- Sindh law secretary resigns as govt does not bring up issue in provincial assembly session on Thursday
- Members belonging to PTI, PML-F and PML-N vow to bring resolution in assembly demanding extension of special powers to Sindh Rangers
- Sindh CM informs Karachi corps commander of PPP’s reservations over special powers to Rangers
The matter of extension of ‘special powers’ to Sindh Rangers remained in limbo on Thursday as the Sindh Provincial Assembly did not take up the issue for consideration despite announcements made by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that it would discuss the issue in the House on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Sindh Law Secretary Mir Muhammad Sheikh submitted his resignation, apparently perturbed by the tug-of-war over the issue. Sources said that the law secretary was frustrated by the provincial government’s “delay tactics” in extending powers to the federal paramilitary force, which lapsed on Dec 5.
“It is very difficult to work in such conditions,” Sheikh was quoted as having said in his resignation letter.
On Thursday, it was expected that the Sindh Assembly would take up the matter but Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani kept the issue pending for Friday (today), as members belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and PML-Nawaz (PML-N) vowed to bring a resolution in the House demanding extension of powers to the Rangers.
The development came as Karachi Corps Commander Lt General Naveed Mukhtar called on Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday to discuss the issue.
According to sources, Shah reportedly told the top army official that the PPP leadership had reservations over the issue and deliberations were continuing in the party to reach consensus over the matter.
RANGERS’ PREVIOUS DEPLOYEMENTS ‘ILLEGAL’:
The Sindh government found itself in a conundrum over the extension of Rangers’ special powers in the province given that its previous extensions on the deployment of the paramilitary force may be deemed illegal.
According to Article 147 of the Constitution under which the government extends the stay of the paramilitary force, the government can seek help from a federal institution so long as it is ratified by the provincial assembly within 60 days. As the recent issue of Rangers powers has been referred to the Sindh Assembly, it brought to light the fact that the previous extensions in deployment took place without ratification by the elected assembly.
In a meeting at the Sindh Assembly building on Wednesday, law officers, the law secretary and CM’s adviser on law sat with the advocate general and constitutional experts to discuss this issue.
“The assembly will not ratify the Rangers special powers but the ratification will be about its deployment in the province, which is necessary after the 18th Amendment,” a media report quoted a senior law officer of the government as having said, adding that the Rangers had been given year-long extensions to stay in Sindh but the issue was never brought to the assembly, despite being a constitutional requirement.
“The extension of special powers is the domain of chief minister not the assembly,” he had said. The government now intends to tackle this issue by ratifying the Rangers deployment and then adding some lines on the actual powers to be exercised by the paramilitary force.
“The government is likely to insert a provision in the resolution [making it mandatory for the Rangers] to seek the chief minister’s permission before arresting politicians, lawmakers and high-profile personalities,” a media report claimed quoting an official privy to the developments.
According to reports, Chief Minister Shah justified such manoeuvres by pointing out transgressions made by the paramilitary force.
“We gave special powers to the Rangers to bring peace in the city by only taking action against terrorists and criminals,” he told the media on Tuesday. “But, unfortunately, the paramilitary forces have exceeded their authority by initiating the accountability of politicians and other people.”
Shah had said that they will not extend powers in haste and will take the issue to the House of elected representatives. He assured, however, that special powers will be extended.
Meanwhile, the Rangers spokesperson said they have no issues seeking permission from the chief minister but, he believed, it will not yield any results. “The chief minister and his government will be responsible if we fail to arrest high-profile targets,” he told reporters.
NISAR DISCUSSES ISSUE WITH PM:
Disturbed by the Sindh government’s foot dragging on the issue, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and urged him to prevail over the provincial government so that the Rangers could resume their operations against criminals in Karachi.
Sources said that Nisar stressed on the PM that the paramilitary force needed legal protection to continue targeted operations in the port city and their policing powers must be extended forthwith.
Sources said that the PM lauded the role of law enforcement personnel and said that the situation in Karachi has improved due to action against criminal elements.
CHANDIO SLAMS NISAR:
Meanwhile, Sindh CM’s Adviser on Information Maula Bakhsh Chandio on Thursday criticized Interior Minister Nisar for pressurizing the provincial government over extension to Rangers’ special powers, saying only the Sindh CM is the competent authority to decide as to how and when Rangers’ ‘special powers’ are to be granted extension.
“Rather than the Sindh government, the interior minister should better keep his focus on the performance of federal ministers,” Chandio said in a statement.