Mazhar Abbas
Friday, August 28, 2015
From Print Edition
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Is Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah in control of “Karachi targeted action”? The answer is “No”. What happened in the last 48 clearly indicates that either he is ineffective to establish his government’s writ or his government is practically paralyzed. Apparently, this is no more a targeted action but complete “operation cleanup.”

If the chief secretary is on bail before arrest, the IGP and others under probe and some secretaries in custody, then where is the government?

All these actions have been taken by the federal agencies. Thus an answer has been found to the difficulties in the imposition of Governor’s Rule.

The National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and Rangers, which often assess them during raids, are all under the federal government. All these agencies have now launched an operation in full flow and are not answerable to the captain.

This perhaps is an answer to his recent outburst that “Sindh has been invaded by the NAB and FIA.”

He has the defense when it comes to politics and federal interference, but record of good governance of his government and level of corruption make his case weaker and weaker day by day.

In the developing scenario, there is little chance that the government-MQM, agreement on the “monitoring committee”, even if it is formed, can provide any relief to the MQM.

Chief Secretary Siddique Memon moved for bail before arrest after getting reports that he might by arrested by the NAB. He has got bail before arrest for few weeks.

Interestingly, investigation is also underway against the IGP Sindh and some senior police officers in the alleged corruption cases.

The situation has changed since the former President Asif Ali Zardari’s most controversial speech.

The establishment was so annoyed with his speech that during an “apex committee” meeting held after his speech, the mood was quite tense. They were even angrier with him than with the MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s controversial speech.

The option of Governor’s Rule now looks difficult after 18th Amendment, but after the captain criticized the Rangers raids on some provincial departments and took up the issue with the Sindh Assembly, the establishment changed the strategy and enhanced the powers of FIA and also instructed NAB to speed up the pending investigation.

The chief minister, who is also the captain of the operation, is now in a tight corner. He was quite a disturbed man when he heard about the arrest of Dr. Asim Hussain, Chairman of Sindh Higher Education and one of the closest aides to Asif Ali Zardari and Shoaib Warsi, DMD of Sui Southern Gas.

The irony of the latest action came within 10 days after Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan asked the FIA to discuss issues with the chief minister, who had expressed his serious reservations about the policy of harassment and arrest of officers of his government.

Earlier, his plea against the Rangers “overstepping” their authority was also ignored when DG Rangers Maj. Gen. Bilal Akhtar did not respond to the letter written to him by the captain. The DG’s position on the Karachi targeted action is that of operational commander.

The Rangers had ignored the commission set up by the captain to probe their charges that over Rs230 billion was recovered every year through illegal means and also suspected some PPP leaders.

The commission, headed by a retired judge of Sindh High Court, now stands dissolved.

After meeting some top officials looking after Karachi operation, one got clear impression that this operation would neither stop nor would it confine to one party.

Secondly, its scope has also been expanded without taking the captain’s consent. The broader definition of this operation now is, (1) operation against terrorists, criminals and mafias, (2) operation against terror financing, and (3) operation against corrupt officials and if links are found with politicians, they should not be spared either.

These three major guidelines have been given recently to the intelligence agencies, the Rangers and the police.

Under the new framework, a Joint Investigation Team, JIT comprising NAB and FIA, has been constituted as reported in Jang and The News on Wednesday. Sindh rangers would assess them. They will be handling the cases of corruption and terror financing.

For the last two months, they are practically in control of Sindh Building Control Authority, Land Department, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Fishermen Cooperative Society and Board of Revenue while probe is underway in health, education, excise and taxation and some other departments.

The Rangers, on the other hand, are after the alleged terrorist groups and militant wings of political parties with 80 per cent investigations linked to the MQM.

Reportedly, the Rangers are investigating over 5,000 cases and there are hundreds of suspects in their custody for 90 days. Majority of these suspects belong to the MQM and JITs are interrogating them. A separate wing is interrogating suspects from outlawed groups including al-Qaeda, Daish, Taliban and sectarian outfits.

The decision to send cases to military courts can include those MQM militants, who Rangers claimed were also involved in sectarian killings.

Another category of suspects belong to Lyari Gang War, who allegedly have links with different separatist groups of Balochistan.

Thus, it’s now a wide operation cleanup from “terror to corruption.” An unimpeachable source told the writer that a decision to get hold of some top most politicians and bureaucrats would be taken after collecting some “undeniable” evidence, keeping the past experience and poor investigation.

A top official revealed that investigation was also underway against former Home Minister Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza for issuing over one lakh arms license to Uzair Baloch group and others.

Therefore, the ground situation is far more different from what the provincial government had initially thought. The captain is either powerless or has silently given his consent, as he himself was not happy with some bureaucrats appointed on the directives of more powerful PPP leaders.

So, what is Shah Sahab’s constitutional position is one thing and what is his ground position since the launch of “Karachi Targeted Action” is another and contrary to his executive authority.

Is this an indirect “federal rule” and an answer to the difficulties which the center or establishment faced in imposing Governor’s Rule in Sindh after the 18th Amendment.

When the decision on the operation was taken and Rangers were given powers to arrest and probe, it was clear that the Sindh government itself was surrendering powers dedicated to the police to Rangers, who come under the Interior Ministry.

It is now a complete operation cleanup against terrorism, extremism, terror financing, mafias and corruption and will end only after the approval of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

The captain is just a reserved player or 12th man in the team. It may remind us of the days of “One Unit,” but during those days politicians were less corrupt and more motivated. The only question is, will this alleged NAB-FIA “invasion” remain confined to Sindh…… or?

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.