Martial Law in Sindh -1978 – Inspector Shah’s Punishment and Nawaz Sharif’s Panama Leaks


It was close to 2 am on a hot humid night in Johi, Sind. Several officers, including me, had just finished work and were about to crash, dog tired after a long day, sifting through tons of documents. 

It was 1978. Gen. Zia’s Martial Law was in full flow. My batman, Ali Afsar, with his permanent half smile which only an officer’s batman can forever carry, depicting both amazement and utter disbelief, at the kind of people God Blesses to become officers, informed me that a truck driver was outside the Martial Law Headquarter and insisting on seeing the “Afsar” right now!. Bold man or incredibly stupid, I thought.

Being the Adjutant, the unenvious task fell on me, and I hustled back into my uniform and met him in our makeshift offices.

He was clearly agitated and also a bit scared ( you don’t walk into a military martial law office at 2 am in the morning and expect to be garlanded! ). After the pleasantries and an offer of a cup of tea and a chair, both nervously declined, he stammered out an incoherent babble.

With some coaxing to calm him down, I was finally able to understand that earlier that night, a certain Police SHO, Inspector Shah (name changed) had charged the truck driver double the usually agreed “monthly”. “Monthly” being the “unofficial fee” charged by the police from these truck transporters.

He indignantly showed me a greasy page in an equally greasy diary with a few strange squiggles, supposed to represent a rupee amount, a signature and a date of a week ago!

” ….Look at this saheb…. This (followed by a choice phrase describing the offspring of a pig) Inspector Shah has now asked me to pay again…..I’m fed up of this man and want to launch an official complaint against this (some more choice words)……Inspector…….”

Long story short….Inspector Shah was tried and sentenced by a military court. It was an open and shut case. The evidence against Shah was overwhelming. A trap was laid and he was caught red handed. He pleaded for mercy and leniency, citing his excellent record. This was true. He was actually one of the most efficient and effective SHO’S in that area. Crime in his area was very low and he ruled his domain with an Iron fist. We actually quite liked him. But the case against him was crystal clear

“……Shah saheb”..he said turning towards me wistfully….” You know I’ve done some really nasty things in my career but to be caught, tried and sentenced for this petty act is an insult and a disgrace to me and my reputation”……and off he went to jail, handcuffed, stripped of his police rank, to serve time.

I was reminded of Inspector Shah earlier today, as I watched Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif deliver his fiery Panama Leaks sermon in the National Assembly.

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