ISLAMABAD - The echoing calls for involving the military to set the things straight in Karachi emanate out of politically motivated reasons whereas the volatile security situation in the cosmopolitan city is manageable by a paramilitary force and the civilian law enforcement apparatus, pertinent military circles believe.
During a detailed background interaction with this correspondent on Tuesday, the security officials shared what they termed as the security establishment’s perspective on Karachi situation.
While the officials voiced their concerns over the political divide on purging the Karachi of non-state actors, they believed that certain political forces were trying to exploit the city’s situation in a way that could best serve their interests but through highhanded methods.
Despite strong resentment shown by the political parties, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) looks adamant in its demand for handing over Karachi’s security control to the military, linking this proposal to bringing peace in the city.
Sounding dismissive of the option to land the regular army troops for an all-out operation in Karachi, the military insiders said that Sindh Rangers-led targeted operations in the pinpointed areas could bring the cosmopolitan’s security situation under control.
“Karachi is quite manageable (by Rangers). It’s more of a political gimmick to ridicule the Rangers and show trust in army that makes so ambiguous a stance. Rangers is an army-led force, after all, “ the officials commented on the calls to involve military in Karachi in the wake of the mistrust shown by MQM on the Sindh Rangers.
Labelling the paramilitary force as a partisan entity, the MQM questions the credibility of Sindh Rangers fearing that it could resort to discrimination if tasked with a security clean-up in the cosmopolitan city. These doubts are linked to the deep-rooted fears Altaf Hussain’s party holds regarding the central ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) approach towards Karachi issue. Many MQM leaders have been vocal in stating that Sindh Rangers-led operation in Karachi would be nothing else than a replica of 1992 operation, which, they allege, was the MQM members genocide, in an obvious reference to an all-out rangers-launched crackdown against the terrorists allegedly linked with MQM during Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure in power, back in 1992.
The security officials have a different story to tell. “Why did the peace return in Karachi if 1992 military action was witch-hunting or genocide of the members of a political party? More than a dozen people were being killed in Karachi every single day by the terrorists and there was peace as soon as surgical cleansing was carried out.”
However, the peace, the security officials referred to, did not last long. The security situation in Karachi turned challenging by 1994 and Benazir Butto-led Pakistan People’s Party government had to launch another Rangers-executed military operation the next year (1995). Karachi remained peaceful for several years that followed this military action.
“The military does not have to land in Karachi. The paramilitary unit (Sindh Rangers) is well equipped and capable enough to take care of the city. Over the years, the operational and organisational capabilities of Pakistan’s paramilitary set-up have been augmented to conduct counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations effectively,” the security insiders claimed.
Referring to the MQM, the military men said, “The political parties that want the army to land in Karachi are fully aware of the fact that army would not be in for a clean-up. And knowing that Rangers, with the support of law enforcement agencies, would be dealing with miscreants without involving the regular army men, it looks so convenient to point fingers and cast aspersions on the paramilitary force in an attempt to avoid surgical cleansing.”
According to the data shared with this newspaper, 700 companies/wings of Sindh Rangers comprising of 17,000 personnel have been deployed in all the five districts of Karachi, North, East, West, Central and Malir. These areas have been operationally divided into companies and sectors depending upon the operational requirements and the adjustments to be made accordingly. Each company is headed by an officer up to the rank of a lieutenant colonel known as company commandant. Apart from the Rangers troops, additional 8,000 men from Karachi corps are assigned as a backup force that can be called in to assist the Rangers, whenever required.
“This is not the question if army can spare troops for a complete operation clean-up in Karachi due to its extensive occupations on other fronts. The question is: can Rangers supervise a large-scale security operation the way it had in the past? And the answer is yes it can and without the military’s operational support, this time,” The Nation was told.
The number of Rangers men and companies in Karachi could be compared to 694 wings of Frontier Corps (FC) comprising of 15,000 personnel in Balochistan involved in counter-insurgency operations.
Further details suggest that non-state actors have been classified into three main categories in Karachi. These include Mohajir-dominated groups, Pakhtun-dominated groups and religious outfits including Taliban factions and sectarian groups. “Almost all kind of criminal activities including kidnappings for ransom, extortion and targeted killings are done by these elements. It’s no rocket science to identify them and then track them down irrespective of their political affiliations. All it takes is political will and administrative decision-making,” security men believed.