DUBAI: The million-dollar question after the watershed Rangers-army raid on the MQM headquarters Nine-Zero is “What next?”
Several scenarios are being discussed in public and private sessions and almost all agree that the raid was not just an isolated decision by a mid or low-level local officer but had the full and well-considered endorsement of the top political and military leadership of the country.
That means it is not just the MQM which has to face the wrath of law enforcement but all others, whether big or small, political or religious, ethnic or sectarian, will have to be targeted just to prevent the MQM becoming the discriminated target and the isolated victim.
Why the MQM HQ was selected, at this time, is just a case of striking at the right moment at the right time.Actionable intelligence, pre-op tactical movements, high quality secrecy including disabling CCTV cameras of MQM and use of embedded moles made it possible. The timing of the raid was something akin to the Abbottabad Osama operation, which was being prepared for a long time but exactly when and how it had to be done was decided on the spur of the moment, of course, after a top-level green signal.
Once the raid was launched, there was no going back and there would have been no leniency, had there been any resistance. Luckily, it did not happen.On a strategic scale, after the MQM raid, there is no option but to move forward and more such targets will have to be identified, picked and raided. That has also been decided. When and who is the next will depend again on actionable intelligence, the size of the criminal activity and when the target is most vulnerable and exposed.
That is what happened with the MQM raid. It was considered that the MQM was now at its weakest and almost unable to retaliate with the might and force that it used to, shutting off cities and most of the province, even when one worker was killed.
After 1992, the Wednesday’s raid was the mother of all actions against the MQM and the reaction has been muted at best, largely apologetic and mostly an attempt to play innocent.In the process, leaders made serious mistakes, in apparent panic.
Altaf Bhai almost admitted that criminals were roaming around his 90 home and in a way advised them, and others, to stay away and not to bring more trouble for the party.Second tier leaders repeatedly emphasized that there had been no resistance. And cooperation was extended. In fact, there was no choice.
Why the MQM is weak now is obvious. The Apex Committees (read the army) have taken all matters of law and order, police postings and transfers and war against the Karachi mafias over from the Sindh PPP government.
Moreover, after showing some teeth as opposition in the last few weeks, the MQM had taken its umpteenth U-turn and decided to rejoin the PPP cabinet. Imran Khan was back bowling bouncers against Altaf Bhai.
Chaudhry Nisar has made it clear that evidence in Dr Imran Farooq murder case has been completed and may be handed over to the Scotland Yard anytime. The MQM’s long-surviving killer Saulat Mirza is now approaching the gallows and Altaf Bhai has to distance himself from his hanging.
Altaf Bhai himself has admitted that he has lost some, if not all, control over his party and in recent weeks his Rabita Committee has been disbanded and revived many times. He has also admitted that the MQM governor was not his man.
But all this leaves the Apex Committees and the Establishment in a challenging, almost a difficult situation. They now have to move against the others fast and with equal force and intensity.
Spokespersons for the law enforcement keep on saying that the Karachi operation is going on, but raids in Sohrab Goth or Orangi Town or Kati Pahari and many other pockets of crimes run by different gangs and groups do not match the size and intensity of the raid on the MQM base.
For the Establishment, the Nawaz government, the Rangers and the Army, the next target has to be a big party with more or at least equal weight as the MQM.In this context, the return of Lyari gangster Ozair Baloch from Dubai may hold the key.
While the men taken into custody in the 90 raid are debriefed, interrogated and more names and details have been extracted from them, operational plans for the next move will also continue simultaneously.
It is thus quite possible that the next targets are the known ‘no-go’ areas, the stretches of land, roads and neighbourhoods that have been grabbed, unofficially and illegally, inside the cities by big politicians and leaders of sects, groups and mafias. It would be better if they quit these illegal positions.
And if actionable intelligence about caches of arms and weapons, bags and suitcases of dollars, gatherings of criminals and killers anywhere in the city is available at any point, there may be no hesitation in going for them.
Karachi will thus remain in the firing line for some time to come and it is possible that big and small criminals may start running for cover, leaving the country or just going underground.The psychological impact of the 90 raid will thus bring some peace for Karachiites, in the short run at least.