Ominous clouds hovering all over

  • Whatever little hope was there that some solution could be found to the ongoing tussle between the Federation and the Sindh province was dashed with the Prime Minister suggesting to Sindh CM that in view of CM’s indisposition, the matter may better be discussed during his visit to Islamabad. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif feel helpless before Chaudhry Nisar who seems to have the backing of the security establishment on whose urging he has taken the step. And in exchange for being left alone to indulge in corruption to his heart’s content, Nawaz Sharif seems to have subcontracted essential state functions to the all-powerful lobby in Pakistan.

    So, the chances are that the tussle between the federation and the Sindh province presently being fought out in the media and in assemblies may end up in the court.

    Perhaps, Chaudhry Nisar is counting too much on the top court’s 2011 ruling in a suo motu case on Karachi law and order situation which clearly states that Articles 148 (obligation of provinces and federation) and 149 (directions to provinces in certain cases) bound the federal government to address the city’s poor law and order situation, especially when human lives and the economy are threatened. However, it should noted that the Rangers have enjoyed unrestricted powers for a long enough period which should have enabled them to bring the Karachi situations sufficiently under control, and even with the withdrawal of the extra powers, they still enjoy enough powers to enable them to complete the job. It should also be kept in mind that excessive powers often lead to their misuse, resulting in grave human rights violations, and there are already many allegations of arbitrary arrests, torture and even extra-judicial killings and disappearances, with many cases still in the courts. In fact today’s Dawn (Metro) has a front-page report wherein the chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zohra Yusuf has expressed grave concerns about the human rights situation in Karachi.

    In order not to look like quarrelsome brats before the whole world, the matter should have been settled amicably between the federation and the Sindh province. Unfortunately, it is in the hands of a person like Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who, dispensing with the need for civility in relations between different constituents of the federation, showing utter contempt for the Sindh Assembly resolution and rejecting the Sindh Assembly summary announced restoring of Rangers powers to former level.

    Obviously, the move as well as the provocative and insulting remarks made by Nisar, were totally rejected by the Sindh government which called it interference with the autonomy of Sindh province, and much more. Many high-ranking Peoples Party leaders have declared their opposition to the move, while Sindh government on Wednesday, termed the federal government’s move to extend Rangers powers ‘unconstitutional’ as well as amounting to degrading the Sindh assembly’s resolution and encroaching upon the provincial administration’s powers. The renowned legal expert, Sardar Muhammad Latif Khosa termed it to be a violation, not only of the provisions of the Constitution but also of its spirit. And Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan has expressed similar views about the situation.

    And once again, rejecting the protests by the Sindh government and leaders, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, in his arrogant and brusque manner, has sought fit to issue a notification on Friday regarding the reinstatement of Rangers’ powers.

    Earlier on, Nawaz Sharif had asked Ishaq Dar to contact Syed Khurshid Shah and Raza Rabbani to calm down tempers and it was expected that during his visit to Karachi on Monday, Nawaz Sharif will endeavour to find an amicable solution to the dispute. However, latest developments rule out any such outcome.

    It is claimed that the Peoples Party government is doing all this just to save one person, but the federal government and the Rangers seem to doing much else either.

    Ostensibly, the Rangers want Dr Asim Hussain for terror-related cases which seems a bit far-fetched. At the level that Dr. Asim Hussain was operating, he could not have been directly involved in such low-degree crimes. It is also claimed that terrorists and militants were given the facility of treatment in his hospitals. Even if this was true, one has to realize that with the law and order situation being what it was in Karachi, persons running businesses would have been under great pressure to oblige the shady elements or else face grave consequences, including closure of their businesses and much more.

    Looking it another way, we know that many businessmen in Karachi would have been paying extortion money regularly, while others may have paid huge sums as ransom to get their abducted relatives released. Obviously, all such money paid by Karachiites would have been used in supporting other terrorist activities. But I have not seen Rangers or other officials prosecuting such persons for financing,facilitating, aiding and abetting terrorists activities because every one knows that unable to get protection from official sources, this is the only way they could survive. So, why can’t Dr. Asim Hussain be treated the same way.

    Seeing defiance and arrogance of Chaudhry Nisar, one gets the impression that he considers himself, not as part of democratic system and Nawaz Sharif government but a nominee of the security establishment in the civilian administration, and Nawaz Sharif’s apparent helplessness before Chaudhry Nisar does nothing to dispel this impression. On the other hand, under an unofficial pact, maybe Nawaz Sharif has agreed to cede control on some maters in exchange for being left alone to indulge in corruption to his heart’s content. Perhaps this is the reason why Sindh leaders are being hounded for corruption, but no one seems to be bothered about the massive corruption done for decades, and still being done by PML-N leaders and their associates through signing over-priced contract and other means perfected during their earlier stints in the government. Maybe there is even a profit-sharing scheme operating at the top in order to keep everyone happy.

