Sindh, Centre at odds over Rangers powers

Sindh Rangers. PHOTO: AFP

Sindh Rangers. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Centre and Sindh are again at loggerheads over policing powers for the Rangers which has been conducting targeted operations against criminals, particularly terrorists, target killers, kidnappers and extortionists, in the province since September 2013. The federal government on Tuesday voiced serious reservations over a Sindh government move to limit the special powers of the paramilitary force to Karachi.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah signed two summaries on Monday seeking a yearlong extension in the Rangers’ stay in the province with policing powers in Karachi only for 90 days. The legal wing of the federal interior ministry, however, rejected one of the summaries, resurrecting a row that had apparently been averted a day earlier.

The legal wing pored over the summaries sent by the Sindh chief minister and concluded that one of them relating to the Rangers special powers doesn’t conform to Article 147 of the Constitution, sources in the ministry told The Express Tribune. Nonetheless, sources said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan might review the summary.

“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,” reads Article 147.

Chaudhry Nisar believes the Rangers’ special powers cannot be restricted to Karachi only – and constitutionally, the policing powers, if granted, would apply to the whole of Sindh. “The paramilitary force has thus far conducted 154 raids in rural Sindh which have yielded 533 arrests,” he told a news conference on Monday.

Incensed by the interior minister’s hard line, a vocal PPP senator, Saeed Ghani, advised him not to become a ‘viceroy’, a regal official who runs a country or a colony in the name of a monarch. “The Sindh government has granted special powers to the paramilitary force in a manner which had been decided by the Sindh Assembly and an all-party conference,” said Ghani who is expected to get a portfolio in the new cabinet of Sindh.

This is a Sindh government prerogative to decide where to deploy the Rangers in the province. “Chaudhry Nisar considers himself a viceroy and he wants to sabotage the understanding which was reached with harmony to fight the war against terrorism. It has become abundantly clear that Chaudhry Nisar is working on some hidden agenda,” Ghani added.

Sindh Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab, meanwhile, said the provincial government has sought the same powers for the Rangers that the paramilitary force has been enjoying since 2013, the year when targeted operations were launched in Karachi.  “

“We have not curtailed the Rangers powers. I don’t know why the federal government has rejected the summaries,” he said, adding that before the Karachi operation, all political parties and stakeholders had evolved a consensus to give the Rangers special powers only in Karachi.

He claimed that security situation in other districts of Sindh was under control, and the police were diligently handling the situation.

Reacting to PPP’s criticism, Parliamentary Secretary for Information Broadcasting and National Heritage Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha said the PPP should put its own house in order and improve its governance in Sindh.  He added that peaceful Karachi was necessary to boost economic activities in the metropolitan city.

Speaking in a PTV show, he said peace in Karachi has been restored due to the operations conducted by the Rangers against the criminals. “The credit goes to all national institutions for restoring peace in the city.

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