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Nawaz, party decide to take the plunge

September 03, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Sept 2: Amid persisting violence in Karachi, the federal government is set to take a hands-on approach in the planned action against criminal gangs and armed militias of political groups, whose deadly turf war has ruined peace in the country’s economic hub.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif consulted on Monday his national security aides over the planned targeted operation in Karachi and vowed to refocus national resources on threats to security.

The consultations took place ahead of a special meeting of the federal cabinet in Karachi on Wednesday to finalise plans for a crackdown on criminal elements.

A media statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Mr Sharif’s meeting with the national security principals did not say that the conference was especially about impending operation in Karachi. It rather said that “overall security situation of the country” was reviewed.

However, multiple sources said much of the focus of the meeting was on the situation in Karachi and the intended crackdown.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI director general Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam and the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, attended the meeting.

Prime Minister Sharif is said to have stressed, during his meeting with security advisers, on ‘national consensus’ for dealing with challenges.“All political forces must rise to the occasion so that national consensus is evolved to address the problems faced by the country,” he was quoted as having said.

The government has convened the special meeting of the cabinet for discussing law and order situation in Karachi and “forging a consensus” on the impending action. Governor Ishratul Ibad, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and MQM Parliamentary Leader in the National Assembly Farooq Sattar have been invited to the meeting, which would also be attended by heads of security agencies, including the director general of Rangers and the inspector general of Sindh police.

But while “consensus” has been the buzzword, the PML-N government appears to have decided to play a more active role in the operation instead of allowing the provincial government to take centre stage.

A PML-N leader said there was now consensus in the party that the federal government should play its part. “Initially, most of the party leaders argued against getting involved in the affairs of Karachi and for allowing the PPP and MQM to deal with the mess. But in view of the continued bickering between the two former allies in the Sindh government, the federal government was left with no choice but to play its due role,” he added.Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah has cautioned the government against politicising the matter.

Giving a political touch to the whole affair by inviting the MQM and others to the cabinet meeting, he said, might not help in achieving the desired results.

“I personally believe that the situation in Karachi demands administrative measures, which the federal government in cooperation with the Sindh government can and should take,” he added.

But analysts believe that an operation in Karachi would prove a tightrope walk for the federal government given the acrimony between the PPP and MQM.

The government has rejected the MQM’s demand for an army-led operation and, instead said that the provincial government would play the lead role.

Although tactical details of the operation will be worked out later, the plan is to execute the clean-up through Rangers and police, whereas overall monitoring and intelligence support would be provided by the army, ISI and other intelligence agencies.

A retired police officer, who was part of the operation during the PPP government in 1995, told Dawn that precise intelligence was essential for a successful action.

He recalled that targeted killings virtually came to an end between June 1995 and January 1996 because of effective intelligence-sharing between the military and civilian agencies.