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Political crisis in Pakistan deepens after police, army dispute

NEW DELHI: A high-profile kidnapping of a police chief in Pakistan — allegedly by official paramilitary troops — has signalled to deepen of the political turmoil in a country bracing for further opposition protests aimed at ousting Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The paramilitary troops, known as the rangers, are accused of raiding the house of Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar, the inspector general of police in southern Sindh province. They kidnapped him and forced him to sign an order to arrest an opposition leader, Safdar Awan, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a spokesman for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — whose opposition party rules the state — said on Dunya TV Tuesday.
While Khan’s pro-military government has not yet addressed the issue, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered an inquiry. A spokesman for the prime minister was not immediately available for comment.
The unprecedented incident, where almost all top-ranking police officers of the province sought leave for being “ridiculed,” provides a window into the turmoil in Pakistan which is the worst since Khan came into power about two years ago.

Pakistan protests gain momentum, putting Khan under pressure

An alliance of 11 top opposition parties is already holding a series of nationwide rallies seeking Khan’s ouster over food shortages and inflation as well as demanding that the military stop meddling in politics.
The army, which has directly ruled Pakistan for about half of its existence since 1947, has historically played a key role in foreign and national security policy. Lately, it has expanded its role during the current government’s tenure. The army and the judiciary cannot be criticized publicly under Pakistan’s constitution.
Since the incident, police chief Mahar ordered his officers to delay their leaves until the completion of the separate probe ordered by the army and the state government, the Sindh police posted on Twitter late Tuesday night.
The alleged kidnapping happened on Monday before the police arrested Safdar Awan — the husband of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter and political heir of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Awan, who was charged for raising political slogans during a visit to the tomb of the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, secured bail from Sindh High Court.
It follows the arrest of journalists and opposition leaders, some who’ve been charged with treason by Khan’s government for criticizing the army.
Khan ‘worried’
Analysts have long seen army support as critical for Khan’s party, which holds just 46% of the seats in parliament and relies on smaller coalition partners to stay afloat.
A survey by Gallup Pakistan last month found 47% hold Khan’s government responsible for destroying the economy, while 41% disagreed. A majority of 51% agreed the army should stay out of politics, while 40% said it has a role in politics and overall management of the country, the survey found.
Khan’s “body language” shows he is worried, according to Shaista Tabassum, a political analyst from Karachi.

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