A major crisis is brewing in Pakistan, with the police in the Sindh province putting up a determined fight against the all-powerful military for “abducting” its chief, Inspector General Mushtaq Mahar, and forcibly getting his signature on the arrest warrant of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Captain Safdar Awan (retd).
The situation is so tense that Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa had to step in and order an inquiry to prevent the Sindh police from going on mass protest leave.
Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on Pakistan’s military affairs, told ThePrint that the Sindh police was finally tired of excessive intervention by the military.
“I would say the Sindh police got tired, but then the Sindh government may have encouraged the police to take this stand,” Siddiqa said. The Sindh government is ruled by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
This is one of the rare occasions in Pakistan when the military has been challenged. Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in India, said the kind of protest seen from the Sindh police is unprecedented.
“Nobody expected this. Also, Bajwa’s announcement of an inquiry either reveals a complete breakdown of the Army’s chain of command, or that it is looking for a scapegoat,” Sareen said.
Former Indian envoy to Pakistan T.C.A. Raghavan said it is unclear what happened on the night when the IG is said to have been abducted.
“But it shows that Nawaz Sharif’s fiery rhetoric against the chief of army staff and generals has brought to the surface a certain latent hostility that is always there in Pakistan against Army high-handedness,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia (retd), India’s former director general of military operations, added that the Pakistan Army has become too overbearing in terms of domestic and international politics, as well as economics.
“Gen. Bajwa has been dictating all Pakistan policies, including when Imran Khan went to the US. I think this controversy will die down, but the simmering sentiments regarding the Army’s behaviour will remain. The Sindh police’s actions reveal a major fault line between law enforcement and the Pakistan Army,” he said.