The battle for power in Sindh

December 27, 2015

The showdown between the Sindh and federal government over the Rangers’ deployment in Karachi continues

The battle for power in Sindh

The Pakistan People’s Party-led provincial government stirred up a storm when the Sindh Rangers’ special powers were curtailed through a resolution passed by the Sindh Assembly on December 18. "The Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) shall not raid any office of Government or any other Government Authority without prior written approval of the Chief Secretary, government of Sindh," the resolution reads.

The tension began when the Sindh Rangers stormed into the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) on June 16, headed by Manzoor Qadir alias Kaka, who is said to be a trusted lieutenant of former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Then, on August 26, the Rangers conducted another raid at the Sindh Higher Education Commission office at Clifton to nab a close friend of Zardari, Dr Asim Hussain. This has been the most high-profile arrest so far of the Karachi operation that started on September 5, 2013.

On August 27, the Rangers produced him in the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) III. The Rangers informed the court they have credible information regarding the doctor’s involvement in terror financing, treating terrorists in his hospital and other related activities. Rangers requested the court for 90 days custody under Section 11-EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

Clause 2 of the December 18 resolution states: "Any person who is not directly involved in terrorism and is only suspected of aiding and abetting terrorists or by way of terror financing or facilitating terrorists shall not be placed under preventive detention under any law without prior written approval of the Government of Sindh i.e Chief Minister. It is clarified that in case a person is suspected of the above, cogent reasons with complete evidence justifying such preventive detention shall be provided to Government of Sindh."

These two clauses of the resolution that were passed by the provincial assembly are the main points of contention between the Sindh government and the para-military force. Apprehending actions by the NAB and the FIA, the provincial government in the same resolution has restricted the Rangers to assist any other institution or organisation apart from the Sindh Police.

On December 20, after tremendous reluctance, the Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, signed the summary of extending the Rangers’ curtailed powers for 60 days. The Rangers powers had lapsed 15 days earlier -- on December 5.

It was reported that the Home Department of Sindh had moved the summary to CM Sindh to extend special powers for 120 days, but only 60 days was approved.

On December 20, the summary was sent to the federal government which rejected it on December 22. That very evening, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan chaired a high level meeting. The federal government came up with the decision to restore all powers to the Rangers under clause 148 sub-clause (III) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Once again, both the governments are eyeball to eyeball. As these lines are being written, it is learnt that the Sindh government, taking refuge in clause 147, has replied to Islamabad that the mandate to delegate powers, conditionally or unconditionally, rests with the provincial government.

Clause 147 of the Constitution of Pakistan says, "Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the government of a province may, with the consent of the federal government, entrust, either conditionally or unconditionally, to the federal government, or to its officers, functions in relation to any matter to which the executive authority of the province extends".

In another interesting development on December 22, the Anti-Terrorism Court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of 25 MQM leaders, including the party chief Altaf Hussain for delivering and listening to a speech criticising the military establishment. The complainant of the case is again the Sindh Rangers. The ATC (I) has directed the police to arrest and present the accused before the court on January 2, 2016. It is pertinent to mention that the nominated MQM Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar is also one of the accused.

On December 21, the administrative judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court, Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto ordered to conduct the trial of Dr Asim Hussain. On December 11, the investigation officer of the case, DSP Altaf Hussain had submitted a report that there was no evidence related to terrorism found against Asim Hussain, therefore, he was not required to be detained under Section 497 (II) of Criminal Procedure Act (CrPC).

The Rangers’ attorney contended that there was sufficient evidence against Dr Asim Hussain while referring to the statement of the Deputy Managing Director of Ziauddin Hospital, Dr Yousaf Sattar.

In the tit for tat scenario, there might be action against senior government officials while the Sindh government could opt for surrendering the services of the Sindh Rangers, invoking Clause 147 of the Constitution.

After the federal government rescued the Rangers invoking clause 148 (III), the provincial government has decided to move the high court over the issue. The mist will be clear in a week or so.

The battle for power in Sindh