A misdirected operation


As if giving a timely advice to the target killers, the government ordered them to leave Karachi hours before launching the operation. It was announced that a surgical operation in nine violence-prone areas was in the offing. This must have led the terrorists to decide to wait out the operation, their top leaders going to Dubai, South Africa and other popular destinations and the foot soldiers spending the vacation in Lahore, Islamabad or Murree. The small time operatives would simply lie low in and around. The warning also allowed them to store their caches of arms in safe places.

The expression “free hand” has suddenly become popular with the administration in Sindh. We were told by Rehman Malik a couple of days back that the Rangers had been given a ‘free hand’ to deal with the criminals. On Thursday, Qaim Ali Shah said the centre had given a ‘free hand’ to the province. This implies that neither the provincial administration nor the Rangers had so far been allowed to go after the target killers which was their duty under the law. This is an admission of politics being behind the misrule in Sindh which many believe has led to the prevailing lawlessness in Karachi.

The Rangers have been given orders to shoot at sight. Similar orders have been given several times before. They are meant, in fact, to be a psychological measure than anything else. Interestingly, no regular DG Sindh Rangers was appointed after the removal of Maj Gen Aijaz Choudhry in June as a sequel to the much publicised case of the Rangers killing an innocent young man at a public place. Why has a key post in the industrial hub and major port city of the country been kept vacant for over two months and that too in a period of most intense violence in the city?

This is a serious flaw from the command and control point of view. Though the top officers of the Rangers are from the army, the paramilitary force falls under the purview of the federal government which should have urgently sought the appointment. Was the government not serious about peace in Karachi? Will Brigadier Zafar Iqbal who is acting DG have the confidence to undertake bold decisions in a highly politicised atmosphere?

The posture of firmness on the part of the administration has brought respite to violence-ridden Karachi. This is, however, temporary relief. Since the killers and extortionists enjoy political patronage, they hope that with a patch up among the MQM and PPP, there will be business as usual once again. They will be required to collect bhatta which helps run the political machines. They will also be needed to settle scores with other parties treated as enemies by their patrons.

Instead of leaving Qaim Ali Shah in the driving seat, he has been provided a co-pilot in the shape of Rehman Malik by the PPP Co-Chairman to ensure that nothing is done to cause worry to the MQM. The dual command in a situation like this is bound to lead to confusion, an example being the announcement by Qaim Ali Shah of an APC on Friday followed within an hour by its cancellation.

Zardari is meanwhile making a hectic effort to bring back the MQM to the ruling coalition. The bulk of those nabbed thus neither belong to the MQM’s private army nor to the PPP’s Amn brigade. Kamran Maduri, Sohail Commando, Abu Bashar Bengali and their comrades got caught because they had attacked a police van. They would have gone scot free if they were involved only in targeting the Chakra Goth Sindhis.

The operation remains selective. Soft targets have been the priority of the planners. Newspaper reports tell that so far the Rangers’ action has mainly remained confined to Sindhi and Pashtun localities. Most of those arrested are connected with the narcotics trade. Here too, instead of apprehending the big fish, only small time peddlers have been arrested.

The gangs of target killers who have over the last two months killed over two hundred people continue to remain untouched. Thus, those who had taken Karachi hostage still remain at large and continue to pose a threat to peace.

Asked why the operation was not being conducted in a particular area, the Commandant of Sachal Rangers told the media, “The operation would be conduced at a suitable time of our own choice.” Who decides at what points the operations are to be conducted?

Rehman Malik, Qaim Ali Shah or Brig Zafar Iqbal? As pointed out by an ANP spokesman on Wednesday, the Rangers have avoided entering the no-go-areas where terrorists maintain their torture cells and store their weapons. While they have raided a number of Sindhi goths, the sanctuaries of criminals in the constituencies of powerful MQM leaders continue to flourish. Lyari has so far been left untouched as it has been described by PPP leaders as the future constituency of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Politics thus is making the operation fruitless.

The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.


  1. The above analysis by Mr Aziz ud Din Ahmed adresses the issue spot on. It is time for the progressive and political elements in Punjab to act in unison and work towards the formation of a new political alliance that has a marxian content but is secular and democratic in its form.
    We need to concentrate on smal towns and rural Punjab. If it is a war then we should get ready to fight.

  2. very good write up , Aziz sb, keep it up
    this operation clean up, under the supervision of , rehman baba is nothing a eye wash, just to please MQM , to bring it back to government and no action has been taken in the area of MQM's strong hold area which are more effected by target killings and illegal weopans

  3. Brilliant analysis done by Mr Aziz-ud-Din Ahmed. The PPP will regain the confidence of people of the country if it utilises its state machinery with an even hand without political expediency. Mr Zardari needs to come out of his cocoon and shun his disastrous policy of 'hum sab ko saath le chaleingey'. By doing so he lets off the hook MQM thugs and takes decisions deeply unpopular majority sindhis without whose votes PPP could never have been able to form the government.
    The police and Ranger have got to take on criminals who are abducting innocent people on ethnic grounds and then torturing and murdering them and put them in gunny bags and then throw on the streets. I agree with the writer of this report that the law enforcement agencies must take on these criminals and I can assure you this will bring in upsurge in popularity of the government.
    So, Mr Zardari enough is enough and you have to make tough decision if you want to stop this mayhem.

  4. Well I for one would like to disagree. The operation was conducted in areas of Gulistan-e-Jouhar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal where people were arrested and taken into custody. These areas have tended to be regarded as areas with MQM support. However nothing has been done, as of yet (or atleast in my knowledge) in Lyari which houses the People's Aman Committee which was responsible for killing scores of innocent muhajirs. Rather most of them were given the opportunity to 'leave' the city. Neither has anything been done to address the issue of the inflow of arms into Karachi from different sections of the country by criminal elements. I agree with some of your assertions but consider this a very one-sided and naive analysis.

  5. the above analysis is very good. ppp is going back.those who sacrifices for ppp are sitting back and other play with pakistan …………its time to change …….plz for democracey and for pakistan ,,,,for pakistan of quaid-e-azam. vote for imran khan

  6. Mr Pakistani says right and very true,
    i think MQM areas was under threats since last three years by zulfiqar mirzas minister ship and all the karachiiets where killed in there supervision and patronage also.
    Mr aziz sb please dont makes Karachi fool and dont mix donkeys to horses. we are alive and naseer ullah babar was dead. its 2011 not 80s and 90s.

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