Thursday, June 18, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 19, 2015

PPP-military ruction The PPP has attempted to defend itself against what is perceived to be the military establishment’s campaign against it. Both the Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, and party co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar have criticised the Rangers in Karachi for going beyond their authority/mandate in raiding the Sindh Building Control Authority’s (SBCA’s) offices the other day. Their argument revolves around the deployment of the Rangers under Article 147 of the constitution and Clause one, sub-section three of section four of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 to combat terrorism, not involve themselves in matters connected with land allocations and related issues. This may be correct according to the letter of the law, but the legalistic defence misses the point. The PPP has been in power in Sindh continuously since 2008. During these years, the situation in Karachi has gone from bad to worse as far as security and law and order are concerned. The DG Rangers put the cat among the pigeons with his report to the apex committee of Sindh that Rs 230 billion illegal funds were being generated from Karachi every year and political parties’ personages were diverting some of these funds towards supporting terrorism and crime. If that argument is accepted, the raids to arrest top officials allegedly involved in corruption whose funds are then finding their way into unsavoury quarters theoretically gives the Rangers carte blanche to conduct the actions they are. Following on the SBCA raid, reports speak of other top officials being taken into custody. This continues to feed into the agitation voiced by the PPP co-Chairperson the other day, endorsed and supported now by the loyal Central Executive Committee of the party. The issue of such corruption has been building for some time and has now come to a head since the provincial apex committee came into existence to tackle terrorism and law and order. The military’s preponderance in the deliberations of these committees is the stuff of urban legend by now. If the PPP and its Sindh government now find themselves on the receiving end of the Rangers’ unwanted attention, they have no one to blame but themselves for ignoring the warnings, both signs and explicit, that they should get their act together. The complacency reflected in the PPP Sindh government’s functioning in business as usual mode has now come back to haunt it. Rumours are flying that the incumbent Governor Ishratul Ebad of the MQM may be replaced by an ex-General to lend sinew to the Rangers’ campaign against corruption and other such misdemeanours. Whether this would be the preliminary step to imposing Governor’s rule in the province is not yet clear, but the winds blowing in from the Arabian Sea seem ominous. Despite putting up a brave and defiant face while at the same time attempting damage control vis-Ă -vis Asif Zardari’s more vitriolic remarks against the military, the PPP now finds itself isolated in the political firmament. The ruling PML-N has not only criticised Zardari’s outburst, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled a meeting with Zardari. The PTI has decided not to attend Zardari’s iftar dinner. The military itself more mildly, and its myriad ‘defenders’ more vociferously have come crawling out of the woodwork to lambast Zardari and the PPP for its diatribe against the military at a time when it is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with terrorism in Operation Zarb-e-Azb and counter-terrorism operations. This ruction between the PPP and the military has certainly clouded the political horizon and dark clouds now lower over not only the civilian dispensation in Sindh, but contain the promise of similar moves against other political parties long in the line of fire but remaining relatively untouched till now. For example, the two suspects in the Imran Farooq murder who we were told are in custody for years have miraculously been arrested at Chaman while trying to slip into Afghanistan. Perhaps the chickens of the past are finally on the way home to roost. Where this will eventually lead remains the unanswered and intriguing question on the tip of the tongue. If the PPP’s Sindh government and the MQM are about to be roasted on the spit of accountability, where will this ball stop? Could it roll on to engulf the entire civilian dispensation? This may not be an idle question for the political class as a whole to keep in mind as the drama unfolds.

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