Centre, Sindh in face-off over Rangers' powers in Karachi

Islamabad gives free hand to Rangers in Karachi for 60 days.

By Afzal Khan

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Published: Wed 23 Dec 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Dec 2015, 10:04 AM

Islamabad: The Pakistan People's Party and the Awami National Party on Wednesday staged a walkout from the Senate session in protest against federal government's rejection of the summary sent by provincial government of Sindh curtailing the powers of Rangers in Karachi.
Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP led the protest labelling the rejection as an autocratic move to infringe the constitutional authority of provinces. Political and legal observers described as dangerous the evolving face-off between federal and provincial governments.
The Interior Ministry on Tuesday gave a free hand to the Sindh Rangers in Karachi to continue their policing job under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 without having been influenced by the Sindh Assembly's resolution or provincial government's executive order.
In its letter issued to the provincial government on Tuesday evening, the Interior Ministry conveyed to the Sindh government that the powers given to the Rangers under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 could not be abridged, customised or made conditional.
The Interior Ministry also notified the extension of the Rangers authority for 60 days as per the law and the constitution. It said that Rangers would be free to arrest anybody suspected of funding terrorism or raid any government office without seeking permission from Sindh government as laid down in the Sindh assembly resolution.
The federal government rejected the summary sent to it by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah seeking to curtail powers of Rangers deployed in the province.
The ministry's letter says: "The powers conferred under Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the law cannot be conditionally abridged or customised. Exercise of all powers upon law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) is subject to judicial review."
Constitutional lawyers are of the view that the Sindh government was only playing politics over the issue. "Rangers have been deployed in the province by invoking anti-terrorism laws which put no bar whatsoever on their role to control terrorism in Sindh," senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja said.
Reacting to the development, PPP's Senator Farhatullah Babar condemned what he called the invasion of Sindh province by the federal government and warned against its consequences for the political stability of the federation.
Media reports said Sindh government has prepared draft of a letter - to be sent to the federal government - after the interior ministry rejected summary of provincial government and gave a free hand to the Sindh Rangers in Karachi to continue their policing job under the Anti-Terrorism Act. It states that Sindh had written letter to the centre for regulating the powers of the paramilitary force and not for limiting them.

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