ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali on Wednesday warned the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led Sindh government to “not malign the federal government and Rangers” and accused the provincial government of trying to “detrack the Karachi operation to save just one man (Dr Asim Hussain).”
“I don’t know how deep your ties are with him (Dr Hussain),” the minister remarked. “How far can a party or a government go for one person?” questioned a visibly dismayed Nisar.
The minister said it was clear that some forces were trying to derail the Karachi operation, which had been initiated after a thorough political consensus and had been highly successful in achieving its goals.
Nisar asked the provincial government to change tactics or else threatened to make public a “confidential joint investigation report, Dr Asim Hussain’s video, and other reports by the FIA and NAB so that the public can decide for itself who is trying to hide what.”
“If things do not change and this blame game continues, I will present some options on behalf of the federal government,” he said. “I assure the people of Karachi that there are several legal and constitutional options available with us,” said Nisar, emphasising that there will be no let-up in the Karachi operation.
Nisar’s tirade comes as the PPP-led provincial government is delaying extending Rangers’ special policing powers in Sindh. Special powers assigned to Rangers in the province, which have in the past been extended every few months via orders from the provincial government, expired on Sunday, Dec 6, 2015, at midnight.
“For a week now, Rangers is serving on the streets of Karachi without legal cover. If there were reservations or concerns, why where they not brought up weeks earlier.”
The interior minister said the provincial government had for years extended Rangers’ powers via executive notifications and questioned the ‘sudden’ need to consult the assembly on the matter.
“A normal administrative procedure has been made complex, which is equivalent to playing games with the sensitive Karachi operation,” said Nisar.
Giving a message to Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Nisar said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is an independent body, whose chairman had been appointed with consensus between the PML-N and the PPP – a practice he alleged the PPP did not follow when it was in the centre.
Similarly, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) counter-terrorism powers are granted under the Anti-Terrorism Act and have not been assigned at the PML-N’s whims, he said. “Nor is the Rangers serving PML-N's agenda.”
“I have never made my reservations public, I only share them in meetings. But the situation has forced me to comment publicly on these matters.”
Despite their widely known concerns and reservations, the MQM is backing the Karachi operation, the minister said. “If MQM has a stake in a peaceful Karachi, so does the provincial government.”
Nisar urged the Sindh government to take complete ownership of the security operation in the country's commercial hub, reminding all stakeholders that the Supreme Court took notice of the situation in Karachi in 2011, and in 2013, on the court's directions, Rangers were empowered to lead an operation.
“Statements attempting to make the operation controversial are equivalent to making fun of the sacrifices of our soldiers,” said the minister. “Just last week four Rangers men were shot dead and two military personnel killed in Karachi. Are there any doubts on how well organised the terrorists are?”
The minister said he hoped “better sense will prevail” and that “no comments on policy matters” are made by representatives of the provincial government.
Rangers in Sindh
Assisting the police in Karachi since 1989 when the Pakistan Peoples Party government in the centre at the time had called in the Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary to curb rising political violence in the metropolis, the paramilitary force started enjoying policing powers a few years ago amid increasing number of killings on sectarian, political and ethnic grounds in the city.
Rangers is currently spearheading an ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Karachi, which was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered the force to lead a targeted advance with the support of police against criminals already identified by federal military and civilian agencies for their alleged involvement in targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism in Karachi.
A high-level apex committee meeting chaired by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on May 14, 2015, decided to implement effective policing and surveillance in the "vast suburbs of Karachi", to prevent what the military spokesperson said were "sneaking terrorist attacks".
Amid resentment and criticism from certain political circles over the ‘operation’, the military establishment in August said there would be no let-up in actions by law enforcement agencies “to ensure a peaceful and terror-free Karachi”.