Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial March 13, 2015

Nine Zero raid The Rangers carried out an early morning raid on Wednesday on the MQM’s headquarters called Nine Zero and seized weapons and ammunition, along with some wanted suspects and even individuals convicted and sentenced to jail. Although MQM chief Altaf Hussain claimed around 60 people had been picked up, on Thursday the Rangers presented MQM leader Amir Khan and 28 others in court and received their physical remand for 90 days for further investigations. During the raid, one MQM worker was killed and a cameraman wounded by firing that the MQM claimed came from the Rangers while the latter denied it. The postmortem report would reveal whether the Rangers’ claim that he was shot by someone with a TT pistol was true or not. Meanwhile the dead worker was buried on Thursday in a city that had shut down the day before along with some cities in the interior of Sindh, where some incidents of aerial firing were also reported. Expectedly, the MQM condemned the raid, claimed the headquarters of the party had been ransacked and another raid carried out on Altaf Hussain’s widowed sister’s house, an accusation again denied by the Rangers. Altaf Hussain has termed the raid “barbaric” and demanded that “terrorism in the name of search operations” be stopped. He denied the prohibited bore military-type weapons belonged to the party, accusing the Rangers of having planted them. Whatever weapons were in Nine Zero, he clarified, were licenced weapons for self-defence. An intriguing set of questions has arisen because of the action. Some have questioned its timing, with MQM Senators claiming their party was being punished for not voting for the ruling PML-N’s candidate in the Senate Chairman elections. This was roundly denied by PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq, who pointed to the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had himself endorsed the PPP’s Raza Rabbani for the post. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah was reportedly aware of the raid but has asked for a report. On the other hand, Altaf Hussain cried on PPP co-Chairperson Asif Zardari’s shoulder and both the former president and Rehman Malik sympathised with their ‘ally’. Imran Khan and his PTI have supported the raid, while the DG Rangers and Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar have defended it by saying it was within the ambit of the law and the agreement of all parties to conduct an operation to clean up Karachi irrespective of political considerations. An MQM delegation met Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and demanded a judicial inquiry. It remains to be seen whether Shah’s assurances to them on this count hold any water. The MQM’s denials are neither new nor unexpected. Over the years, whenever any action is taken against the MQM related to criminal matters, they fall back on the ‘political victimisation’ card. But there were some awkward facts revealed by the raid that the party has to answer for. What was the alleged killer of journalist Wali Babar, Faisal Mota, doing in Nine Zero? Equally, what was Farhan Shabbir, alias Mulla, a wanted man convicted by a local court 13 years ago doing there? Altaf Hussain conceded partially that such elements should not have been ‘harboured’ there and their presence had pushed the party into a tight and embarrassing corner. The question of the origin of the weapons seized, whether planted or not, should come out in the wash of the investigation. The fact is that since the 1992 operation rocked the MQM back on its heels, having prompted the self-exile of Altaf Hussain six months before it began, the party, after recovering from the devastating blow, sought to reinvent itself as a mainstream democratic party and shed the label of ‘terrorist’ that had attached itself to the MQM because of its muscle power and extortionist practices in Karachi. If wanted and criminal elements were indeed sheltering in Nine Zero, the MQM has a lot to answer for. The Rangers may not be universally liked in Karachi, but the fact that their raid yielded a rich crop of wanted people and weapons vindicates the action, pending further inquiries and the judicial process that should follow. No party, not even the MQM that has a solid base of support in Karachi, can be allowed to hold any area, let alone the country, hostage to its partisan, and in some cases illegal, agenda.

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