Zardari decides today about Rangers KARACHI: Top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party flew to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday evening to hold discussions with PPP-P president Asif Zardari on two crucial issues concerning Sindh — another extension in Rangers’ special powers for Karachi and, more importantly, whether the paramilitary force be allowed to exercise the same policing powers in the rest of the province.
Four days have passed since the Rangers’ raid-and-arrest powers expired as the last extension, which was given by the provincial government for 77 days and only for the Karachi division, ended on July 19.
The PPP-led Sindh government fears that the Rangers will target its cadre if it widens the scope of their special policing powers to the whole of Sindh.
While the military establishment and the federal government have asked Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to extend the Rangers’ special powers and make them applicable to entire province, the veteran politician took a bold stand. The CM told them that he would take a decision only after consulting the party high command that includes — or solely comprising — former president Asif Zardari.
Mr Zardari, who is the president of Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians, had on June 16, 2015 made an aggressive speech in Islamabad warning the military leadership that if they did not stop the smear campaign against his party he would expose the “misdeeds of many generals”. Eight days later, he flew to Dubai and has since been living there in what many believe a self-imposed exile.
Two months later, Rangers arrested Mr Zardari’s close aide and former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain and since then the PPP-led Sindh government is in an open confrontation with the paramilitary force. The party used the Sindh Assembly to pass a resolution that restricted the Rangers to taking action against the suspects only involved in cases of terrorism, targeted killing, kidnapping for ransom and extortion.
On Saturday, CM Shah along with senior PPP leader Faryal Talpur and Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal left the metropolis for Dubai, where PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Zardari are waiting for them to begin the crucial deliberations.
“Shah Sahib, Ms Talpur, former president Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will meet in Dubai on Sunday,” CM House spokesperson Rasheed Channa told Dawn.
Sources said that the home department had already forwarded a summary about the extension of Rangers’ policing powers only in Karachi to the chief minister, who would approve it after his return, probably on Monday evening.
Referring to the Friday meeting of the Karachi corps commander with the CM, the sources said that an understanding had been developed that the paramilitary force would only take action against hardened criminals and militants in the interior of Sindh and the CM and Ms Talpur flew to Dubai to apprise Mr Zardari of this and get his consent.
“A fresh summary is required for the extension of the scope of Rangers’ power to whole of Sindh,” said a government source, adding in all likelihood the top PPP leadership might give its consent to the CM to approve it too — with certain conditions.
In a separate session Mr Zardari and PPP chairman Bhutto-Zardari would also review the affairs of the Sindh government for which Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah and Home Minister Siyal had also arrived in Dubai.
Before leaving for Dubai, the CM told reporters at Karachi airport that the party leadership would “review performance of the government and set new targets for development works”.
Former interior minister Rehman Malik, former Punjab governor Latif Khosa, a few PPP leaders from Punjab and Azad Kashmir would also meet Mr Zardari and PPP chairman Bhutto-Zardari to discuss the political situation and the failure of the party in the recent Azad Kashmir elections.