KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday passed a resolution asking for checks and conditions on Rangers’ special powers to raid and arrest suspects.
Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial presented the resolution on the critical issue of Rangers’ powers on the floor of the Sindh Assembly, amid chants and slogans by opposition members.
The resolution, which was approved by the House, was criticised by opposition members who claimed the government wanted to seriously curtail the paramilitary force’s powers.
The resolution states that Rangers will only have powers with respect to the following:
- Target killing
- Kidnapping for ransom
- Sectarian killing
“That any person, who is not directly involved in terrorism and is only suspected of aiding and abetting terrorists or by way of terror financing or facilitating terrorists shall not be placed under preventive detention under any law without prior written approval of the Government of Sindh i.e Chief Minister. It is clarified that in case a person is suspected of the above, cogent reasons with complete evidence justifying such preventive detention shall be provided to Government of Sindh, which will, based on the available evidence, approve or reject such proposal of preventive detention.”
“The Pakistan Rangers Sindh shall not raid any office of Government of Sindh or any other Government Authority without prior written approval of the Chief Secretary, Government of Sindh.”
Opposition members, including those from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), PML-F and the PML-Q, tore apart their copies of the resolution and staged a walkout from the assembly to register their protest against the PPP-led provincial government.
PTI MPA Khurram Sher Zaman, in a presser outside the assembly, completely rejected the resolution saying the provincial government was in fact threatening the Karachi operation.
Earlier, the provincial government had said that it was not reluctant to extend special policing powers of Rangers in Karachi, but was just trying to fulfil the constitutional requirement by getting it approved through Sindh Assembly.
Sindh, centre at odds
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.
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”.
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.
Rangers in Sindh
The deployment of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, in Karachi is requisitioned under Article 147 of the Constitution, and under Clause 1 of Sub-section 3 of Section 4 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, authorised to prevent the commission of terrorist acts, or scheduled offences in notified area for the punishment of terrorist in accordance with the provision of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
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.