Last week was the worst for the MQM and this week sets the perilous trends following the Youhanabad tragedy. Clever diverters are at play crafted by ingenious brains. Pakistan again burns. The media has only one story. The talks about MQM are no more. What started last week in the aftermath of the raid on Nine-Zero was the game changer in Pakistan – it seemed the gloom pervading the city of lights would soon give way to the beacon of hope; but the incident at Youhanabad managed to divert attention.
I still believe that the revelations preceding and following the raid on the MQM office in Azizabad ought to be the most significant topic of media until Karachi is purged of the elements which have been pestering the financial hub of Pakistan over the decades.
Lately, I have been trying to sleuth for information about the Rangers’ unprecedentedly bold raid on MQM’s main office. A Karachi based source revealed that almost a month ago, a meeting was held in Governor House Karachi where some officials talked to the MQM’s big guns about some criminal elements and thereby demanded their handing over to the Rangers; however the MQM men expressed ignorance about the whereabouts of the men in question.
But the Rangers kept surveillance over the targets and ultimately raided Nine-Zero where the required killers were found and nabbed much to the amazement of the MQM.
What later came out of the mouth of Altaf Bhai against the backdrop of the raid was an outrageous insult to Pakistan’s law enforcement institutions and especially the paramilitary troops executing operations in Karachi. Now on the request of Rangers’ spokesman Colonel Tahir, a case has been registered against Altaf Hussain under the Anti-Terrorism Act with sections pertaining to issuing threats to law enforcement agencies. The MQM chief had said, “The have-beens of today in the paramilitary force will become the had-beens.”
Why, one might ask, is there vociferous fuss by Altaf Hussain over the operation against the killers, extortionists and kidnappers whereas it was the MQM that had unequivocally demanded the Karachi operation and acquiesced to the idea of an operation that would clean Karachi of all its irking filth?
In the recently convened provincial Apex Committee constructed under the National Action Plan, it was also unanimously decided by all parties at stake in Karachi that for long-standing peace, there would be an operation against the criminal elements in Karachi without discrimination; and the security agencies would have a free hand in operating against the felons. It was also made clear by the military that if the decisions based on political expediency were still on the cards, the coveted peace would only be a cherished dream in Karachi.
The message from Islamabad and Rawalpindi is very clear – zero tolerance for the criminals of any hue in the city. On 17 February, 2015, the COAS General Raheel Sharif visited Sindh. He resolved the army could go to any length to claw back the desired peace in the city of lights. Major General Rizwan Akhtar, who is now the current DG ISI, has also been DG Rangers. He has reasonable information about banned religious outfits and the armed gangs of ostensibly behaved political parties. On 29 August, 2013, he gave his statement, as DG Rangers, to the Supreme Court that peace in Karachi would only remain a desire unless the militant wings of political parties in Karachi were eliminated.
Alongside, it augurs well that there is a rare collaboration seen now amongst different civil and military intelligence agencies. Two successive civilian governments at the helm have reasonably contributed to it. On Feb 4, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar informed the National Assembly that there was now healthy cooperation between the ISI and IB.
When the PML-N government decided in September 2013 to launch an operation in Karachi, the IB, which had collected a consolidated databank on extortionists and target killers hailing from varied religious and political parties, readily provided details of the religious and political parties involved in criminal activities. The information is helping and working in tandem with other law enforcement agencies.
To get to desired objectives, the homework has already been done. The Rangers will do the operation on credible tips provided by different agencies. In order to gain results, the jurisdictional capacity of the Rangers has been enhanced and given constitutional cover so that nobody endearing the norms of democracy or constitution may raise points.
Now the Rangers are exercising power in Karachi conferred by the provincial government on Nov 9, 2013. They have also been granted power by unanimous agreement of the parties in the recent meeting of the Apex Committee. Moreover, Section 11EEEE (1) of the Anti-terrorism Act says, “the armed forces or civil armed force (may) issue orders for the preventive detention of any person who has been concerned in any offence under this act relating to the security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, or public order relating to target killing, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion / bhatta, or the maintenance of supplies or services, or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been so concerned, for purpose of inquiry.”
Now the iron will of the state is at work. As for national security, the military has decided to make Karachi a ‘safe zone’ after Waziristan. Worse days wait for the MQM. Does this entire episode mean that the MQM is going to be finished? No. The MQM will stay, but it has to drive from its lines the likes of Umair Siddiqui, Faisal Mota, Farhan Mulla and Ubaid K-2; and it has to dispense with the politics of threat and fear.