KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani police briefly detained the son-in-law of exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, accusing him of leading a crowd in a chant against the military at the tomb of the country’s founder.
The arrest of Mohammad Safdar came after Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League opposition party joined a series of nationwide protests against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. His arrest drew condemnation from the opposition, which said authorities wanted to target 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 Sunday.
But he was freed later after a court granted him bail, his party and family said.
Safdar on Sunday had visited the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who led independence movement to get a separate homeland from Britain in 1947 when united India was divided into two countries: India and Pakistan. Jinnah remains a revered figure in Muslim-majority Pakistan, with his tomb often drawing politicians and leaders.
While at the tomb, 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 ruled the country of 220 million people — directly or indirectly — for most of its history.
Chanting political slogans at Jinnah’s tomb is widely considered taboo. Police say they arrested Safdar, himself a member of the Pakistan Muslim League party, after receiving a complaint from a citizen alleging he was harassed.
Hours after Safdar’s arrest, his politician wife Maryam Safdar told a news conference that police forcibly entered her room to take her husband away. She alleged Karachi police were being used by “unknown but known forces” to suppress their voice, implying the military had a hand in her husband’s arrest.
She added opposition parties will continue their protests until Khan is removed from power.
The 70-year-old Sharif who has had a long uneasy relationship with the military, served as Pakistan’s prime minister three times. A court in 2017 ousted him from power over corruption allegations. Sharif has been staying in London since November after being allowed to receive medical treatment abroad.
Several opposition leaders have faced criminal charges in recent weeks as organized opposition to Khan, a former cricketer, grows.
Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.