The future of Karachi operation hangs in balance as the Sindh government is dilly-dallying over the issue of extension of special policing powers of Sindh Rangers in the province. As of now, the provincial assembly of Sindh hasn’t either tabled or passed the much-hyped proposed resolution to be moved by the PPP for this purpose. The federal and Sindh governments are also at loggerheads with each other over this contentious issue. It is being speculated that the Sindh government is playing a sort of Brinkmanship vis-vis this issue in the province. Therefore, it will eventually extend the powers of Rangers after imposing certain restrictions over their independent functioning to protect its personal political interests in the province.

In his recent press conference a few days ago, the interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali aggressively accused the Sindh government of deliberately hampering the Karachi operation just is to ‘save one person’. He also hinted at resorting to other legal and constitutional means to keep the Karachi operation going during the press conference. Now the discussions have somehow intensified in the country about the possible constitutional options available to the federal government, namely the imposition of governor rule in Sindh by proclaiming emergency under Article 234 of the Constitution.

Ever since the Sindh Rangers have arrested Dr. Asim Hussain, a close aide of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, on the charge of terror financing, the relations between the federal and Sindh government have significantly deteriorated. Earlier, the Sind Rangers have also raided the office of Sindh Building Control Authority and Fishermen Cooperative Society to the annoyance of Sindh Government. Now, expressing certain reservations and objections, the Sindh government has yet not extended the Rangers’ special powers taking a plea to get the assent of provincial assembly to this matter which is a mandatory legal requirement under Article 147 of the constitution. However, the current anxiety of Sindh government and its strict adherence to constitutionalism and rule of law is quite understandable.

Previously, the Sindh government has been extending the special powers of Rangers without authorization of provincial assembly. Now if the Sindh government considers it expedient to get assembly’s nod over this issue, then it should have done so before the expiry this term on December 5 this month to ensure the continuity of Karachi operation. On December 2, the Sindh Apex Committee decided to intensify the Karachi operation. In a meeting, it was also decided to set up 30 additional Anti-Terrorism Courts besides the induction of 8000 policemen and 200 prosecutors in the province. Therefore, Sindh government’s current apathetic attitude towards Karachi operation is quite deplorable. If the so-called captain of the Karachi operation is such an inactive and irresponsible individual, then one can only feel sorry for this operation.

While dealing with current Karachi crisis, the federal government should try to exercise maximum restraint instead of opting for a head-on collision with Sindh government by considering, and openly discussing, the options like the imposition of governor rule in the province. In fact, imposition of governor rule through proclamation of emergency would hardly help cure the current maladies of the Sindh in general, and Karachi in particular. The genuine grievances of Sindh government should properly be addressed. Besides the current Sindh Apex Committee, the prospects of establishing certain monitoring committees headed by superior court judges can also be discussed to ensure transparency and fair-play in the current operation.

At this stage, expanding the scope, and extending the area of operation to interior Sindh would jeopardize the ongoing Karachi operation. Therefore, this very act would be quite counter-productive at the end of the day. Corruption is, undoubtedly, a menace which has plagued the country. However, it is not the Sindh province only which requires a rigorous anti-corruption derive but rest of the provinces also do need this. Therefore, this issue should be tackled through a proactive anti-corruption strategy by extensively mobilizing all the anti-corruption bodies in the country including the NAB. Certainly it will require a firm resolution and strong political will. A paramilitary force like Sindh Rangers hardly possesses the required institutional capacity to handle and resolve the complex corruption cases. Therefore, theses bodies and other LEA’s should focused on curbing the typical Karachi-related crimes like target killing, terrorism, kidnapping for ransom, extortions etc. by destroying the networks and hierarchies of different criminal mafias in the city.

At the moment, the current Karachi operation is just in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, instead of focusing on this operation, opening another front will not be a wiser decision. Presently our armed forces are actively engaged in military operations in FATA and Balochistan. The situation on both our Eastern and Western borders is also quite volatile. Besides this, the regional geo-strategic realities are rapidly changing. The snail-paced National Action Plan is yet to be enforced in letter and spirit in the country. In such a state of affairs, extending the current military-backed operation to other parts of interior Sindh would expose our armed forces to multiple controversies and hardship. This will be another Pandora’s Box as demands will be made for similar operations in other parts of the country. Sectarian terrorists and other hardened criminals in the interior Sindh can be nabbed under general NAP arrangements.

The suspended Karachi operation should immediately be resumed by substantially restoring the special powers of the Sindh Rangers in the city. The Sindh government should seriously and promptly try to remove all the impediments in the way of smooth and effective functioning of Karachi operation. It should also immediately ensure the required numbers of ATC’s, investigation officers and the prosecutors in Karachi. However, in case the Sindh government fails to perform these tasks, the federal government may also consider the option for the establishment of special courts, and appointment of special prosecutors and JIT’s under Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014.

The complex Karachi question is currently facing a sort of now-or-never dilemma. After a long time, there is a considerable consensus and resolution in the country to curb the terrorism in its all forms and manifestations. The civil and military leadership is really on the same wave length as far as this single issue is concerned. The COAS General Raheel Sharif looks absolutely determined to successfully conclude the current military-backed Karachi operation at all costs. The PM Nawaz Sharif is also best known of his strong commitment to bring peace in the city. In the past, he has twice launched extensive clean-up military operations to get this city rid of criminal elements. In 1998, he ousted his own party’s government in Sindh by imposing governor rule after the assassination of former governor Sindh Hakim Muhammad Saeed. Similarly, being the civilian administrative head, the interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali is also playing a proactive role in the effective mobilization of Sindh Rangers for this operation.

Therefore, the current positive civil-military synergy should wisely be utilized to save the ‘Economic Hub’ and ‘Mini Pakistan’ from further plunging into anarchy and chaos. The Sindh government must also realize if current Karachi operation is successfully concluded, it will be a win-win situation for both federal and Sindh government. The law and order situation in the city has deteriorated beyond the control of provincial government. Therefore, this government should be an active participator in this operation by extending full support to it.

Last year’s unfortunate APS Peshawar tragedy has been instrumental in the evolution of current census on the Karachi issue in the country. Therefore, the great sacrifices rendered by our children and the blood of thousands of innocent Karachiites, who have been mercilessly killed on the city roads, should not go waste. The Sindh government must also keep in mind that, in the face of strong public support and extensive media coverage of Karachi operation, it can by no means resist or hamper this operation on any excuse. Willingly or unwillingly, it will have to extend full support to this operation. Obviously, the people of Sindh will be more concerned about their personal security than the issues like provincial autonomy, implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment and other democratic niceties.

The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.