Rangers contest Sindh government version: war of words heats up

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Salahuddin Haider

The Sindh government’s decision to confine Rangers to security duties, has evoked sharp reaction from the Para-military force, which despite expiry of police powers on April 15, not only continued it siege and search operation, but hit back at the provincial government, reminding it that its insistence to keep the Rangers in the province under article 147, was wrong
Its objection to the provincial announcement of Tuesday night, was rebuked today, reflecting an open war of words, which in other words can well be categorized as “just short of confrontation”
Not a good augury by any mean, said an expert, lamenting that the Sindh government had picked the path of rebellion, picking quarrel with Federal government, which is not by any mean a happy situation.
“The notification gives off the impression that the Rangers will operate like the police although Article 147 clearly states the opposite,” retorted a Rangers spokesperson in Karachi Wednesday..
The notification, instead of restoring police powers of arrest, siege and search to Ranagers, merely confined It to guard duties of places like the governor’s and chief minister’s house, Sindh assembly, even extending that obligation to security of airport, which if implemented will lead to confusion between Airport Security Force which is working for decades, and is now under a two-star General of the Army. It is headed by a Major-General, against the past practice of being under a brigadier.
Among other places, Rangers were supposed to be deployed are courts, oil refinery, and other important installations. Even security of educational institutions, including universities, and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has also been placed under its control.
The Sindh government seems determined to deny Rangers power to arrest people in the province. It had protested against NAB raids on provincial institutions, but police being under provincial control, hardly proved itself worthy of the name. A general view is that the release by court of Ayan Ali, Dr Asim Hussain, and now confirmation of bail to Sharjeel Memon. It looks like obvious now that the police under orders from their masters, have avoided placing concrete evidence before the courts, and hence their release depite charges of serious and massive corruption against all of them.
The notification said. “According to the August 2016 notification, the paramilitary force has the authority of patrolling, picket, and providing backup support to police personnel.”
Although earlier reports had said that Pakistan Rangers personnel deployed in all areas including sensitive points across Sindh were summoned back to the headquarters following the expiry of their special policing powers in the province on April 14, a raid was conducted in the last 24 hours in which allegedly eight terrorists were nabbed, Did that mean that Rangers have been on with their primary obligations of clearing the mess from Karachi.
Two different versions were available on the need or otherwise of Rangers presence in Karachi or Sindh. While chief minister Murad Ali Shah seems reluctant to grant police powers to Rangers, Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair is speaking a different language. He remains firmly of the view that the presence of Rangers is crucial for the peace and security of the metropolis.
The Governor Sindh visited Karachi Chamber of Commerce and spoke to media as well
He said that it would be a bad move to call back Rangers, vowing that the city’s peace would not go to waste.
The Governor Sindh added that the federal government is firm on its stance that Rangers must continue to work in the city.
Presiding over a Sindh cabinet meeting at Bilawal House Karachi on Saturday, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari discussed the extension of powers of Sindh Rangers among other matters.
PPP senator Saeed Ghani’s views could not be ignored either. He was quoted as saying that “I don’t understand why it [extension] is turned into an issue each time the extension is delayed,” Pakistan People’s Party Senator Saeed Ghani said while talking to the media about the extension of Rangers’ special policing powers in the province Sunday. “The delay in the extension of their [Rangers’] powers is not that big an issue.”
The paramilitary force was granted certain special powers including arrests and raids when the Karachi operation started back in 2011, Ghani said in a statement to the media.
“If they don’t have these special privileges for a few days, it doesn’t mean that they can’t continue their job,” the PPP leader said. “Their duties are not affected by the delay in extension, and they continue to perform them.”
Official sources disclosed that a summary to grant an extension of powers to the paramilitary force was sent to the Chief Minister (CM) Sindh Murad Ali Shah by the Home Department Sindh on April 5; however, the approval remains pending to date.