WEB DESK: Changing horses midstream has never been a sensible tactic in a situation of war like the one being waged against terrorists and crime mafias in Karachi. Not that the Rangers-led operation has been absolutely above board – there have been noticeable divergences from the tasked mission, particularly in the context of basic human rights – but in sum total the 27-month-old operation has achieved significant gains.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is spot-on when he says the investors, who would fear for life and call their prospective partners to Dubai, are now coming to the mega-city. There is an all-to-see improvement in the security situation, and this must be protected and preserved at all costs, he insists.
“The gains made through sacrifices of the law enforcement agencies (which include all law enforcement outfits, including the Sindh police) with full commitment of the federal and provincial governments will not be allowed to be reversed under any circumstances, as the provincial government (of Sindh) and chief minister will be the biggest beneficiaries of its success”. The statement made by CoAS General Raheel Sharif on the occasion is perhaps more direct: “We have broken the backbone of terrorists in Karachi and other parts of the country, and will not let them regroup”.
The ongoing operation, he asserted, is apolitical. But only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. The Sindh government, however, is not at all comfortable with the Rangers-led operation; and by all indications was not prepared to grant another extension to this mandate, which stood expired on December 5, 2015. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah is reported to have told the prime minister in a one-on-one meeting that “the Rangers have exceeded their mandate by interfering in the provincial government’s affairs, the case in point being Dr Asim Hussain’s protracted detention.”
He is reported to have said “political victimisation in the name of an operation” is not acceptable. The prime minister did not reject the chief minister’s reservations in so many words but underscored the need for according priority to law and order in Karachi.
The anti-terrorism operation has the consensual backing of all parliamentary political parties and provincial administrations. With minor exceptions, and those too inspired by tainted political perceptions, the results of the Rangers-led operation in Karachi have pleased all and sundry in this city of teeming millions and throughout the country. There is therefore no apparent reason that this operation should be allowed to wither on the vine by refusing extension to its mandate.
However, there are quite a few new developments on legal and political horizons that warrant a revisit to its past in order to ensure its relevance for now and in future. The question now keeps coming up if the Rangers’ operation is apolitical and in line with the law of the land why then most of the accused go scot free. As of now; out of 2,668 cases that are before anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) only 66 were decided last month with 30 convictions. Maybe, the cases against those who got scot free were cooked up, as some would like to argue, but isn’t it also a fact that in those cases the investigation was found to be perfunctory and prosecution below the mark? Being conscious of this weakness the provincial government has now decided to set up as many as 30 additional ATCs and recruit 200 new prosecutors.
Had this been done before the results on the ground would have been different indeed; but better late than never. Then there is this stunning electoral victory of the MQM which puts it in the driving seat to run the mega-city of Karachi. It too has certain reservations about the ongoing operation by the paramilitary forces. Will it share reservations of rival political PPP-led Sindh government or contest them? The situation constitutes a huge challenge to both. How they would react to extended mandate of Rangers; it’s certainly in the realm of future. But the political maturity on their part and desideratum to defeat a ubiquitous threat posed by terrorism and violence require them to extend full support to the Rangers-led Karachi operation. As of today there is no other option.