arrest warrants for Capt. Safdar. This almost sounded like a mutiny and the Army Chief had to call Bilawal Bhutto to defuse the situation. On social media, across the world, it was described as a civil war in Pakistan.
However this has reminded, many on social media in Pakistan, of the suicide of ASI Asghar Mugheeri, of Larkana, who allegedly took his life in frustration when beaten and humiliated by a PPP politician for seizing bottles of liquor from someone influential. ASI Mugheeri’s was recorded on video, immediately after this humiliating incident, with torn uniform saying angrily that he has been dishonoured in uniform and if action is not taken then he will taken his life. He later shot himself.
Sindh Police or PPP: Double Standards?
Attacking an officer in uniform is a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment, in almost all countries including Pakistan. It’s not known if Sindh police ever took any action against the PPP politicians who had beaten him inside a police station in the presence of SHO and others. Despite his recorded video, Sindh police was found clarifying that Mugheeri’s suicide has nothing to do with his humiliation.
Now many wonder if Sindh police officers never took any strong position against such massive abuse of the force then how come they suddenly became so self respecting that IGP being strongly asked to do the right thing has become an issue of “self respect” for them? Afterall what Capt. Sardar did at the Mazar-e-Quaid was an offence under law, since 1971, and Sindh Rangers is custodian of the Mazar-e-Quaid and it had a reason to react strongly.
Issuing arrest warrants for Capt. Safdar was responsibility of Sindh Police, and not issuing such warrants was clearly a dereliction of duty. Even Sindh CM, Murad Ali Shah, in his press conference admitted that police had to issue the arrest warrants. Was IGP Sindh under political pressure from PPP government not to issue the arrest warrants? Its understandable that PPP being allies of PMLN was under pressure not to displease Maryam Nawaz but then why create a national crisis that was described as “civil war” in Pakistan. How wise was that many now wonder?
Suicide of ASI Asghar Mugheri?
Mugheri, an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) in Larkana, reportedly killed himself after he was beaten up by a youth leader of the provincial ruling party inside a police station. Mugheri had arrested people close to the youth leader for possession of alcohol. The case, well documented in the media, reeked of political intervention in provincial law enforcement.
According to reports on local media, ASI Mugheri had arrested two people close to PPP leader Zulfiqar Jakhrani for possession of alcohol in late September. However, a few hours later, Mugheri was beaten at his own police station in Larkana by influential men who had come to release those who had been arrested by Mugheri earlier.
In a video uploaded to social media, the ASI appeared visibly shaken and humiliated at the ordeal, accusing the provincial government of turning a blind eye to political interventions in Sindh Police. He also threatened to kill himself if justice was not dispensed in the case. A few days later, news of his alleged suicide broke the internet.
لاڑکانہ میں ایس ایچ او کے سامنے سیاسی وڈیرے اور پیپلز پارٹی کے رہنما ذوالفقار جکھرانی کی طرف سے پوليس اسٽيشن میں تشدد کا نشانہ بننے پر اے ایس آئی اصغر مغیری نے خودکشی کر لی افسوس کی بات ہے کہ یہ قانون سیاسی جماعت کے وڈیروں کے سامنے بھی گونگا، بھرا، اندھا اور بے بس ہے، افسوس ہے pic.twitter.com/wTDXEdVkUT
— Nusrat seharAbbasi.MPA (@nsabbasiOff) September 28, 2020
Sindh Assembly member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi shared the news on social networking platform Twitter, saying the laws of the feudal lords in the province were deaf, dumb, and blind to the plight of the ordinary citizens. She said the whole province should be ashamed of treating their police officer in this manner.
However, reports later circulated on social media that claimed that Sindh Police had acted on the report and that the officials responsible for the incident had been given punishment. There were also reports in the media that claimed that the news of the suicide of ASI Mugheri could not be independently corroborated. Facts to this day are not clear.
Was PPP playing politics in the name of Sindh Police?
Leading law enforcement experts have long condemned the politics of interference in Sindh Police. Political experts also hold the view that the police of the province is perhaps the weakest link in the security infrastructure of the area. Shaheen Sehbai, a leading expert, on Thursday in Hard Talk on 92 News, wondered why PPP is allowing itself to be hijacked by Nawaz Sharif who is in a reactive mind set, is playing to international galleries and will never come back to Pakistan.
Others Anchors on media are reminded of the helplessness of Sindh police during the time period from 2008 till 2014. Karachi used to experience blood baths as militant gangs affiliated with PPP, MQM and ANP played havoc with country’s largest metropolis. Karachi would remain paralysed for days on end, and dead-bodies were piled on roads picked by Edhhi ambulances. During this period, PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and Awami National Party (ANP) were coalition partners in the centre, Sindh police was totally dysfunctional in controlling the violence. But one never head of Sindh IGP or officers resigning or going on leave to protest that they are not being allowed to perform their responsibilities.
Targeted killings, street crime, robberies, rape, political violence, and even sadistic stories of criminal warlords ‘playing football with the severed heads’ of their rivals circulated on mainstream media. Sindh Police were helpless to check the violence until the Supreme Court, in 2014, ordered the paramilitary Rangers to restore normalcy in the area.
Subsequently, peace and calm were restored to Karachi. In the investigations following the dark days, several police officers admitted on record that political interventions had hindered them from curbing crime. Sehbai, in his interview with Asad Ullah, pointed this out and wondered why the police officers had not asked for leaves at the time.
The point is a valid one and was made in the context of accusations from Federal Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who said that Sindh Police officers had asked for leave en-masse after the Safdar arrest on the directions of PPP chief Bilawal. If the previous history of Sindh police is anything to go by, the claim would seem a sensible one, say experts
The arrest of Captain (r) Safdar
PML-N leader Safdar, who is married to PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, and is the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was arrested by Sindh Police in the early hours of Monday morning after a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against him by Karachi resident Waqas Khan for violating the sanctity of Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, who was sleeping in a Karachi hotel room alongside her husband when police came to arrest him, accused the government of violating her privacy by breaking the door of the hotel room despite Safdar’s offer to cooperate with the police when they first knocked on the door of the room.
Safdar and Maryam had landed in Karachi from Lahore a day prior to the arrest to attend a rally of the anti-government Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). After their arrival in Karachi, the duo had visited the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam to pay their respects accompanied by a large number of political workers from their party.
Safdar, in an emotionally charged outburst, had raised political slogans standing inside the barrier separating the tomb of Quaid-e-Azam from the visitor area. The act, a punishable one under the different sections of the Quaid-e-Azam Mazar Protection Ordinance 1971, was condemned by political leaders across Pakistan.
Following the arrest, PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair told reporters that he had been informed by reliable sources that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Sindh, Mushtaq Mehr, had been ‘kidnapped’ by paramilitary forces in the middle of the night to pressure him into registering an FIR and issuing arrest orders for Safdar.
Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah took notice of the reports and held a press conference the next day to inform the media that the provincial government had launched an inquiry into the incident. A few hours later, several senior officers of Sindh Police submitted an application asking for a leave citing undue pressure from unnamed sources.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, whose party is in power in Sindh and also part of the PDM, also held a press conference later that day, saying he stood by the Sindh Police. Bilawal also asked Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to launch an inquiry into the conduct of the paramilitary present in Sindh.
Political experts believed that the resignations of the senior police officers were forced, possibly at the directives of PPP chief Bilawal, in order to intensify an anti-government movement and sow discord between the ruling party and the armed forces. The experts point to the case of ASI Mugheri to make their point.