Defying a growing chorus seeking Army intervention to stop the Karachi violence, top leaders of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) dismissed any possibility of looking to the General Headquarters for help to restore peace in the city.
Instead, they decided to use Rangers and police to conduct ‘indiscriminate surgical’ operations in troubled spots of the city.
“Calling in the Army is out of the question … there is zero per cent chance of going for this option even in an extreme situation,” a party leader told The Express Tribune after a meeting of the PPP core committee, chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari.
Attended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and key party leaders, the meeting that continued till midnight also decided to seek support from all political players with stakes in Karachi but insiders appeared to be casting doubts on whether the PPP will continue to pursue the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) as well. Interestingly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sindh Senior Minister Zulfikar Mirza were not present in the meeting. The two leaders had an exchange of harsh words during the Sindh cabinet meeting on Monday.
A handout issued by the presidency said that Zardari spoke to Awami National Party (ANP) Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan during the meeting but a participant said continuation of cooperation with the MQM was not discussed.
Another PPP leader who attended the meeting said there was ‘disappointment’ in the party ranks on the way the MQM had rejected cooperation offers by the president and the prime minister.
An insider said the PPP will resist calls by its allies and opponents to hand over Karachi to the military. “Most of us are of the opinion that calling in the Army will further complicate the situation,” a participant added.
According to the statement, the committee put its weight behind the provincial government’s efforts and initiatives to restore peace in the city.
Briefing the media, presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the participants appreciated the decision taken by the Sindh government to take stern action against extortionists and criminal elements in different parts of Karachi, regardless of party affiliations.
During the meeting, the president also called the Sindh chief minister to assure him the PPP’s full support. Babar said the CM informed the president that it had been decided to set up an operation room in Karachi to keep an eye on incidents of lawlessness in the city, monitor action taken against criminals and provide relief to victims of violence.
Sindh CM house meeting
In a bid to exert greater control over security of Karachi, the Sindh government has decided that entry points into the city will be reduced.
This was decided at a law and order meeting, co-chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, at the Sindh Chief Minister House on Tuesday.
The decision is aimed at restricting the movement of arms and inter-provincial routes will also be snap-checked.
The government has also warned 25 banned Jihadi and sectarian organisations, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, to immediately stop their activities and close their offices, otherwise strict action will be taken against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“We have warned these terrorists to either leave the city or face the consequences,” Malik told the media after the meeting. Regarding ‘no-go’ areas in the city, he said the government will demolish barricades in areas where it has been difficult for the police and law enforcers to enter.
The interior minister said that the government has prepared a video of detained target killers, which will soon be released.
Sources privy to the meeting said that, initially, nine areas, including Lyari, Korangi, Orangi and Qasba Colony, have been selected for a surgical operation to be conducted by the police and Rangers.
The meeting was also informed that six extortionists have been arrested and the government has warned others to leave Karachi immediately, else stern action will be taken against them.
(With additional reporting by Hafeez Tunio in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2011.