The way out



M Ziauddin

THE relevant ruling of the Supreme Court delivered in September 2013 specifically talks of targeted operation in Karachi city. If a need is being felt in some quarters for extending this operation to the entire Sindh province then perhaps another reference to the Supreme Court is indicated.
But then before extending this targeted operation to the entire province which in effect means entrusting the Rangers with policing powers in the province, it is imperative to take a closer look into the Rangers’ capacity in physical terms as well as in terms of its training and equipment. And also one needs to measure the success of this institution in restoring law and order in Karachi where it has been enjoying the policing powers for the last almost three years.
To be fair to the institution, one can say without an iota of reservation that the city of Karachi is far more peaceful today than it ever was before September 2013. But while it has become less of a killing field, Karachi still suffers from big ticket murders not so infrequently like the high profile killing of popular Qawal Amjad Sabri and two Army personnel in recent weeks. Also while the incidence of kidnappings for ransom has gone down to almost nil, still the law enforcement agencies in the city could not stop the high profile kidnapping of Awais Shah, son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on June 20.
Awais Shah is said to have been kept in Karachi for over 13 days by his kidnappers without having been apprehended by the Rangers and then crossed the Sindh border and reached Tank, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from where he was recovered in an intelligence based operation by the Army. Rangers being essentially a border police, if it had concentrated on its actual job more than chasing shadows to remain in media limelight, should have been able to stop the kidnappers from crossing the Sindh border.
In fact while the Army intelligence was chasing the kidnappers of Awais Shah, the Rangers’ unsolicited action in Larkana without taking the local police in confidence against Asad Kharal was being touted in the media through deliberate leaks as an operation to recover Awais Shah alluding the kidnapping to Asad Kharal and by association to the then Interior Minister of Sindh Anwer Sial. Not only this. While extortion (bhatta) incidence have gone down to almost nil, street crimes in Karachi are continuing unabated.
Clearly, the militant wings of the political parties that had made the city of Karachi a virtual bloody battle ground seemed to have disappeared into thin air. And many of those that were apprehended by the Rangers have gone scot free for want of evidence and gone underground to await the end of the operation.
On the other hand the terror organisations linked to TTP and Al-Qaida located in Karachi too seem to have been forced to reduce their bloody activities because of uprooting of their bases in other parts of the country, especially in FATA because of Army’s successful campaign of Zarb-i-Azb.
The Rangers were not sent to Karachi to assist the city police in 2013. The institution has been in the city for over 23 years without policing powers. This is its biggest negative as with such a long stay in the city it is more than impossible for any institution like that of Rangers not to have developed a vested interest that is over and above its legal duties. There are many stories circulating in the gossip market that allude to the institution’s interest in the clandestine economy of the city. Only the other day there was a news item in the print media alleging that the institution had gone into partnership in a petrol pump in the interior of Sindh. There has been no official denial of the report. Also, many in Karachi allege that the institution has some kind of interest in the water mafia of the city.
May be all these unsubstantiated stories are simply rumours spread by those that do not want the Rangers to remain in Karachi or do not want to see its activities extended to the entire province. Still, one would like to see the Rangers to complete the operation in the city at the earliest and withdraw. To accomplish this it would need to focus on the city rather than trying to seek to extend its operation to the rest of the province.
The argument that those that commit an offence in Karachi escape from the city and take refuge in the interior of Sindh and therefore the Rangers need to be given policing powers in the rest of the province as well is too thin to be convincing. What would happen after the Rangers’ are given these powers the offenders were to take refuge in Punjab, KPK or Balochistan? Would the Rangers ask for extending its powers to these three provinces as well? Does not that sound too ridiculous?
Of course, while it is being insisted that Rangers as of now should enjoy policing powers only in the city of Karachi and not in the entire province of Sindh, it does not being implied that the Sindh police or province’s political and civil administration are efficient enough to manage the affairs of the province with any degree of success. Also, it does not mean that the elected government is capable of overcoming the massive corruption that has crept into the province’s innards.
What, however, is being attempted to be argued here is that Rangers is essentially a border police, it is not equipped or trained to maintain law and order. Of course, it can assist the police of a city for a limited period to overcome a very bad law and order situation which it is doing fairly efficiently in Karachi. It will fail if its policing mandate is extended to the province.
On the other hand, what is urgently needed is for the elected government in Sindh to depoliticise the police and keep corrupt politicians out of its governance wing. For this the entire responsibility rests on both the MQM and the PPP.
The MQM needs to give up its disabused Mohajir moorings as none of those whose parents or grand-parents came from India are any more Mohajirs than the sons of the soil. Mohajirs are those that want to go back to the country of their origin, like the Afghan Mohajirs. Those who left India and came to Pakistan after partition had adopted Pakistani nationality giving up their Indian citizenship as soon as they crossed over. And Urdu being the national language, those who claim Urdu to be their mother tongue need not worry too much about the interests of those that speak Urdu because in urban Pakistan it is Urdu culture that dominates. And finally, it is time for the MQM to liberate itself from its London-based leadership, especially from Altaf Hussain who has declared his allegiance to the British Queen.
And the PPP, if it wants to regain its lost glory and once again become a national party, then it will have to jettison as soon as possible both Mr Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur and let new blood take over the party. Bilawal has shown promise. Let him have the final say in the decision making and let the father and auntie retire from mafia-style politics with their billions. Also, it is time for the Party to readopt the slogan ‘Roti, Kapra, Makan’ and give up its Thatcheric/Reaganic unsocio-economic platform.