The federal and Sindh governments seem to be heading for a showdown with the provincial chief executive hinting at withdrawing policing powers from the paramilitary Rangers force, which has been deployed in Karachi since the 90s.
On Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah claimed that under the 18th constitutional amendment, the provincial government was bound to seek the legislative assembly’s approval before allowing Rangers to continue working under extended powers.
The statement comes in the wake of recent raids by Rangers at offices of different provincial government departments that have upset the political stakeholders. Four months ago, the paramilitary force was given special powers to detain suspects for 90 days. The permission expires today (Wednesday).
“There is a bottleneck in giving them extension in special powers to deal with terrorism,” he said while talking to reporters after distributing compensation cheques among the families of the Safoora carnage victims.
CM Shah said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken all political forces into confidence before launching the Karachi operation. The crackdown was to be against people involved in terrorism, targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion, he said.
“The army chief took personal interest in starting a strong operation and that is why we have achieved encouraging results. Otherwise, Rangers had been already deployed in Karachi and all over the province,” he said.
Shah said that Rangers were called in by the Sindh government a long time ago and their deployment had been extended from time to time. “The services and sacrifices of Pakistan Rangers and Sindh police cannot be forgotten,” he replied to a question.
He added that constitutional experts and the government’s legal team had also recommended going to the assembly for seeking approval to extend the Rangers’ powers. “This time it has to be taken to the assembly at least two months before putting it on the agenda of the house,” he said.
Replying to a question, CM Shah said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had telephoned him personally. “I put all my reservations and apprehensions before him,” he added.
When contacted, the Rangers Sindh spokesman refused to comment on the chief minister’s statement.
MQM announces protests
Encouraged by the Sindh government’s stance, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain also announced staging sit-ins outside the CM House against the ‘atrocities’ of Rangers.
In his address to party office-bearers on Tuesday, the MQM leader called upon the chief minister and the parliamentarians to table a bill in the Sindh Assembly for sending Rangers back to the borders.
He lamented that neither the chief minister nor the judiciary had taken notice of the Rangers’ allegations. “If the courts were independent, then action against Rangers for arresting men illegally would have been taken,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.