Chairing a high-level meeting at the Governor House to review the paramilitary Rangers-led operation under way in the port city since September 2013 and the state of law and order in Sindh, the premier pointed out that “across-the-board institutional and political consensus” had been invoked for the targeted operation.
“The objectives of the operation were to restore peace, stability and progress in Karachi and to rescue people from the clutches of criminal and terrorist mafias who had made the city hostage for a long time,” said Nawaz.
“The gains made through the sacrifices of the law enforcement agencies with full ownership of the federal and provincial governments will not be allowed to be reversed under any circumstances, as the provincial government and its chief minister will be the biggest beneficiaries of its success.”
During the meeting, the civil and military leadership once again pledged to continue the operation against all criminals and terrorists and their financers and facilitators.
Among the attendees were Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, Karachi Corps Commander Naveed Mukhtar and Rangers Sindh chief Maj Gen Bilal Akbar.
PM Nawaz said the Karachi operation was progressing with clear objectives. “No one should object to it because it was initiated in consultation with all political parties and groups after complaints of extortion and targeted killings…. It will continue till its logical end.”
He highlighted the threat posed by the recent spike in targeted killings of law enforcers and security personnel, and stressed the need to evolve a comprehensive strategy to confront future challenges. “We need to move away from routine briefings on the number of arrests and acquittals, and formulate a strategic way forward to ensure long-term peace and stability in the city.”
‘No mercy for terrorists’
Gen Raheel told the meeting that there would be no mercy for terrorists. “We have broken the backbone of terrorists in Karachi and other parts of the country, and will not let them regroup.”
The army chief reiterated that the Karachi operation was not against a particular party but against all terrorists. “For this we urge the federal government and all the provincial administrations to strengthen coordination with each other to eradicate the menace of terrorism.”
He assured the meeting of the unflinching resolve and commitment of the LEAs towards rooting out terrorism and organised crime from the port city.
Military Police attackers
CM Qaim and Sindh police chief Ghulam Hyder Jamali briefed the meeting about headway made in the investigations into the killings of four Rangers soldiers in Baldia Town and two Military Police soldiers in Saddar.
Jamali said the Karachi police had detained the assailants involved in the killings. “They are in our custody and we have launched a further inquiry into the matter.”
The premier appreciated the role of the police and Rangers in maintaining law and order and directed the CM to convene the apex committee’s meetings frequently.
Qaim raised the issue of funds that were supposed to be released by the Nawaz administration for the targeted operation. “We should also have access to the National Database & Registration Authority’s database to help the operation.” The premier assured him that he would discuss the issue with the relevant authorities.
The Sindh government has decided to extend the policing powers of the Rangers for another 120 days, but it also expressed some reservations.
In a separate meeting with the premier, CM Qaim reportedly said the Rangers were given the mandate to focus only on the targeted operation against terrorists, adding that the paramilitary force had no authority to interfere in the provincial government’s affairs.
“Political victimisation in the name of an operation is not acceptable,” he said referring to former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain’s 90-day custody and FIRs against him.
“This clearly sends out the message that political leaders are being targeted by the Rangers,” said Qaim, adding that the provincial administration was not against the extension, but it should be granted by the Sindh Assembly, which is the representative body of the province.
PM Nawaz reportedly told him that while the provincial government might have some reservations, “we should give priority to law and order in Karachi, which is important for the entire Pakistan”.
Rangers have been demanding special powers that extend to other parts of the province, said a source. However, the CM has agreed to another extension but only within Karachi.
Later, Qaim telephoned Pakistan Peoples Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to brief him on the meetings. According to reports, the provincial administration is likely to issue a notification of Rangers’ extension on Tuesday (today).