Karachi operation will continue

PPP and MQM lack the moral and political power to resist the Rangers' clean up drive

Karachi operation will continue
In June, forty masked Rangers stormed their way into the City District Government Karachi building and asked everyone in the office to remain seated. “We are here to help you,” shouted a Rangers sub-inspector. The team raided two cubicles with precision intelligence and took dozens of files and left.

“It is unfair how certain law enforcement agencies are acting in Sindh,” Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said about the raid. “We want everyone to stay within their constitutional limits.”

Background interviews with PPP leaders and the chief minister’s staff reveal that he has been under tremendous pressure both from Bilawal House and law enforcement agencies over the ongoing Karachi operation.

“Qaim Ali Shah was told to take a tough stance from the top leadership and even to take MQM on board. Our leaders were harassed and are under immense pressure especially after Co-Chairman Zardari’s speech, which left some in the party stunned,” a PPP insider said. “Such was the panic that PPP’s top leadership moved to Dubai. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari returned to restore the confidence of the provincial government, but tensions continue.”

Meanwhile, MQM chief Altaf Hussain blames the chief minister for “the repressive actions, arbitrary arrests, torture, and extra-judicial killings by Rangers”. Addressing his followers, he said the party would hold a sit-in at the Chief Minister’s House. “If they open fire on the participants of the sit-in, the Rangers and their ‘captain’ will be responsible for the consequences.”

In the last three months, Rangers have paralyzed MQM’s operational capabilities and created fear within its ranks. “No sector and unit is freely opening in Karachi and whenever there’s a large gathering outside Nine Zero, we get raided,” a senior member of MQM said.
Zardari's speech left some in the party stunned

In an Apex Committee meeting right after the provincial government extended special powers for the Rangers for another month, the military put its weight behind the Director General of Rangers.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, who was recently disowned by the MQM, placed full confidence in Sindh Rangers. His stance came as a shock to both the PPP & the MQM.

Before that meeting, the Corps Commander in Karachi, Gen Naveed Mukhtar, and the Rangers DG, Maj Gen Bilal Akbar, met Qaim Ali Shah and Bilawal Bhutto, the chairman of the ruling PPP. They briefed him about the progress in the operation, andassured him that no innocent people would be arrested. According to Ahsan Hussain, a senior security official, the khakis indicated that the operation would continue with or without the approval of the PPP government.

“The military is backing the Rangers,” says Brigadier (r) Muhammad Saad. He says “high-profile raids”, including those on Nine Zero and KBCA, were “approved by the Corp Commander”.

The Karachi operation is “in line with Operation Zarb-e-Azab and its targets are not just target killers, but also the political economy that supports crime”, said an official asking not to be named.

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau has also started pursuing serious cases of corruption. “At least seven PPP cabinet members are being investigated, including Pir Mazhar,” said Jehanzeb Khan, a NAB official. Pir Mazhar, the former Sindh education minister, is being investigated for giving out over 30,000 jobs bypassing the rules. Sindh Education Secretary Fazalullah Pechuho – the brother-in-law of former President Zardari – says he is cooperating with the investigators. “The media reports saying I was stopped at the Karachi Airport are wrong,” he said. “I never went there.”

Saqib Soomro, the former administrator of Karachi, is also facing a probe, and at least 17 provincial bureaucrats are under investigation.

The FIA too carried out an operation against a currency dealer known as the ‘hawala king’, as part of its anti money laundering campaign.

Noting the seriousness of the Rangers and the establishment, Asif Ali Zardari’s recent message to the Sindh chief minister is: “No further confrontation”, the source in the PPP said.

The operation has been extended for a month for now, but it is likely to continue.

“We shall take care of it,” the senior security official said.