Friday, June 19, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 20, 2015

Showdown intensifies Under pressure from the military establishment, distanced from the ruling PML-N and some other political parties and under attack from various quarters rising to the defence of the military and Rangers after co-Chairperson Asif Zardari’s broadside against the military, the PPP has gone into damage control mode. PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira is leading the effort, trying to present Zardari’s remarks as having been misinterpreted, torn out of context, and viewed unsympathetically despite the PPP’s support to the military in the past and its patience even when its leaders were martyred or suffered at the hands of military dictators. Additionally, the PPP is reaching out to the other political parties by inviting them on Friday to an Iftar dinner. However, the invitation was declined by some parties. On the other hand, Asif Zardari has reached out to MQM leader Altaf Hussain and the two parties have decided to forget their differences and join hands against the perceived attack against them from the establishment. It may be mentioned here that the two main suspects in the Imran Farooq murder case have been arrested in Chaman, ostensibly while trying to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan. The credibility of this claim is questionable in the light of the past statements by the authorities, including federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, that these two suspects were in custody for years. Irrespective of this reservation, the bringing forth of this claim now reflects a decision to target the MQM too, which, by the way, has denied the two detainees have anything to do with it. That may provide the basis for the new declared closeness between the PPP and the MQM. The PPP is also reported to be preparing a strategy to counter any possible move to impose Governor’s rule in Sindh after changing the present gubernatorial incumbent. On the other hand, the military and Rangers have reiterated their determination to continue the crackdown in Karachi to improve the security and law and order situation in the metropolis. That crackdown has so far yielded the arrest of the Vice President of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Qamar Siddiqui amongst others. Mr Siddiqui has been sent on remand by an anti-terrorist court for 90 days after the Rangers told the court he was involved in extortion, target killing, kidnapping, land grabbing, arms smuggling, assisting terrorism, and abetting Lyari’s gang war with millions of rupees collected from Karachi Fish Harbour. He is also accused of sending 70 percent of the funds collected from such illegal activities to Bilawal House, Karachi, the PPP’s headquarters. The Chairman of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Society, Nisar Murai is said to have fled abroad after multiple corruption cases were registered against him. Other important figures are also being targeted in a concerted drive against the corrupt mafias afflicting the city. It would be interesting to see how the trial of these people proceeds, what is revealed if not proved, and how far the long arm of the law will then reach to even bigger fish perhaps. Objections to the role of the Rangers in matters considered beyond their mandate aside, it is a development to be noted that the Sindh High Court is being approached by various petitioners whose loved ones have been whisked away by the security forces in Karachi and neither their whereabouts are known nor have they been produced in a court of law. While it may not be possible to keep the bigger fish out of the spotlight and therefore they are being produced before the courts, ordinary citizens appealing to the Sindh High Court seem to be victims of their family members being ‘disappeared’ as has been going on in Balochistan and even peripherally in Sindh for some time. It must be stated that no crackdown, no matter how critical or important for the country, can hope to succeed in the long run unless it remains within the ambit of the law and resists the temptation to take shortcuts like extrajudicial disappearances and perhaps worse. Last but not least, there is a theory doing the rounds that Asif Zardari’s coming out guns blazing against the establishment is not a sudden rush of blood or resentment against the arrests of close associates, as is being generally perceived, but may be a subtle strategy to revive the PPP. Certainly Asif Zardari’s speech has had opposite receptions from the hitherto estranged jiyalas (committed workers) and leaders of the PPP. While the latter have objected to this adventurism in open or muted fashion, the former are delighted at what they perceive is the return of the party to its traditional anti-establishment militant stance. True or not, what is being perceived in some circles as the de facto takeover of the functions of the Sindh government by the Rangers offers food for thought for the parties ruling other provinces, not excluding the PML-N itself. Talk of a ‘soft’ coup to describe the increasing role of the military establishment in national affairs may now have to give way to speculations about a ‘creeping’ coup that may not spare any of the political class.

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