    Pakistanis are really grateful to the armed forces for breaking the back of terrorists in tribal regions and elsewhere in Pakistan. Also, acting through Sindh Rangers and with the help of Karachi Police, the army has also brought fair degree of peace to Karachi. However, it must be remembered that the menace of extremism, militancy and terrorism that the army has now rolled back partly had been brought on to the unfortunate nation by a short-sighted General Ziaul Haq. And that makes the act of bringing terrorism under control as an error-correction in part, which has not brought any real, additional benefit to the country and the nation.

    I am of the opinion that having enjoyed extensive powers for a long period, and with the position being brought under control to a large extent, the Rangers do not need to continue enjoying such extensive powers which increase the risk of their misuse, leading to arbitrary arrests, torture, even extra-judicial killing and disappearances, as alleged by MQM and others, and many cases reported to be in courts.

    I think the chief should restrain his boys so that they do not end up spoiling the good name that the establishment has earned lately, through its excellent work and sacrifices, as well as messing things up just when they have started improving.

    It should also be kept in mind that mistreatment of Bengalese ultimately broke up Pakistan. And there have been separatist movements even in Balochistan and Sindh. Admittedly, the present situation is not as bad as that of Bangladesh more than 2,200 kilometres away. However, with a person like Narendra Modi ruling next door and having extensive influence in Afghanistan, majority of Afghan leaders also unfriendly towards Pakistan because of our earlier messing up of their country, Iran having very close relations with India as opposed to Shah’s times when Iran was a very dependable and close ally of Pakistan, and India having land border with Sindh are factors which make undue complacence on such issues extremely unwise, which is putting it mildly.

    Also, Western countries map-change plan, which has been partly executed in Middle East is still on, and it seems unlikely that they will like to leave Pakistan alone, especially when they keep expressing concern about its nuclear arsenal all the time. They may just be waiting for the right time to strike.

    In these circumstances, creating new problems instead of concentrating on solving the existing ones hardly seems to the wisest thing on earth.

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  • Hashmi sahib

    very well written perspective on the current political situation. I guess the Amir saga has taken away all the attention of respected bloggers to share their comments and opinions on the current political situation.

    It seems that Pakistan and its politicians try to chew more than they can eat and in doing so often end up in the sick treatment unit.

    To me it seems that PPP is trying to exploit its support in Sindh to cover its alleged corruption and some elements in the PML(N) government are trying to settle some scores with PPP or probably trying to establish their power.

    I am not sure what is right to do at this stage but at some point of time; corruption, nepotism and wrong doings under the disguise of any power (political, legal and military) has to be sorted out, if Pakistan has to secure its prosperous future. Who can do it, when it will be done and how it could be done is beyond my tiny brain.

    Once again, thanks for bringing up this important issue and for sharing your perspective.

  • PMLN would be more than happy not to give rangers free hand to go after Politicians because they have no way to limit that to Karachi. At the same time they wouldn't like Army to use nuclear option - take over to save the country. It's in interest of all sides to keep this tussle and legal debate on. No one would want immediate solution and frankly I don't know if there is any quick fix. The biggest beneficiary of this uncertainty is media. They can discuss for weeks and months going in circles.

  • There are two visible paths the Looticians are pursuing. One on account of Dr. Farrukh of Channel92 is 'Delay and Derail' and other is to keep an uptick on the issue to the tolerance threshold of army. The climax of this tussle would be ideal just before the next elections to use as a victim card.

    In either case if the looters are the winner, what is the future of the security of Karachi? Will army continue to make its hand dirty? ...

  • In 24/7 media circus no issue can prolong for two years. MQM and PPP are major targets of Rangers operation and are the two biggest winners in the recently concluded LB polls. The rangers or army never hurt any party politically.

    There is a broader consensus on restoring law and order in Karachi. The only bone in contention is can Rangers be given free hand to change political dynamics of the city under the clean up banner. I 'd say No. Army should and must stay away from politics. Raheel Sharif first tried to topple Nawaz Sharif and as he is getting closer to his extension he is pulling similar stunts.

  • @Shirazi Jee,

    " The only bone in contention is can Rangers be given free hand to change political dynamics of the city under the clean up banner. I 'd say No. Army should and must stay away from politics. "

    Unfortunately, it is easy to talk about cricket rather than this important subject or corruption related to the rulers and the establishment. That is the sad story of Pakistan. We are stuck in trivial issues and the rulers / establishment doesn't mind that.