Karachi Operation: Who is Weakening the Federation?

By Sajjad ShaukatWeapon-free Karachi

The present government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had launched the targeted operation in Karachi after obtaining consensus of all stakeholders like political parties, business community and members of civil society who wanted peace in Karachi. In this regard, Karachi had been handed over to the Rangers with power to take action against the culprits without any discrimination.

The ongoing operation against terrorists, target killers, kidnappers, land mafia and “Batha khaur” (Illegal money obtainers) continues unabated, while the Rangers with the help of Police have arrested several criminals besides capturing huge catches of arms and weapons including those who were found involved in corruption.

It is regrettable that due to their political exigency and in order to increase their vote bank, some political parties have been manipulating the Karachi operation at the cost of the federation.

In this context, in 2014, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Governor Sindh Ishratul Ibad Khan had submitted his resignation, as MQM dubbed the operation with the pretext that it is against its office bearers. While, this party had itself supported the operation, and even demanded to hand over Karachi to Army. It was illogical reaction of the MQM which has dominating position in Karachi, and wanted to blackmail the federal government by creating hurdles in the operation.

Similarly, Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Qaim Ali shah who is, now, opposing the operation had said on September 15, 2013 that the targeted operation initiated without any discrimination and the Rangers and Sindh Police had been directed that even not to spare any person belonging to the ruling party, if involved in crime.

In fact, MPA of MQM, Nadeem Hashmi was arrested on September 10, 2013 owing to firing at a police mobile in the Haideri area of the city in which the two policemen were killed. In the same month, some MQM workers were arrested, who were found involved in criminal activities, while the founder and leader of MQM Altaf Hussain had condemned the raid on MQM’s offices.

The paramilitary force also proved that the MQM was behind the Baldia Town factory fire in which 250 persons were killed. On February 8, 2015, the Rangers also arrested a senior MQM worker namely Rafiq Rajput who not only ran a team of ‘hit men’ but was also involved in the May 12, 2007 carnage in the Karachi.

It is mentionable that Zulfiqar Mirza, Sindh Home Minister and Senior Vice President of the then ruling party—Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) claimed on April 9, 2011 that he had been relieved from his ministry owing to pressure from the government’s coalition partner, the MQM. He revealed that the issue of target killing and extortion was just a ruse to remove him from his post. He added that the police had arrested the murderers of Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar—the real “culprits belong to the MQM.”

In the recent past, Zulfiqar Mirza disclosed that the PPP leader and the co-chairman of the party Asif Ali Zardari and his close friends, including some persons of the PPP were involved in corruption.

Undoubtedly, the PPP and MQM have been ruling Karachi and Sindh for many years through their corrupt politicians, venal supporters and dishonest government officers. The Rangers’ operation has given a setback to their malpractices. When these parties felt that they were losing their power and grip over Karachi and Sindh, their leaders started their utmost for halting this operation.

While, the Rangers’ operation has increased in pace and influence. On August 26, 2015, the Rangers have arrested Dr. Asim Hussain, a former adviser to the Prime Minister on petroleum and natural resources—the incumbent chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Sindh and a close associate of Asif Ali Zardari. This alarming arrest has made the PPP leaders insecure and fearful. Hence, they are crying foul play. The most disturbing thing for the PPP leadership is that Dr. Asim Hussain has been charged with corruption and his arrest could result into arrest of Asif Ali Zardari. Therefore, all the major PPP leaders like Asif Ali Zardari, Syed Khursheed Shah, the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Sheri Rehman and Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira have spoken against this arrest very vociferously.

Asif Ali Zardari remarked, “The chief secretary of Sindh is on bail. All this unmistakably presents a clear pattern of political harassment and revenge. By doing so, Sindh has been immobilized under the direct orders from the Prime Minister’s House. If they want to conduct a fair accountability, they should first take action against a federal minister who had given a confessional statement before a magistrate that he had been involved in money laundering for the Sharif brothers. Only then we will know how clean the followers of the N-League are. The report of Justice Najafi on the Model Town killings should be made public and all involved in this gruesome murder of innocent people be arrested. All characters involved in the Asghar Khan case should also be apprehended.”

This statement clearly shows that Zardari is trying to put forward a charge-sheet against the PML-N. He is not interested to clarify the charges against the PPP’s inept government and corrupt politicians.

Syed Khursheed Shah has also not felt any hesitation in threatening even the state. He said, “If former president Asif Ali Zardari is apprehended, there will be a war. Pakistan Peoples Party would fight repression in a democratic way from within the Parliament. The PPP is being victimized in Sindh and the ruling party must understand that political parties are its aides.”

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah also expressed his anger over this arrest. While taking to the media, Syed Qaim Ali Shah said, “This is not fair and unwarranted. It is not appropriate to arrest any individual at will, we do not practice the law of the jungle in Sindh.”

These statements illustrate the real nature of the PPP and its leaders. The PPP has been ruling Sindh for many years but it has hopelessly failed to create peace and prosperity in the province, especially Karachi, due to its corrupt and inept leadership.

In this respect, the most shocking development is that in order to hide the corruption, PPP leaders have started using Sindh card by provoking the Sindhis against the federation. In their recent statements, both Zardari and Qaim Ali Shah have equated the Karachi operation with an attack on Sindh.

We have a volatile and potentially dangerous situation at hand which could draw in many elements to create political chaos. The question of Sindh and the allegations of victimization of the province have been accelerated by the irresponsible political leaders of the province. Everyone knows that in one way or the other, corruption, crime and terrorism have their possible links with political elements.

However, vitality and importance of the Karachi operation vis-à-vis role of the Sindh Rangers is noteworthy. Unlike the past, the peace have been restored in the city.

It is of particular attention that previous two operations in 1992 and 1994 had failed because of political expediencies. As a consequence, it could not achieve desired results and the city remained infested with terrorists and criminals. The Sindh government had failed in maintenance of law and order, providing good governance to the people due to corruption, as it also exposed its non-seriousness and callous attitude. Reportedly, since last 8 years of PPP tenure, 15 thousand people lost their lives in Karachi only. With such figures, PPP’s exploitation of Sindh card and politicization of rangers’ powers are unjustified.

Besides, PPP’s adopted defiant role may be debated to expose immature, interest oriented and opportunistic politics of the party leadership with reference to Zardari’s self-centered politics.

It is mentionable that petty and parochial politics, ensuing into growing confrontation between Sindh and federal governments over “Rangers powers” issue is unwarranted and damaging for the nation as well as the democracy.

The loyalist Sindhis and the residents of Karachi must know that Karachi is Pakistan’s largest port and financial hub with the largest commercial markets, collecting 70 per cent of the country’s tax revenue. So, besides causing unrest in the city, creating instability in Pakistan, another aim of the PPP and MQM is to cripple the economy of the city which was intermittently brought to a halt with shut-down strikes—many shops including other business centers were forced to be closed, as noted in the past.

Nevertheless, it is the last opportunity to bring peace in Karachi and nation is ready to render any sacrifice.

Prolonging of the tensions in Sindh is creating uncertainty, thus leading to favourable conditions for outlaws to play their mean games. Moreover, it will undo the serious efforts of the Rangers in bringing down the crime rate in Karachi.

Efforts may be initiated at all forums to ‘depoliticise’ Sindh Police and build their policing capacity. Nonetheless, the patriot people of Sindh must be aware of the fact that for the sake of their political interests, some leaders of the PPP are misguiding them by using the Sindh card to weaken the federation.

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