KARACHI, Sept 3: Describing the security situation in Karachi as ‘extraordinary’ and warranting ‘extraordinary measures’, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday his government was committed to taking such measures to bring normality back to the country’s economic hub.
“We are committed to doing everything possible to save this beautiful city, which is the economic hub of our country. We believe that it is an extraordinary situation that warrants extraordinary measures, which we are going to take for sure,” the prime minister said while addressing a group of the city’s businessmen and traders at the Governor’s House.
The meeting was the last of a series of sittings PM Sharif presided over; most prominent of them was a last-minute ‘all-parties conference’ that created quite a stir among the political parties.
Mr Sharif made it clear that he was not here to encroach upon the mandate of the PPP and MQM in Sindh, but he ‘sincerely extended his hand’ to improve matters in Karachi.
“We are facing multi-faceted challenges which require all of us to keep our political interests aside and help each other to exterminate terrorism,” he said.
He said he had talked to the provincial government, governor and various political parties and all of them wanted effective action for peace in the city.
“We should not see who is affiliated to which party; we all have to take indiscriminate action against criminals for which we can change our laws if needed.”
He recalled the removal of the Liaquat Jatoi government during his last tenure 15 years ago when it failed to effectively maintain law and order and stressed that he would not compromise on the same problem ‘this time either’.
However, he said in the same breath that the Sindh chief minister was ‘supportive’ and “told me that his government would grant every power demanded by the Rangers”.
“We have talked to the MQM and many other parties and they are all concerned about the situation and want concerted efforts to make Karachi livelier.”
However, the federal government’s mission Karachi gave an impression that the ruling party’s homework was poor, which eventually caused serious hiccups for the entire initiative, particularly on the front of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the city’s dominant party.
The abrupt revocation of an invitation from the government to the MQM’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, Dr Farooq Sattar, to attend Wednesday’s cabinet meeting in Karachi led the party to heap opprobrium on the government. Later a consolatory offer to Dr Sattar to hold a ‘one-to-one’ meeting with the prime minister was repudiated as well.
Sources in the PML-N said the invitation to an MQM nominee to attend the cabinet meeting was forcefully resisted by the party’s provincial leaders. Besides, certain parties like the Awami National Party and the PML-Functional also had expressed their dismay over what they called the ‘selective approach’ of Sharif government.
The PPP, which rules Sindh, had initially requested the federal government to allow provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon to attend the cabinet meeting, which, sources said, the PPP leadership decided not to press after Dr Sattar’s invitation had been rescinded.
Both the main parties of Sindh now have one representative each to attend the cabinet meeting — Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad.
Prime Minister Sharif launched his mission in the afternoon with meetings with the governor and the chief minister, followed by the APC which had been planned on Monday evening. Initially, over a dozen key parties, except for the PML-F and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, agreed to attend it. Leaders of the PML-F said the ‘casual’ invitation given on phone to them was ‘unacceptable’.
However, after a request by the PML-N’s top leaders to Pir Pagaro, he sent Imtiaz Shaikh to attend it. The PTI opaquely chose to keep quiet and abstained.
During the meeting, no party except the MQM came up with a call for the army’s help to improve the city’s security situation.
The MQM, which attended the meeting ‘under protest’ criticising the government move to keep it out of the planned cabinet meeting, reiterated its demand for army’s participation in the city’s security affairs.
“We stuck to our position in the meeting with the prime minister to call the army to save Karachi because police and Rangers have failed,” MQM’s Senator Babar Ghauri said.
“Taliban are present in certain parts of Karachi and they can only be eliminated by the army,” he said.
He said a monitoring team should be formed to ensure that action was taken only against criminals or militants.
Karachi PPP chief Abdul Qadir Patel said his party had demanded strengthening of the police and boosting their morale because their effectiveness had been proved in the past and they could do the same again.
“Police force is demoralised at present because all the policemen who had taken part in the past operations have been assassinated. The force needs a morale booster to get motivated for future operations.”
PML-N’s Irfanullah Marwat claimed none of the parties had demanded army’s deployment.
“None of the parties demanded to call in the army, thus this demand has formally died down,” he told Dawn.
ANP’s Shahi Syed said the government should consider measures which would ensure better results than those the intended targeted operations could bring about.
The last activity Mr Sharif was engaged late in the evening was a briefing on the law and order situation by the chief secretary, inspector general of police and other officials of security and intelligence agencies.
According to the sources, figures about increasing killings in Karachi, the incapability of the police to bring the culprits to book or ensure effective prosecution against them and inadequately-equipped police with insufficient resources and manpower were among the deficiencies the PM was informed about.