Sindh imbroglio needs full antidote
by Asif Haroon Raja
PPP-MQM 5-year rule in Sindh from 2008 to 2013 had devastated Karachi. The cosmopolitan city of lights was destablised by the MQM with the help of its target killers trained in India with an additional base in South Africa under a well calculated plan of India and its strategic partners to bleed Pakistan’s economic hub centre and crumble its economy. Well over 5000 innocent people had been gunned down by the target killers. Lyari gangs under the name of Aman Committee were created by the then Home Minister Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza in 2011 to confront MQM militancy. Arms licenses were issued to the gangsters liberally. Both parties milked the resources of Karachi and the people with both hands. Injured and dead of the MQM and Lyari terrorists as well as of affiliated terror groups were secretly treated/handled in Ziauddin hospital run by Dr. Asim Hussain, blue-eyed boy of the then President Asif Al Zardari.
PPP-MQM partnership was a marriage of convenience and an unnatural alliance. The PPP after winning majority seats in 2013 elections in Sindh kept MQM out of power but failed to curb its militancy since the latter had gained control over 80% Karachi with the help of its militant wing structured on the basis of Rabita Committee, Tanzeemi Committee, Sector and Unit HQs. Rabita Committee in London acts as the Supreme Council. RAW has been funding this party since 1989 to control Karachi and blackmail Sindh and federal governments. MQM leaders in Sindh have been sending huge funds to London for the upkeep of Altaf Hussain and his team of runaways living an Aristocrat’s life.
Unable to control the ever deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi, the PPP, MQM and ANP agreed to the new PML-N govt’s suggestion of launching an intelligence based targeted Rangers-Police Operation in September 2013 under the captaincy of Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah. Both the MQM and PPP wanted to get rid of their trouble makers, but MQM’s main concern was the TTP threat which it wanted to be eliminated by the Rangers. When the rangers raided Nine Zero in March 2015 and arrested several high profile terrorists and seized arms, the MQM leadership made hue and cry but it didn’t bother the Sindh govt. Unruffled by the MQM leaders loud complaints that the operation was MQM specific, and Altaf’s highly insulting remarks against the Rangers/Army, and seeking intervention of the UN and RAW, the Rangers continued to net wanted criminals of MQM and kept shrinking their space. Many senior MQM leaders like Babar Ghauri, Sabzwari, Haider Rizwi fled abroad. As long as the Rangers were operating against the criminals of MQM, Lyari gang and banned terror groups, no objection was raised by sleepy Qaim Ali.
Trouble started when the Rangers raided the Sindh Board Authority and Fisheries Department and seized implicating material from which it gathered that most of the Sindh ministers, bureaucrats, police and other officials were deeply involved in the racket of financial terrorism and corruption. The front man of Zardari Dr. Asim was nabbed who revealed a lot. Already miffed by the arrest of model Ayan Ali, Asim’s arrest made Zardari hit the roof and he fired hysterical salvos at the Rangers and military establishment and threatened of dire consequences if the PPP was pushed against the wall. From that time onwards, Sindh govt is feeling nervy and seems less interested in the Rangers and want to get rid of it. Qaim Ali Shah, who was a puppet in the hands of Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and Tappi, was reluctant to grant extension on the plea that the Rangers had trespassed into the prohibitive domain of corruption, which was none of their business.
This is the 3rd time that the Sindh Ministry created a big issue at the time of grant of extension to Sindh Rangers to operate with special policing powers. Each time it delayed and raised undue concerns and created an embarrassing situation for the Rangers which impacted the momentum of operation. The Centre had to butt in to get the ball moving. When Qaim tried to put obstacles in the way of Rangers, the interior ministry decided to induct NAB and FIA in Sindh to back up the Rangers efforts to tackle financial terrorism amounting to Rs. 250 billion each year earned through massive corruption. Finding the noose tightening around their necks, Zardari and over 100 PPP leading lights, including Home Minister Sharjeel from whose house Rs. 2.50 billion were recovered, and bureaucrats fled to Dubai. Since then Zardari is remote controlling Sindh govt from there. He has been applying pressure tactics to get Dr. Asim and Ayan Ali released and to keep the Rangers within limits. Kidnapping of son of Sindh chief justice Owais Shah was link of the same chain. Teaming up with its arch rival PTI on the issue of Panama Leaks and TORs is again aimed at pressuring the government to ignore corruption and pursue PPP’s infamous policy of national reconciliation.
Arrest of front man Asad Kharal of the new Home Minister Syal by the Rangers from Larkana and the Sindh Police retrieving him after confronting the Rangers, and soon after the recovery of Owais from Tank by the Army complicated things for Zardari and the PPP. Egged on by Bilawal, Zardari changed the aged chief minister to deflect attention, but the new face is as loyal to Zardari as his predecessor. According to Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, as Finance Minister Sindh, Murad had been doling out Rs. 80 billion out of Sindh budget to Zardari every year. Based on the directions he received from Dubai, Murad Ali Shah issued the notification of extension on August 01 after a delay of 12 days for only one month and confined the Rangers jurisdiction to Karachi only. The Sindh Ministry doesn’t want it to operate in interior Sindh asserting that the initial charter was for Karachi only. It’s a clear-cut indication that they want to keep the hideouts in rural Sindh and escape routes to Baluchistan and southern Punjab protected particularly after the busting of Lyari no-go area. The Interior Minister has issued two notifications by virtue of which the Rangers will remain operational for counter terrorism duties for one year, and will enjoy extra powers in whole of Sindh for next 90 days. It is hoped that the next notification is issued well in time before the expiry date.
