LAHORE - The decision to launch a Rangers-led operation in Karachi in ‘a day or two’ is in line with the suggestions that came from almost all political parties, businessmen, industrialists, media persons and intelligence agencies consulted by the prime minister during his two days in the cosmopolitan city. It is also in step with the thinking of the army, which, because of the situation on borders, did not like to be dragged into a matter that could be handled by other agencies.
As decided, the Rangers will carry out the operation, the Sindh police will extend all-out support and the federal intelligence agencies will offer whatever information they have about those involved in target killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorist activities. The guidelines will come from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while President Zardari’s puppet, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, will supervise the operation. (Interestingly, the operation is being launched at a time when President Zardari is on the way home after completing his five-year term as the head of state).
This will be a new experiment as the rival PML-N and PPP will be joining hands to restore peace in Karachi. The prestige of both the federal and the Sindh government is on line, and failure is not an option. If the operation didn’t yield the desired results, it will mean failure of the state.
Everyone knows that the Sindh government headed by Qaim Ali Shah had miserably failed to provide security to the people during its last five years in power. A total of 6,815 people were killed during the period.
Mr Shah took over in 2008, the year in which 777 people lost their lives in the megacity. Subsequently, according to an estimate, the toll went up to 801 in 2009, 1,339 in 2010, 1,774 in 2011 and 2,174 in 2012. The chief minister and his aides were accused of making money while the killings continued shooting up. This reflected the collective incompetence of the PPP leadership.
Wednesday’s was the first major decision taken by the federal cabinet about the law and order in the province. In the days ahead, it will have to take equally important decisions about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which are also being targeted by terrorists and militants. Miscreants have killed scores of people in these two provinces too, and so far the long arm of the law has not been able to reach them. The nascent chief ministers of both the federating units appear to be at a loss to deal with the situation.
In KP, the Taliban are said to be involved in most terrorist activities and the government has yet to chalk out a strategy to deal with them. Regrettably, the leaders of some religious parties who can ‘approach’ the Taliban are not playing any role to dissuade the latter from pursuing terrorist activities which are bringing a bad name to Islam. In Balochistan, the Hazara community is targeted periodically, which seems to be a calculated move by the enemy to fuel sectarianism in Pakistan.
After the cabinet meeting in Karachi, the state-run PTV reported that Zulfikar Cheema has been appointed new Inspector General Police, Sindh. It also said that a notification for the purpose has also been issued.
The ‘decision’ had raised hopes about improvement in the Karachi situation because Mr Cheema is a reputable officer. His record shows he has always delivered. He dealt the criminals with an iron hand, at times annoying even his political bosses. He also cleared the backlog of passports within a few months, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to perform Umra or apply for the current year’s Hajj.
However, after the PPP made no secret of its dislike of the news, the interior minister told the media that the report about Mr Cheema’s new assignment was baseless.
Anyhow, to make the Karachi operation a success, the Rangers would have to be ruthless to all criminals. Nobody apprehended for his involvement in criminal activities should be spared and all “Tappis and Puppies” should be treated evenhandedly, regardless of their political connections. The prosecution should be as quick as possible and the courts should award exemplary punishments. Judges who don’t dare hear cases of terrorists and fear consequences should better quit and take on other professions. Cowardly lawyers and policemen should follow suit. Mr Zahid Hamid-led committee, which has been assigned the job of providing legal recommendations, should also carry out its work at a swift pace for quick trials of the culprits to be apprehended in the targeted action.
It appears that the operation in Karachi may also affect the local elections the government is required to hold in the coming days under orders from the Supreme Court. In the upcoming situation, completing arrangements for these polls may also be a challenge for the Sindh government.