KARACHI: A tussle between the Pakistan Rangers and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement escalated on Tuesday when the former accused the “foreign-based leadership of a political party” of inciting violence through its speeches and statements and the latter blamed the paramilitary force for playing a political role in the name of Karachi Operation.
The Rangers and the MQM leadership have been trading allegations against each other since the March 11, 2015 raid on the party’s Nine Zero headquarters from where the force claimed to have recovered illegal weapons and arrested some wanted criminals, including a convict who had been sentenced to death in the journalist Wali Babar murder case.
Since then the Rangers have been accusing the MQM leadership of running a “militant wing” and collecting extortion in the name of zakat and fitra, while the former has blamed the paramilitary force for patronising the Afaq Ahmed-led Mohajir Qaumi Movement and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party and “illegally” imposing an unannounced ban on its political and welfare activities.
The latest controversy surfaced on Tuesday after a spokesman for the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, stated that the speeches and statements of the foreign-based leadership of a political party were creating a situation that could affect Karachi’s peace.
Without naming the political party, the statement went on to read: “The foreign-based leadership in its speeches and statements is inciting a specific group and students to attack state institutions, media organisations, traders and artists and create lawlessness.”
“Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, is carrying out action against all those elements who want to create lawlessness in Karachi. All those who received threats are being given full security and all shopping centres and media houses are also being provided special security,” it added.
Two days ago, the Rangers issued a statement asking the government and semi-government organisations in the city to shut down the offices of “political or militant wings” at their places. The MQM condemned the move, saying the “illegal and unconstitutional” directives of the Rangers were against the offices of trade unions and labour associations being backed by the party.
The latest move of the paramilitary force is being seen against the backdrop of a speech of London-based MQM chief Altaf Hussain a couple of days ago in which he lashed out at the Rangers for not allowing the party to collect zakat and fitra for its charity wing, the Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation. He also condemned the traders and industrialists for donating funds to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and not to the MQM.
However, Tuesday’s statement of the Rangers invited the MQM’s ire whose senior leader Dr Farooq Sattar rejected at a press conference the Rangers statement that the MQM had any militant wing. “As far as I know no political party [in Karachi] has a militant wing.”
He wondered how Mr Hussain could provoke people when the airing of his speeches and statements as well as his photographs had been banned for so long.
“The Rangers are trying to hide their incompetence by blaming the MQM and Altaf Hussain. The Rangers are issuing political statements against the MQM,” he said, asking the paramilitary force to approach courts if any sentence in Mr Hussain’s speeches was objectionable.
Addressing the chief of army staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Dr Sattar said his party was ready to appear before a military tribunal where it would present evidence of the alleged high-handed manner of the Rangers.
He urged all the army generals to listen to the press conferences of the MQM and then analyse and point out mistakes. “Even today we express our confidence in Gen Raheel Sharif, the Pakistan army and the Rangers, but there is a need for the accountability of some elements in the law enforcement agencies.”
He said elected representatives from Karachi South and West districts were being detained only to stop the MQM from getting the top local government office in the two districts.
He asked the army chief and Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar to take notice of the threats being given to the MQM office-bearers and workers by the Rangers who were allegedly forcing them to join the Pak Sarzameen Party.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2016