Ruckus in Sindh Assembly over Rangers’ powers extension

Published December 14, 2015
Opposition members protesting in front of the speaker's desk. – DawnNews screengrab
Opposition members protesting in front of the speaker's desk. – DawnNews screengrab

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly session on Monday was adjourned till 10 am Tuesday amidst chants and sloganeering by opposition MPAs, who were protesting against the PPP-led government for not taking up the critical issue of extending Rangers' special powers in the province.

The session was expected to resolve the matter of extending Rangers' special powers in Sindh, which had expired on Dec 6, with the federal government and Sindh at odds over the matter.

The discussion regarding the extension of special police powers for Rangers was 11th on the day's agenda. But speaker Agha Siraj Durrani had to adjourn the session after normal proceedings could not be held.

Importantly, no resolution was presented nor discussion held on the key issue of Rangers' powers.

Sindh CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah smiles during the sloganeering by opposition members. — DawnNews screengrab
Sindh CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah smiles during the sloganeering by opposition members. — DawnNews screengrab

Will resist Governor's rule: Khuhro

Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khuhro said in a presser after the assembly session on Monday that it would not be a wise move to remove the democratic set-up in the province and replace it with Governor's rule.

"If Governor's rule is implemented in Sindh, then we would resist it, like we did in 1998," stated Khuro.

He also said that democratic institutions should be given the time to take their own course. "Why can't we wait for the assembly?"

"The law and order situation in the province has improved, so why would Governor's rule be implemented in Sindh," added the minister.

Centre, Sindh in war of words

In a presser on Saturday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali went so far as to hint at the possibility of imposing Governor’s Rule in Sindh to continue the Karachi operation.

Nisar alleged the provincial government's tactics were aimed to save just one man – an implicit reference to Dr Asim Hussain – and were endangering the Karachi operation.

Read: Sindh govt endangering Karachi operation to save ‘just one man’: Nisar.

He said that the delay in extending Rangers' powers was a message to embolden terrorists and extremists, adding that in case Sindh did not comply, the government had four to five different options within the “constitutional, legal and democratic framework”.

In the same breath, however, the minister hoped that sanity would prevail. “If the MQM and PPP have some reservations, we are ready to sit with them to address those issues with maturity and seriousness,” he remarked.

Maula Bux Chandio soon responded on behalf of the Sindh government in equally confrontational terms, but dispelled a potential standoff when he declared that the government would move a resolution in the Sindh Assembly on Monday to ensure that Rangers were given special policing powers.

Also read: Sindh links extension of Rangers’ powers to assembly approval.

The question of extending Rangers’ stay in Karachi became controversial when the Sindh government failed to renew it before the expiry of the previous order on Dec 6.

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”.

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