KARACHI - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered issuance of red warrants against criminals who have fled the country and immediate closure of illegal mobile SIMs.

Chairing a high-level law and order meeting on Wednesday here at the Governor’s House, he said that military and political leadership would together supervise the targeted operation in Karachi, and that no political pressure would be tolerated.

This was the first time that Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif attended such a high-level meeting with civilian leadership on the issue of Karachi unrest. The meeting was briefed by army chief, the heads of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, Karachi Corps Commander, Rangers director general and the Inspector General of Sindh Police.

On the invitation of the prime minister, former president Asif Ali Zardari, representatives of MQM and Jamaat-e-Islami and ANP leader Shahi Syed also attended the meeting. Others who were present included Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

PM Nawaz apprised the participants about the federal government’s efforts towards restoring peace in Karachi and reiterated that improvement in law and order should have precedence over political interests. He said that terrorists and criminals should be brought to justice without any political prejudice.

The prime minister said that Karachi being the economic hub of Pakistan holds a special significance for him. “We started operation in Karachi with the agreement of all political parties and stakeholders (and) we want their cooperation and I see no one who will not want to improve the law and order situation in Karachi, therefore a joint solution is the only option.”

The premier said that it is very natural that there will be retaliation from extremists and terrorists, but the government is prepared for that and all possible support will be provided to law enforcement agencies to counter the retaliation. He emphasised on capacity-building of Sindh Police and appreciated acquisition of services of retired army personnel for maintaining law and order in Karachi.

The prime minister directed to constitute special committees to address any kind of hurdles or grievance being faced in the Karachi operation. He reiterated that the present government implemented the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance with a view to deal with the menace of terrorism and bring criminals to justice. The high-ups reportedly also discussed a 10-point agenda for Karachi peace.

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif said that Pak Army is ready to provide any kind of support to the federal and provincial governments with full honesty and sincerity. “We will give our honest opinion and assistance whenever sought from us.” He also suggested that posting and transfers of police personnel should be depoliticised. The COAS also dispelled the impression that there was any rift between political parties and democratic institutions. “We have made it clear that we want to move ahead for the sake of peace.”

During the meeting, the prime minister called for improved intelligence-sharing when taking action against terrorists and criminal elements. He asked why illegal SIMs were not being blocked and why red warrants had not been issued for the criminals who have fled the country. The meeting reviewed how many criminals were arrested and how many of them were sentenced by courts, and how many no-go areas were eliminated. It was decided that the intelligence agencies will share their information about banned outfit members and high-profile terrorists arrested by the law-enforcing agencies.

Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in his briefing said that state-of-the art equipment is being provided to law enforcement agencies and about 700,000 illegal mobile SIMs have been cancelled. He further elaborated that once 3G mobile technology is in place, “we will further carry out crackdown against illegal SIMs”.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari also said that Sindh Police needs to be provided more resources. He said that support from all political parties is need of the hour to bring peace in Karachi. Prior to the meeting, PM Nawaz Sharif also held separate meetings with Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad and the army chief. Earlier, on his arrival at the Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the prime minister was received by the chief minister and a large number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters and local office-bearers.

Talking to media outside the Governor’s House after the meeting, Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Ameer Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said his party has demanded removal of the Sindh governor whom he accused of partiality. He claimed that law and order in Karachi could only be restored after the appointment of an impartial governor. He alleged that Ishratul Ebad was toeing the line of MQM for the last 12 years.