Centre, Sindh at loggerheads over Rangers ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The federal and Sindh governments were at loggerheads on Tuesday over the issue of Rangers’ special powers, with the centre rejecting the province’s summary restricting policing powers of the paramilitary force to Karachi.
Informed sources in Islamabad told Dawn that the centre wanted the extension of Rangers’ policing powers to the whole of Sindh – an idea not acceptable to the provincial government.
A source said the summary would be sent back to the Sindh government with an advice to prepare a fresh summary equipping the Rangers with policing powers for the entire province.
But the Sindh government said Islamabad had not officially communicated its rejection of the summary. “We have not sent the summary about special powers (of Rangers) to the federal government, but we have sent a letter to Islamabad informing it about the government’s notification,” said a spokesman for the CM House quoting Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.
On Monday, the Sindh chief minister signed a summary extending Rangers’ policing powers in Karachi for another 90 days and their stay in the province for one more year.
Talking to Dawn, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Saeed Ghani said Article 147 of the Constitution, under which Rangers had been called, was very clear. Under the law, he added, the provincial government was empowered to attach any condition for entrusting any of the functions falling under its executive authority.
He recalled that a multi-party conference held with the prime minister in the chair had decided that the special policing powers of Rangers would be only for Karachi, when a decision about launching an operation in the city had been taken. He said the Sindh government could give powers to Rangers in line with the decisions taken at the multi-party conference as well as by the provincial assembly.
Senator Ghani held the federal government responsible for the current state of confrontation over the issue and warned this attitude could sabotage the national consensus on the war on terror. He said the centre could not dictate its terms to the Sindh government because the chief minister was answerable to the provincial assembly and the people who elected it.
Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information Moula Bux Chandio accused the centre of making Rangers’ stay in Sindh controversial and warned that any confrontation over the issue would harm the centre as well.
He regretted the threatening language being used by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who talked about other options in case a summary from the Sindh government was not received. “We also have options,” Mr Chandio said, but did not explain.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, the interior minister said Rangers would stay in Sindh and hinted at exercising alternative legal options if the centre did not receive a requisition from the Sindh government. He had specifically mentioned Articles 148 and 149 of the Constitution.
The Article 148 highlights obligations of the provinces and federation and its Article 148 (1) reads: “The executive authority of every province shall be so exercised as to secure compliance with federal laws which apply to that province.”
Article 149 (1) states: “The executive authority of every province shall be so exercised as not to impede or prejudice exercise of the executive authority of the federation, and the executive authority of the federation shall extend to the giving of such directions to a province as may appear to the federal government to be necessary for the purpose.”
The Article 149 (4) empowers the federal government to give directions to a province for the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace and tranquility or economic life in any part of the country.
PPP senators and legislators slammed the interior minister’s remarks and reports showing the federal government had rejected the Sindh government’s summary.
The reports quoting sources in the interior ministry said the Sindh government had violated the constitution by not according policing powers to Rangers in the whole province.
“They (federal government) have neither communicated us through correspondence nor we have got any response from telephone,” said the CM House spokesman.
Besides, he said the provincial government had also confirmed that the reports about rejecting the summary had not been officially released to the media. “Now, it is hard to understand whether such reports are released officially, or we think it as media gossip,” said the spokesman.
The issue of extension in Rangers’ powers and their mandate to entire Sindh was first raised by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on July 19, when he wrote to then chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, requesting him to extend the Rangers’ policing powers to the whole of province.
The PPP government and party leadership deliberated upon the issue against the backdrop of a controversy involving Asad Kharal and a demand of the establishment seeking removal of then home minister Sohail Anwar Siyal.
While Qaim Ali Shah lost his job in the process, Mr Siyal managed to be included in the new cabinet, though this time he would be heading the agriculture ministry instead of the powerful home ministry.
Meanwhile, PPP senators Dr Karim Khwaja, Aijaz Dhamrah and Engineer Gyanchand said in a statement that it was prerogative of the provinces to ask the federal government to send Rangers or any other support to deal with certain emerging scenarios, but the federal government could not “bully the provinces for its vested interests”.