Tue, 24 Nov 2020

Pakistani police have detained the son-in-law of exiled ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after he led a crowd in chanting against the military at the tomb of the country's founder.

The October 19 arrest of Muhammad Safdar comes as Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party joins a series of nationwide protests against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Demonstrators say Khan's two-year tenure has seen mounting censorship and a crackdown on dissent, critics, and opposition leaders.

Safdar's arrest drew condemnation from the opposition, which accused the authorities of targeting Sharif's family.

Police detained Safdar at a Karachi hotel room where he was staying with his wife, Maryam Nawaz, who addressed a large anti-government rally on October 18.

Safdar on October 18 had visited the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the independence movement for a separate homeland from Britain in 1947.

During the visit, Safdar led a crowd in chanting: 'Give respect to the vote!' That 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.

Chanting political slogans at Jinnah's tomb is widely considered taboo. Police say they arrested Safdar, himself a member of the Pakistan Muslim League, after receiving a complaint from a private citizen.

Khan has denied the army helped him win and said Sharif's accusation against the army was part of a conspiracy at the behest of India.

Maryam Nawaz told a news conference that police forcibly entered her room to take her husband away and added that opposition parties will continue their protests until Khan is removed from power.

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, who is 70, has been staying in London since November 2019 after being allowed to receive medical treatment abroad.

The next general election is scheduled for 2023.

With reporting by AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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