ISLAMABAD: Punjab Rangers have reportedly stopped performing regular security duties around the Parliament House just days after Monday’s events outside the accountability courts in the federal capital.
Though the government spokesperson called it a ‘routine matter’, many believe the withdrawal of security cover provided by the paramilitary force is linked to a simmering dispute involving the Rangers, the Islamabad administration, and the interior ministry.
Rangers and FC officials have been deployed in the federal capital to assist the police in maintaining law and order for the past few years. The paramilitary force has been performing patrol duties and assisting police in securing important buildings and events whenever needed.
A few dozen Rangers personnel were routinely deployed outside the Parliament House whenever the National Assembly or the Senate was in session. However, it emerged on Wednesday that the Rangers had withdrawn this security detail.
Parliament House officials confirmed that Rangers personnel have not come on duty for the last two days and that security staff have informed the speaker and his deputy about the development.
The move came as the interior ministry was investigating Monday’s takeover of the accountability court complex by the Rangers during appearance of Nawaz Sharif before the court. The Rangers also barred the media, lawyers, cabinet members – including Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal – from entering the premises.
The interior ministry has now given the DG Rangers three days to explain on whose orders the force took over the complex, since the civil administration repeatedly said it did not ask for deployment.
“An explanation has been sought from Rangers over violation of discipline,” Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry said in a TV interview. He added the police and the FC were currently deployed for security of the Parliament House and did not confirm or deny the Rangers’ reported withdrawal.
SSP Jameel Hashmi, who oversees security of the Parliament House, told The Express Tribune, “Police requisition Rangers personnel whenever they are short of strength.” He added that the paramilitary troops had not been sought by police for the ongoing session of the National Assembly. To a question, he said the red-zone is currently being guarded by 500 Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials.
However, other sources said the Rangers had conditioned the provision of security with formal written requests moved by the deputy commissioner. A spokesperson for the interior ministry said Rangers’ deployment and withdrawal was a “routine matter and has nothing to do with Monday’s events outside the accountability court”.
Meanwhile, in an interview on Express News, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said it was still not clear “who issued what orders”.
He said the issue “has to be explored. Ahsan Iqbal is the interior minister. We asked the judge and the Rangers commander present there at that time. There was no clarity that who ordered them to come there and close the doors.”
He also said that if Rangers officials were found guilty of any wrongdoing at the courts, action would be taken against them in accordance with the law.