Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Thursday met Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and assured him that the Ministry of Interior would provide all the support Sindh needed in its operation against bandits.
Rashid — who is visiting Karachi on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan to formulate a security strategy for Sindh against the backdrop of recent incidents of violence in the upper part of the province — told the chief minister that he could seek Rangers’ assistance for the operation at any time, according to a press release by the Sindh government.
The statement quoted the chief minister as telling Rashid that his government needed some sensitive equipment and while they were making arrangements to get the equipment, the Ministry of Interior could help them as well.
Rashid once again assured the CM of providing all the needed support to the Sindh government for the operation, though he added that law and order was a provincial subject.
When the chief minister said his government would soon clear Sindh's riverine areas of bandits, Rashid asked him to book the bandits under the anti-terrorism law.
Earlier in the meeting, the chief minister said Pakistan, which was previously ranked the sixth most dangerous country in the world, was now ranked 126th, implying that the law and order situation had improved.
“Previously, we had to travel with a convoy, but the PPP-led Sindh government initiated an operation [against criminal elements] and got the highways cleared,” he recalled, adding that back then, the law and order situation had worsened to such an extent in Karachi that the city saw the emergence of no-go areas.
Briefing Rashid on the recent incidents of violence in rural Sindh, he added that the police conducted an operation in Shikarpur on May 23 to rescue eight kidnapped persons, during which kidnappers were able to attack a chained police armoured personnel carrier (APCs) as it had malfunctioned.
Welcoming Rashid in Sindh, he said the provincial government and the Centre would work together, the statement quoted him as saying.
Interior Ministry Secretary Yousuf Nasim Khokhar, Sindh Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah and Sindh IGP Mushtaq Mahar, among others, also attended the meeting.
Rashid later also met Sindh Governor Imran Ismail at Governor House, where they exchanged views on Sindh's political and law and order situation, along with issues of mutual interest.
"Strict action will be taken against those destroying the law and order in Sindh," the minister said in a tweet.
Ismail vowed on the occasion that all elements creating obstacles in Sindh's progress and prosperity will be eliminated.
'No governor rule being imposed'
Addressing a press conference after his meetings with the provincial leadership, Rashid ruled out the imposition of governor's rule in Sindh and said the federal government had no plans to start any operation in the province.
"All the reports in the media are irresponsible; neither do we have an operational thinking nor is there talk of governor raj, nor does Prime Minster Imran Khan want to interfere in Sindh on behalf of the Centre," the minister stressed, saying he would present a report to the premier on his visit by tomorrow or the day after.
Rashid said terrorism clauses would be added to the cases registered against the bandits and they will be tried in fast-track courts.
He said the Sindh government would receive three APCs for the operation. "If they need more APCs, we are ready to provide more weapons including drones. Rangers is also ready to work as a backup with police where the Sindh government wants," Rashid said.
According to the minister, Sindh Chief Minister Shah had told him that the provincial government wanted to deal with the current situation in Shikarpur "themselves". But Rashid said the Rangers were standing alert should the provincial government need them.
"The province of Sindh and the interior ministry will together deal with [the bandits]," he added.
Rashid said it was believed that some people with "political interests" were involved in the 4-5 groups active in the kacha areas. "All institutions are on the same line and length that any big name found involved in this daaku raj will be dealt with strictly," he emphasised.
It was also agreed in the meetings that the Sindh government will take steps to make the police independent and officers will be appointed on merit without political considerations, the minister told the presser.
Rashid meets DG Rangers
Also on Thursday, Sindh Rangers Director General Major General Iftikhar Hassan Chaudhry called on Rashid Ahmed at the Rangers Headquarters in Karachi, Radio Pakistan reported.
The law and order situation in Sindh was discussed during the meeting, where Rashid praised the steps taken by the Rangers to maintain law and order in Karachi.
He said Karachi was the backbone of Pakistan's economy and the role of Sindh Rangers in maintaining law and order in the metropolis was commendable.
Other necessary measures shall also be taken to protect the lives and properties of people here, he said, assuring that the federal government would ensure the provision of necessary resources to law enforcement agencies.
The meetings were held a day after Rashid shared a sketchy plan for a broad-based security strategy for Sindh while talking to reporters.
During the media talk, the interior minister clarified that he was not in Karachi to intervene in the affairs of Sindh, saying that law and order was solely a provincial subject and he would take the chief minister into confidence regarding his recent moves.
However, he said in the same breath that any major decision on the subject was the discretionary right of the prime minister.
“The decision would only be of Imran Khan,” he replied to a query about the possible outcome of his visit. “I am here only to meet security agencies that include Rangers and the Frontier Corps. I am also seeing Murad Ali Shah … I will meet all of them but be clear — I am not here to interfere in anyone’s affairs.”