RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif in a high-level briefing at Rangers Headquarters Karachi on Sunday directed all commanders to leave 'no stone unturned' finding the perpetrators behind the Amjad Sabri murder and Awais Shah kidnapping.
The army chief's visit to Karachi comes days after the high-profile kidnapping of the Sindh High Court chief justice's son Awais Shah and the assassination of famed qawwal Amjad Sabri, who was gunned down in Liaquatabad by unidentified motorcyclists in an attack claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Shah's kidnapping and Sabri's murder occurred within days of each other, causing fear and panic to spread among residents of Karachi, where citizens had perceived an improvement in the law and order situation since the initiation of the Rangers-led operation in 2013.
Gen Raheel was briefed in detail by Director General (DG) Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar on the paramilitary force's ongoing operation, the law and order situation and the way forward for Karachi during the meeting.
Referring to recent incidents, the army chief directed all commanders, including those of intelligence agencies, to continue working hand-in-glove, leaving no stone unturned finding the perpetrators.
The COAS reiterated that the Karachi operation focuses on the entire network of terrorists, their abettors and financiers, and will continue until peace is restored to the city.
Every form of assistance, including intelligence and material combat support, will be provided to the Rangers to accomplish their mission, he said.
General Raheel Sharif also commended Sindh Rangers for the sacrifices they have rendered and for their achievements.
"The determination, courage and resolve of Sind Rangers, to rid the city of terrorists and criminals has earned them the widest respect from the people of Karachi," said the COAS.
'Noticeable improvement, but terror network needs to be dismantled'
General Raheel Sharif, in a meeting at the Corps Headquarters Karachi on Sunday evening, said the ongoing operation had brought about a noticeable improvement in the law and order situation of the metropolis.
“As we progress to target crime and terror syndicate network, we need to keep our focus on actionable human and technical intelligence and totally dismantle their support structure,” said the COAS during the meeting.
The army chief added the operation has now entered a phase where terrorists and their abettors are badly bruised, isolated and hence will go for softer targets in order to survive and undermine the society psychologically.
The chief of army staff also instructed all concerned entities to pre-empt and hunt down the elements active in spreading chaos and disorder in the metropolis.
General Raheel Sharif assured the people of Karachi on the occasion, and emphasised that the nexus of anti-social elements will be broken at all costs, with the ongoing operation taken to its logical conclusion.
Measures to build and increase capacity of law enforcement agencies were also discussed at the meeting.
The meeting at V Corps Headquarters was attended by the COAS, DG ISI, corps commander Karachi, national security adviser, federal interior minister and other senior government officials of Sindh.
As law enforcement agencies count successes in the ongoing operation against terrorists, banned outfits and militant wings of political and religious organisations, Karachiites have faced a sudden rise in street crimes, which has cost at least four lives during the first 10 days of Ramazan and raised fears for the days ahead.
Official data shows a sharp rise in cell phone and motorbike snatching in the first 10 days of holy month compared to crime rate during the corresponding period before Ramazan, indicating renewed activities of armed groups and individuals in the city despite ongoing Rangers-led operation.
Background: Karachi operation
The ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered Rangers 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 ‘Karachi operation’, the military establishment in August said that there would be no let-up in actions by law enforcement agencies “to ensure a peaceful and terror-free Karachi”.
Although terror-related incidents have decreased up to 60 per cent in the two years since the commencement of the Karachi operation, sleeper cells of terror outfits still exist in the metropolis and law enforcers have been making concerted efforts to eliminate the same, Karachi Police AIG Mushtaq Maher said in September last year.
The city police chief had said 3,000 hardcore criminals had been arrested, while 246 terrorists, 38 kidnappers and ten extortionists had been killed so far in police encounters.
Maher had said that car-snatching incidents reported in the city were the lowest in the past 15 years while motorcycle-snatching incidents were on the rise, which he said will be curtailed.
Rangers spokesman Colonel Amjad maintained that 913 terrorists including 550 target killers were nabbed while 15,400 illegal weapons were recovered from the custody of criminals operating within the city.