COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that there is no need of an army operation in Karachi; the Rangers are performing their duties well. His remarks to the media on Thursday have raised questions, not so much from him as from the federal government. These questions become even more crucial after Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the same day, while visiting Rawalpindi District Headquarters Hospital to enquire after those injured in Dhoke Syedan suicide bombing, that those attacks would continue till Ashura. Apart from Muharram, the city has been subject to target killings, which have prompted calls for an army operation there, and to which General Kayani seemed to be responding, though the response should more properly have been made by the government. The decision on an operation or otherwise would depend on many factors, including the army’s readiness, but the decision should be made only by the government. Further, his giving a clean chit to the Rangers for their performance in Karachi was rather strange considering how poorly the city’s law and order is, and inappropriate because any judgement should be made by the Sindh government, which is responsible for law and order there, and called in the Rangers in the first place. As a matter of fact, Rangers are under the Interior Ministry, not General Kayani, though his force does provide its officers.

Mr Malik’s prediction also raises questions about why, if the government knows about violence in Muharram, it does not stop these attacks and go beyond merely declaring offs for the rest of Muharram. Because so many urban centers are involved, there is a pressing need for inter-provincial coordination on the issue. An ultimate end will only come when potential terrorists receive an education which averts such violence. Like law and order, education is a provincial subject. However, the immediate problem is to prevent further casualties this Ashura. This requires all governments, irrespective of party affiliation, to work as one, particularly on intelligence sharing.