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Provincial government visibly irked by interior minister's remarks

In response to Federal Interior Minister's criticism, the Sindh government reiterated its stance that the matter with regard to an extension in the period of Rangers' policing powers would be amicably resolved by Monday. Addressing a news conference at Chief Minister's House on Saturday, advisor to Chief Minster Sindh on Information Maula Bux Chandio said the ratification of the extension in Rangers powers was a constitutional need and the issue would be resolved by Monday.

"We are committed to uprooting terrorism from the city and did not make up this issue for a single person and the PPP had not created any hurdle in the operation," he argued. He said the provincial government supported Pakistan Rangers but wanted the institution to remain within its domain, "which is no crime as the Chief Minister is the chief executive of the province." He said that no one could deny Rangers' mandate but there were several institution mandated to eliminate corruption from the province. "We have the majority in the house and we will extend Rangers powers and continue the operation with same pace," he said.

Lambasting Chaudhry Nisar, Chandio said he had no respect for the assemblies as he was among those who tore the book of constitution to pieces. He warned the federal minister against hurling threats towards the provincial government, asking him that he should go ahead with his options. "He should bring the video evidences and use his options," the minister said adding that Nisar should not compromise the Karachi operation for his personal and party interests.

He said that if any action was taken against the province "then the buck would not stop here and things would move further forward." He said it was not the provincial government but Chaudhry Nisar who was disputing Rangers. "We brought them, empowered them to improve the law and order situation in the province especially in Karachi," he said adding that the Karachi operation would continue till elimination of last terrorist. He also asked the interior minister as to whether he had forgotten the sacrifices rendered by Sindh police for peace in the city. "We never forgot the sacrifices of our armed forces and Rangers for peace," he said, adding that they would lead the operation in the province till its complete success. He lambasted the federal government for not giving a single penny for the Karachi operation despite promises.

Meanwhile, in a statement spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Karachi operation was launched on the recommendation of and with the support of Sindh government. It had also been decided that the mandate of the rangers will be determined by the Sindh government. As already stated by the CM Sindh on Friday, the Rangers mandate was to curb four distinct crimes namely terrorism, targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. In several ways the Rangers performed this assigned role in a commendable manner, he said.

However, the issue arose when Rangers over-stepped their mandate and began assuming jurisdiction in cases of alleged corruption beyond the four identified and agreed parameters. The decision of Sindh government to take the issue to the provincial assembly, when it had not done so in the past, should not surprise anyone, he said. There had been no controversy in the past over the overstepping of mandate and therefore no need to take it to the assembly. But now that a controversy has arisen it should not surprise anyone if it decided to take the matter to provincial assembly for broad based consultations.

The assertion that the Sindh government's objections have arisen just because of one person amounts to obscuring the real issue. The real issue is the growing perception of misuse of powers and going far beyond the lawful mandate regardless of whether it affects a few or many individuals. It will not help anyone, indeed it will undermine the ongoing operation, if the perception of overstepping of powers by a federal institution in a province is not addressed.

It is unfortunate to describe reservations against overstepping the mandate as undermining or ridiculing the rangers. The PPP has always respected and paid homage to the sacrifices rendered by the valiant armed forces, the Rangers, the para military forces, the civilian law enforcing agencies, the police and the innocent civilians in the fight against terror. The nation salutes them all. Corruption also is an issue that needs to be addressed most forcefully, but it must be done by the legal institutions duly mandated and set up for the purpose.

An important instrument for exposing and fighting corruption is the Right to Information Law. Unfortunately the draft law already endorsed by all stake holders and approved by the Senate Committee on Information about two years ago has still not been approved by the cabinet for bringing it before the Parliament. It is pertinent to mention that the ministry of defence had objected to the RTI law by asking the Parliament Committee not to make the law without a No Objection Certificate from it.

As a first credible instrument in fighting corruption at all levels the interior minister the federal government should legislate the right to information law without further delay. The threat of making public documentary evidence to malign some individuals may be politically tempting but it is counterproductive. Who knows the PPP may also have some solid documentary evidence but which it may not be too willing to reveal at this time in the interest of ongoing national fight against militancy and criminal syndicates.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015