The federal government on Friday approached a court in Karachi against the Sindh Police’s recommendation to declare as ‘B-class’ a case against PML-N leader retired Capt Safdar Awan pertaining to the alleged violation of the sanctity of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum.
The move by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government comes in the backdrop of a report submitted by the case’s investigation officer to the court earlier this week, wherein he declared the case against the PML-N leader ‘fake’ and recommended its disposal in ‘B’ class.
Controversy surrounding the arrest
Safdar, who is the husband of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, was taken into custody by police on the morning of October 19 from a hotel where the couple was staying during their visit to Karachi for the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement’s public gathering held in the city a day earlier.
Hours later, Awan was granted bail by a magistrate’s court against a surety of Rs100,000, with the PPP-led Sindh government alleging that the federal government had forced the provincial police to carry out the arrest in a bid to create a rift in the PDM, the 11-party anti-government alliance which has the PPP and PML-N on its forefront.
According to the FIR, Safdar, Maryam and a cohort of their supporters violated the sanctity of the Quaid’s mausoleum by creating a ruckus and chanting fiery political slogans inside. They were also accused of intimidating people.
Following Safdar’s arrest, a purported voice message by PML-N leader and former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair was shared by a journalist in which Zubair alleged that the inspector general of police was kidnapped and forced to register the first information report against Maryam, her husband Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of Quaid’s mausoleum.
By late evening, police personnel from across the province, including the police chief, had applied for leaves en masse, citing low morale. Later, Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar had decided to defer his own leave for 10 days and ordered his officers to do the same after Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa took notice of the incident, spoke to PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari over the phone and promised an immediate inquiry.
On Nov 10, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement, saying that the officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, involved in the “Karachi incident” had been removed pending further departmental proceedings for acting “overzealously”.
Federal govt jumps in
Earlier this week, the investigating officer (IO) of the case had filed an amended charge-sheet with the judicial magistrate (South) Wazir Ali Memon, concluding that neither the complainant of the FIR, Waqas Khan, who is a nephew of PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh, had joined the investigation nor was the veracity of his claims established during the probe, which showed that he was not present at the mausoleum when the alleged offence took place.
The IO and the special public prosecutors after scrutinising the amended charge-sheet had recommended the court to accept the same in ‘B’ (false) class. However, the court has yet to reach its decision.
On Friday, the federal government jumped into the matter, with an assistant attorney general filing an application with the court on behalf of Ghulam Akbar Memon, an officer of the Mazar-e-Quaid Management Board.
He sought the court’s direction for the IO to collect evidence from the media and social media against the suspects, as “this is a matter of grave violation of sanctity of the tomb/shrine/Mazar-e-Quaid of the national Muslim leader of Pakistan and this is a matter of Shariah.”
The federal law officer Muhammad Ahmed argued that the violation of the sanctity of founder of the nation’s grave was a sin/transgression in the Shariah, and “is not political issue”.
He argued that the (incumbent) magistrate is competent to take cognisance of an offence, if upon considering not only the investigation report filed under Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), but also material collected during investigation they come to the conclusion that a cognisable offence has been made out.
The federal attorney argued that the film or video footage of the offence had gone viral on local and international media, which was objectionable and answerable by the state. He added that the negative CDR report of the mobile phone of the complainant (Waqas Khan) did not make a valid ground, as he was not present at the place of occurrence of the alleged offence, but under the law any person could lodge a complaint and could inform the local police about an offence.
The federal law officer argued that under Article 164 of the Qanoon-e-Shahadat Ordinance, 1984, the production of evidence had become available because of modern devices and in such cases, the court may allow production of such evidence that may be possible because of the availability of modern devices or technology.
Moreover, the counsel contended that Article 227 of the [above-mentioned] Ordinance’s provisions relating to the Holy Quran and Sunnah was very clear about the sanctity of a grave, in accordance with with the Shariah and Holy Quran/Hadith.
He appealed that an investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code must be completed without unnecessary delay, praying the court to direct the IO of the case to submit a charge-sheet against the nominated suspects. He also pleaded the court to decide the matter on merit.