The Rangers have to a large extent succeeded in reducing the bleeding of people of Karachi and Sindh economy and freeing Karachi from the clutches of foreign paid monsters by cornering them. 15000 target killers, kidnappers and extortionists have been arrested by the Rangers and handed over to the police for prosecution, conviction and punishment. Smashing of criminal and militant infrastructures in Karachi have substantially improved the law and order situation. Incidents of target killings, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and other crimes have dropped by 80%.
Majority of MQM militants have either been arrested or have gone underground, or have joined the new Pak Sarzmeen Party, a breakaway faction led by Mustafa Kamal. Lyari gang has cracked up after the arrest of Uzair Baloch and killing of senior gangsters. The leeches which are sucking the blood are however yet to be quashed since the reins of power are in their hands. While the people are eulogizing the Rangers the MQM is leaving no stone unturned to discredit and defame the Rangers on concocted charges of genocide of Mohajirs, kidnapping and torture of political workers. In line with its past tradition, the party leadership is putting up an innocent face and playing the card of victimization of Mohajirs. Both PPP and MQM desire that the Rangers should quit, but the people of Karachi who are feeling secure after three decades of acute insecurity hold the Rangers in high esteem. They want the Rangers to stay and completely rid Karachi of the killers and criminals once and for all.
Zardari and Sindh govt are in no mood to change their old habits of nepotism, feudalism, ineptness and corruption, and are least interested in reforming the politicized and corrupt police, the inept civil administration, the lethargic investigative and prosecution systems, protection of witnesses, and performance of lower judiciary. They are quite at ease with the existing flawed systems that allow them to break or bend laws, and loot and plunder without any fear of accountability. 18th amendment has further emboldened them to defy the authority of Islamabad. Sindh govt is ready to tolerate the Rangers as long as they remain within assigned limits and ignore corruption.
Decades old bitterness between the old and new Sindhi in which RAW also had a hand has accentuated rural-urban divide and has turned Sindh into a wounded province. This state of affairs doesn’t bode well since Pakistan cannot hope to prosper without making its economic lifeline secure and healthy. Operations launched in Karachi in 1992 and 1995-6 were directed against the MQM to bridle its militancy but were called off halfway on account of political expediency.
Altaf and founding members of MQM are responsible for militarizing the party to terrorize the Karachites and bleed the port city. Altaf has become a tool in the hands of MI-6 and RAW and takes dictations from them. PPP, PML-N and Gen Musharraf are responsible for strengthening the MQM, while Zardari is responsible for injecting the germs of corruption in the PPP in 1988 and reducing the party to a regional party in 2013. He seems to have learnt no lesson and is continuing to tread on a destructive path. In his mad lust for big money he is causing grievous harm to Pakistan as well.
Nawaz has become PM for the 3rd time and his popularity graph has so far not receded but he lacks charisma and traits of a real leader. Gen Raheel is the only Army chief with whom he has so far not locked horns, although he had created a situation in September 2014 after Imran and Tahirul Qadri had held a meeting with COAS and the PM created tension in civil-military relations by telling the opposition leader that he had not asked the army chief to hold a meeting. For a change he has maintained cordial relations with the Army despite willful efforts of vested groups to spoil them and provoke one or the other to go for the kill. This harmony has proved fruitful for Pakistan and has helped in achieving good results in the last three years.
PML-N under Nawaz has performed well by way of starting Rangers Operation in Karachi in September 2013 to stabilize Pakistan’s economic lifeline, Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 to fight and destroy terrorism in the northwest, and in empowering nationalists in Baluchistan to smother separatist movement with the help of Frontier Corps backed by Army. Outstanding results have been achieved in the three conflict zones. It is also credited for formulating productive 20-point National Action Plan. So far no mega corruption case against any of the sitting ministers has come to surface. The sunk economy has been upturned and macroeconomic indicators as well as stock exchange are positive. Energy crisis has been boldly tackled by undertaking multiple initiatives. Above all, CPEC has been launched which hopefully will change the complexion of Pakistan in coming years. But for futile 126-day sit-in by PTI-PAT, the road infrastructure connecting Gwadar with Kashgar by now could have neared completion.
