In a remarkable turn of events, the government’s top civilian security chiefs on Thursday declared ignorance regarding the massive operation launched by paramilitary forces in Karachi’s troubled Orangi Town.
The operation, on its first day on Monday, saw over 400 people arrested in pre-dawn raids by some 700 personnel of the Pakistan Rangers Sindh.
Somewhat taken aback by the authorities’ supposed ignorance, a Rangers brigadier said the paramilitary unit comes under the Ministry of Interior and no operation could be launched without the ministry’s knowledge. “Everyone, including the home ministry is consulted and obviously involved,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza, the province’s security chief, told the Sindh Assembly that he was not consulted on the Orangi operation. In fact, he also added that even the chief minister and Capital City Police Office were not aware of the raids.
While that assertion left some lawmakers baffled, a subsequent statement by federal security chief, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, bordered extraordinary.
“I agree completely with what Dr Zulfiqar Mirza said because neither I, nor the authorities, know anything about the action to which he is referring,” Malik told the media.
The interior minister said that these things could have happened after the police and Rangers were given the power to follow-up on any information that they have.
“I was in the UAE when this action took place and we will not allow such an incident to happen again. We will make sure that in any operation carried out by the police or Rangers, the authorities will remain subservient to the Sindh authorities, chief minister and the home minister,” Malik said.
About the target killings in the city, Malik said the killers were planning to target senior leadership of the MQM, ANP and PPP. “There were three major incidents that were avoided, one such incident involved an improvised device plus firing in the Sindh Assembly. I personally called the MPs and directed them on how to manage the situation,” he said, adding that they planned to attack some journalists.
“It doesn’t matter if they are from South Africa or Bajaur or Balochistan, they all have the same agenda: to break down Pakistan, to destabilise us,” he said.
Amidst all the confusion, a Pakistan Rangers major said the process is pretty straightforward. The provincial government sends a request to the Ministry of Interior, which then directs Rangers to go ‘in aid’ of the police. “Also, if prior orders are given to Rangers by the ministry that it must act whenever called in by the provincial government, then it follows those directives whenever such a request is sent,” he said.
The major said the current game being played was nothing but ‘political point scoring.’ He said they should have known that Rangers would act impartially in an operation and would pick up any criminal no matter what political affiliation they have. “Their vote bank gets affected by such operations, so it’s very convenient that they’re putting the blame on us,” he said.
Meanwhile, SP Orangi Khurram Warid told The Express Tribune that the number of suspects held in the on-going operation had exceeded 100. He said he wasn’t acting on his own. “Obviously, the police officers are carrying out the operation after being given orders by the CCPO and PPO,” he said. He added that the operation was expected to end by 31st January.
Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court also commented on the volatile situation in Karachi. During a hearing of the Hajj scam case, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudhry said the violence in the city had claimed the lives of at least 75 people in the past month alone.
The court questioned why key posts in the city were being awarded on a contractual basis, including that of Sindh’s Inspector General.
Meanwhile, the Sindh government has decided to convene an all-parties conference on January 26 to tackle outbreaks of violence in the city.
PPP and MQM leaders met at the CM House in Karachi and decided to from a sub-committee to discuss and resolve issues between the two parties. The members of the committee will be nominated soon.
The meeting was jointly chaired by Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY HAFIZ TUNIO
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2011.