Altaf demands ‘public referendum’ on Rangers operation

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:54

LONDON: After appealing for the removal of the Sindh Rangers from Karachi a day earlier, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain today has called for a referendum to be held in Karachi.

In response to an earlier statement made by Minister for Safron and Frontier Regions retired Lt-Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Hussain in a press statement said that a public referendum should be held to determine support for the Rangers-led operation.

He proposed that a five-member committee comprising high court and apex court judges should supervise the referendum to gauge public opinion on operations conducted by the paramilitary force in Karachi.

Baloch had recently defended the paramilitary force, saying that the Rangers' operation in Karachi is favoured by a majority of the people.

Hussain slammed Baloch's statements as "baseless" and "untruthful", saying they were contrary to the reality of the situation in the city.

He said that a referendum would allow the formation of a mandate in accordance with the wishes of the people of Karachi and would accurately evaluate the level of public support for the operations.

The call for a referendum comes as the Rangers’ special powers in Sindh are due to expire. While the duration of these special powers has been extended multiple times in the past, it is not clear whether the provincial government will go ahead with the move this time around.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Tuesday hinted at a bargain with the paramilitary force in return for an extension in their stay across the province.

“After the 18th amendment to the Constitution, the Sindh government is bound to seek concurrence from the provincial Assembly before allowing the Rangers to continue its operation,” said CM Shah. “The ways and means to give them another extension would be explored, but we have to talk to them [Rangers] first.”

Background: Karachi operation

The ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered Rangers to lead a targeted advance with the support of police against criminals already identified by federal military and civilian agencies for their alleged involvement in targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism in Karachi.

When Rangers raided Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) headquarters in March 2015, the party alleged the operation had taken on a political colour.

But Rangers claimed it had conducted the raid on a tip off that said wanted persons were present at Nine Zero— the party’s headquarters.

Since then, Rangers DG Maj Gen Bilal Akbar and army chief Gen Raheel have insisted that the operation is not targeted at a particular political party and will meet its logical end.

A high-level apex committee meeting chaired by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on May 14, 2015 decided to implement effective policing and surveillance in the "vast suburbs of Karachi", to prevent what the military spokesperson said were "sneaking terrorist attacks".

At the meeting, Gen Sharif vowed to continue "across the board operations" at an increased pace and hunt down terrorists who commit heinous acts.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwa announced that the meeting had assessed ongoing operations against terrorists, and touched upon directing intelligence agencies to assist in the "exploitation of existing leads" in all operations.

PTI wants extension of Rangers' stay in Sindh

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) moved a resolution in the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday requesting an extension of the Rangers' powers in the province.

PTI MPA Khurram Sher Zaman asked other political parties to support the resolution, saying he believed those not in favour of it were involved in illegal activities.

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