Captain Safdar’s actions at the Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum in Karachi were widely condemned, with some leaders in his own opposition alliance calling his actions “inappropriate”. However in the wake of his sudden and forceful arrest, the conversation has shifted; many now question if breaking into Maryam Nawaz’s room was the appropriate way to arrest Safdar. In response, videos of Imran Khan and PTI workers raising slogans inside the Mausoleum are being circulated online by opposition leaders, questioning if “sanctity of the mazar” is only applicable to them and not the Prime Minister.

Early Monday morning Sindh Police arrested Captain (R) Safdar from his hotel room in Karachi. The news came from Maryam Nawaz on Twitter, as she alleged that the police “barged in” at nearly 7 am into their hotel room and arrested her husband. 

The arrest was made in regards to the events of Sunday, 18th October. Cpt. Safdar and Maryam Nawaz, along with senior party leadership and a crowd of workers visited the Mazar-e-Quaid to pay respects to the nation’s founder before the PDM’s Karachi jalsa. Inside the hallway of the Quaid’s mausoleum, they offered fateha and laid a floral wreath. As per the tradition, verses from the Holy Quran were recited, and Maryam and a few others offered fateha inside the grilled premises.

Soon afterwards PML-N workers raised slogans in favour of Maryam, as they stood outside the grill around the grave. Capt Safdar started chanting “vote ko izzat” do slogan, which is against the protocol of the mausoleum. Maryam and other leaders stayed silent, Safdar continued chanting another slogan, ‘long live mother of the nation’, and the charged crowd of workers responded passionately. This incident spanned a few minutes after which Maryam and the others left the mazar. 

After the incident, people reacted negatively towards Cpt. Safdar for violating the sanctity of Mazar e Quaid. PTI leaders and ministers posted the video of the incident on Twitter. PTI senior leader and Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi tweeted the video writing that the incident was “not acceptable.” 

Similarly, former Finance Minister Asad Umar made a tweet asking PMLN to apologise to the nation for such blatant disrespect of the Founding Father. 

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcast, Syed Shibli Faraz, remarked at the Peshawar Press Club, that every Pakistani was offended by what happened at the Quaid’s mausoleum.

“Did you see the ruckus that was created by Safdar, Maryam? They disrespected the sanctity of the founder of Pakistan, the mausoleum,” he said, clarifying that this arrest had nothing to do with politics but with actions having consequences.

On the evening on 18th October, senior PTI leader Haleem Adil Shaikh lodged an FIR against the PML-N leadership for violating the sanctity of the Quaid’s mausoleum at Brigade police station, Karachi. According to the FIR, the case was registered on Section 6, Section 8 and Section 10 of The Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar (Protection and Maintenance) Ordinance, 1971. That read: 

Meetings, etc. prohibited. No person shall organise, convene or take part in any meeting or demonstration or procession or engage in political activity of any kind within the Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar or within a distance of ten feet from the outer boundary thereof.

Section 6 of the Ordinance

Sanctity of Mazar. No person shall do any act or behave in any manner which is or tends to be derogatory to the sanctity and dignity of the Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar.

Section 8 of the Ordinance

Whoever contravenes any of the provisions of this Ordinance shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. (2) An offence punishable under this Ordinance shall be tried in a summary way in accordance with the provisions contained in sections 262 to 265 of the Code of Criminal procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898).

Section 10 of the Ordinance

If charged and found guilty, Safdar may face a prison term of up to three years, along with a fine

After the arrest, PPP — the ruling party in Sindh — reacted with claims of not being a party to the arrest made. The Provincial Minister for Labour, Education and literacy and Human Resources, Saeed Ghani tweeted that this was part of a move to create a fissure between the PDM alliance but such tactics would not succeed. 

Member Sindh Assembly (PPP) Sharmila Farooqi said “sloganeering inside Mazar-e-Quaid is inappropriate, but breaking doors & arresting Captain Safdar in this manner is also unacceptable”.

“Sindh government is not a party to this. Clearly a blatant attempt to sabotage the solidarity of PDM and defame Sindh government,” she added.

But some quarters also criticised the charge itself, seeing it as the government’s tightening grip around the opposition after their show of strength against the PTI. This is also in line with Imran Khan’s recent comment that the “opposition will see a new Imran Khan,” made while addressing the Tiger Force Convention. This comment was made in the context of the Prime Minister claiming that opposition has had a free hand from the government until now, but that might change if they opposition alliance keeps demanding resignation from the incumbent government. Columnist and political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi tweeted that “Who would be so outraged by a simple demand for adult franchise to be respected?”

Similarly, Historian and Professor, Ali Usman Qasmi criticized the idea of sanctity that works to undermine counter-narratives in societies, commenting that “shrines are not apolitical spaces.”

In another tweet, Prof. Qasmi draws a parallel between this incident and the Saba Qamar incident, where the actor twirled around in a lehnga at the Masjid Wazir khan which caused outrage for violating the sanctity of the mosque.

Places might have sanctity but who gets to decide what constitutes a violation of that? Because ideas of respect and veneration are culturally situated, after all shrines and graves have traditionally been places of political activity and mobilisation in Punjabi and Sindhi culture.

Something very similar happened a few years ago when the current Prime Minister visited the Mazar-e-Quaid, PTI supporters accompanying Imran Khan waved party flags and shouted slogans inside the mazar. The video is making rounds on twitter – being pushed by opposition leaders – with many raising questions that if Captain Safdar’s actions constitute a breach of sanctity, so does this.

Update: A few hours after his arrest, Captain Safdar was granted bail by a judicial magistrate against surety bonds of Rs100,000.

The author works as a sub-editor at The Correspondent, focusing on Student Politics, Social issues and International Relations.

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