More than a dozen top police officials in Pakistan’s province of Sindh have applied for leave following the arrest of the son-in-law of exiled ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the provincial capital.
Police arrested retired army Captain Muhammad Safdar in Karachi on October 19 as Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party joined a series of nationwide protests against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javid Bajwa ordered an investigation into the early morning arrest, the military said on October 20 amid allegations that Sindh police were "forced" to issue an order to arrest Safdar after the inspector-general of the provincial police was "kidnapped” by paramilitary rangers.
"Police high command has not only been ridiculed and mishandled, but all ranks of Sindh police have been demoralized and shocked," Yaqoob Minhas, the police additional inspector-general in Sindh, wrote in a letter requesting two-months leave.
"In such stressful situation it is quite difficult for me to discharge my duty in a professional manner," read the October 20 letter shared on social media.
Those who submitted requests for leave included an additional inspector-general, seven deputy inspectors-general, and four senior superintendents, according to the Dawn newspaper.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, which is in power in Sindh Province, launched a campaign using the #WeStandWithSindhPolice hashtag.
The arrest of Safdar, himself a member of the Pakistan Muslim League, drew condemnation from the opposition, which accused authorities of targeting Sharif’s family.
It came a day after he led a crowd in chanting “Give respect to the vote!” during a visit to the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the independence movement to get a separate homeland from Britain in 1947.
The slogan is viewed in Pakistan as criticism of the country’s military, which has ruled the country of 220 million people -- directly or indirectly -- for most of its existence.
Police said a first information report was registered against Safdar for allegedly violating the sanctity of the mausoleum.
The opposition says Khan's two-year tenure has seen mounting censorship and a crackdown on dissent, critics, and opposition leaders.
The prime minister is also accused of winning the 2018 general election with help from the military.
He has denied the charges.
Sharif, who has had a long uneasy relationship with the military, served as prime minister three times. A court in 2017 ousted him from power over corruption allegations.
Sharif, 70, has been staying in London since November after being allowed to receive medical treatment abroad.