by Ismail Dilawar and Mohammad Bilal Tahir
KARACHI: Corps Commander Karachi Lieutenant-General Naveed Mukhtar on Thursday put his weight behind Pakistan Rangers which the Sindh government claims is transgressing its constitutional limits while operating against terrorists in this volatile metropolis. The political atmosphere in the country, particularly in the PPP-dominated Sindh province, is boiling since Tuesday when former president and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, in what PML-N leaders said an ill-advised speech, had blasted the military leadership for the “character assassination” of his party.
The PPP stalwart’s outburst came on the heels of a controversial “visit” the Sindh Rangers paid Monday to the offices of Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and Lines Area Development Project (LADP) where the paramilitary force, as Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah claimed, ‘harassed and waylaid and also mishandled’ officers. Director General Sindh Rangers Major-General Bilal Akbar, in the apex committee meetings held at CM House, is said to have been very vocal in naming different political leaders while briefing the army-backed body on land-grabbing, extortions, and other politically-motivated crimes still rampant in the city.
CM Sindh reminded the Rangers that the constitutionally “notified area” of its operation in Karachi under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 was confined to checking and punishing terrorists. “The deployment of Pakistan Rangers Sindh in Karachi was requisitioned under Article 147 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and under Clause 1 of Subsection 3 of Section 4 Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 authorised to prevent the commission of terrorist acts or scheduled offences in notified area for the punishment of terrorist in accordance with the provision of the anti-terrorism act 1997,” reads a letter the chief minster wrote to DG Rangers.
The provincial chief executive also has CCd the letter to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who was among first of the PML-N ministers to condemn Zardari’s tirade against the armed forces. “No one (at KSBC and LADP) was manhandled or harassed. And why would we,” a Rangers officer, close to Monday’s “visit-cum-raid” on the two government offices, told Business Recorder.
On political front, Zardari’s “inappropriate”, what Premier Sharif dubbed it, criticism of armed forces kick-started a war of words between the leaders of PML-N and PPP who are flaying each others in media shows. Lauding their party leadership for raising the slogan of “Pakistan Khappay” after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the PPP senators Thursday slammed Defence Minister Khawaja Asif for his “commentary” on Zardari’s hard-worded speech. “Khawaja Asif should have looked around before passing any comment on a statement,” said Senators Saeed Ghani, Dr Karim Khawaja and Ajiz Dhamra in a joint statement issued here by PPP’s media cell.
Claiming that their party chief’s statement was being “twisted and presented out of context”, the PPP lawmakers described the defence minister a “political figure of heightened controversial stature”. “Khawaja Asif… had on his own record many speeches in which he left no stone unturned for bringing the masses against the army,” they said. What, however, would have fallen heavily on PPP Co-chairman Zardari was Wednesday’s refusal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to meet the former president at PM House on the former’s request.
Zardari appears to have decided to cope with the serious situation politically. And perhaps that’s why Thursday saw the PPP leader extending an olive branch to MQM’s self-exiled chief Altaf Hussain. MQM, which dominates Karachi and other urban centers of Sindh province, has from the very outset been accusing Rangers’ of politically victimising its party workers in the name of targeted operation which is going on in the city since September 5, 2013.
The two ‘secular’ parties have long been allied in, what a political analyst called it, a “marriage of inconvenience” in center and Sindh governments. Zardari and Altaf, according to an MQM statement from London, held a long discussion on telephone to agree that the permanent residents of Sindh should forget their differences and become united. “Both the leaders exchanged views on the current political situation in the country and other issues of mutual interest,” the party said.
The two political leaders urged the need for national unity in present circumstances. “They particularly emphasised that the permanent residents of Sindh living in its urban and rural areas whose interests were tied to peace and tranquility of the province should forget their differences,” it said. On the other hand, the all-powerful Pakistan Army put its weight behind its paramilitary wing with Corps Commander Karachi Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar visiting Rangers headquarters Thursday.
A Rangers spokesman said DG Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar briefed the Corps Commander on the city’s law and order situation and the measures taken by his force to maintain peace therein. “(The) Corps Commander appreciated Rangers efforts in bringing back normalcy in the city,” the spokesman added. Also, General Mukhtar visited Yadgar-e-Shuhada to pay homage to Rangers personnel who, the spokesman said, laid down their lives to bring peace and stability in the city. “The Corps Commander also attended a detailed briefing about law and order situation, ongoing operation in the city and also discussed other professional matters,” said he.
Source: Business Recorder