This is not to say that everything is fine in the ruling party. It has many feudal lords and industrialists who are insensitive to the problems of the poor and least care about national interests. Some have connections with the likes of Chotu gang in Southern Punjab. Very little attention has been paid to rectify the serious flaws in electoral laws without which honest and efficient leaders cannot emerge; pro-rich criminal judicial system which denies cheap and fair justice to the poor. Without police reforms crime cannot be checked and curbed. And without robust accountability system, corruption among the politicians and the bureaucrats who work in unison, cannot be tackled. Charter of Democracy signed by Nawaz and Benazir in 2006 is another anomaly which has handicapped Nawaz. It envisaged keeping the Army under control and the two mainstream parties ruling in turn for five years each. It has given birth to friendly opposition, national reconciliation and scratching each other’s back. Nawaz cannot forget and forgive Gen Musharraf for the trial and tribulation he suffered at his hands for a decade and wants to pay him in the same coin.
Another weakness of Nawaz is his softness towards India which provides a handle to his haters to beat him with. In the wake of upsurge in freedom movement in Kashmir and Indian security forces breaking all records of atrocities, he need to put more steel in his back and adopt an aggressive diplomatic posture particularly in the wake of hysteria created by Indian media which is branding the freedom movement duly sanctified by the UN as terrorism. Chaudhi Nisar Ali did very well to give appropriate reply to the visiting Indian Home Minister Rajnath who in frustration had to beat a hasty retreat to Delhi. Such responses are essential to bolster the morale of the Kashmiris in distress and to assure them that they are not alone.
Non-cooperation of PPP and 18th Amendment are coming in the way of taking Rangers operation to its logical end in Karachi. The other reason is PTI’s aggressiveness and its obsession to unseat the PM. It intends to start protest march from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 7th. These factors and fear of political isolation are restraining Nawaz to go full hog in Karachi. But for Gen Raheel’s push, Nawaz might have called off the Karachi operation to please the PPP and MQM under the misplaced belief that enough has been achieved. He and his core team fail to comprehend that the progress is illusory and will get reversed once Rangers are pulled out.
Wholesome peace can return to Karachi only when the malignant part is removed. The cancers of corruption, crime and financial terrorism have intertwined with politics. Zardari and his coterie are neck deep involved in mega corruption and cannot live without it. They do not consider corruption bad. The MQM cannot survive without terrorism. While Zardari is an obstacle in the way of surgery, the surgeon is hesitant and lacks courage and political will to go for surgery. Till such time the surgery of malignant part is undertaken, the cancers of corruption, crime and terrorism will not get cured and all the sacrifices rendered will go in vain. The vultures, criminals and parasites will bounce back with a vengeance upon the people of Karachi. Their comeback will prove fatal for the integrity of Pakistan.
The situation will become all the more grave in the backdrop of Indo-US-Afghan-Israeli nexus formed against Pakistan in 2002 which has been consistently working to denuclearize and fragment Pakistan into Quasi states. Their efforts to disrupt and fail CPEC is well known. The US is expressing its hostility openly and has not only denied Pakistan the eight F-16s but has also stopped payment of close support fund. Pakistan is faced with ominous internal and external challenges and security forces are fighting a war of survival whose end is not in sight. Certain political parties, banned terror groups, electronic, print and social media, intellectuals, NGOs and snakes in the grass are facilitating foreign agenda.
Under the circumstances the Sindh Ministry has no earthly reason to create impediments in the way of Rangers at this vulnerable stage when light is seen at the end of long tunnel. There is also no reason for opposition parties to gang up and resort to politics of agitation particularly at a time when the wale of Kashmir is bleeding and danger of floods is looming over Pakistan, and the displaced persons from Waziristan who have suffered a long ordeal need rehabilitation. The government must not dillydally at this critical juncture and should stand behind the Rangers and Army to take the Karachi operation to its logical end at the earliest. Hundreds of cases prepared by the JITs must be finalised on war footing and the culprits given exemplary punishments. This will help in destroying RAW’s network in Sindh.
Gen Raheel has only 3 months at his disposal. Having played a glorious inning, he should avoid the temptation of getting extension in service or seizing power. Unless the Parliament amends the rules and extends the tenure of COAS to 4 or 5 years, he should retire honorably on time. He should ignore the suggestions of those trying to place their guns on his shoulder. If he decides to save the so-called sinking ship which is not sinking, like FM Ayub, Gen Yahya, Gen Zia and Gen Musharraf, he will never be forgiven for this cardinal sin and he will go down in history as a usurper. These very political parties who are provoking him to takeover will gang up against him. Suggestion of forming a national govt in 3 months and expecting that it will cure all the chronic diseases is impractical and wishful. I dare say, the only way out left for the adversaries to stop work on CPEC is the fall of govt in power, which with all its drawbacks is moving things forward.
Although Gen Raheel has achieved a lot and will be remembered with fondness for times too come, he is urged to maximize output in his left over time by exerting full pressure on the decision makers to expedite operationalization of CPEC, resettlement of IDPs in Waziristan, further improving the management along the western and southwestern borders, catching the big fish in Sindh, across the board accountability of all by NAB, Hopefully the baton will be taken over by an equally professional and dedicated successor who should pursue his policies and complete the left over works.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defence and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Thinkers Forum Pakistan. Takes part in TV talk shows and delivers talks. firstname.lastname@example.org