The pulsating cheering crowd in the National Stadium Karachi for the PSL Final, and subsequently for the three international T20s, underscored the return of peace to a city (and country) torn by internal strife. Bereft of any sports spectacle and living in cold fear for life and limb of their (and their families) because of open-ended threats from terrorists, political, religious and the criminal kind, the people of Karachi had very good reason to celebrate, both their “freedom” and Pakistan’s return from sports “exile”. When the speakers playing the National Anthem failed during its rendition before the start of the match, the entire audience spontaneously started singing the anthem, could anyone have stage-managed patriotism better?
The gains made in 1994-1995by the decimation of MQM’s militants by Gen Babar and the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) was reversed by Gen Musharraf because of the military dictator’s personal ambitions. The Rangers were ordered to stand helplessly by as the MQM ran riot. One expected the PPP to crack down after Musharraf’s rule ended in 2008 but Zardari needed the MQM politically to stay in power far more than Musharraf did, Rahman Malik the bagman facilitating Altaf Hussain’s drugs, drinks, gambling and (various other) addictions in London. Without the special powers to arrest the miscreants affiliated with political parties who did their dirty work with complete impunity, with the Sindh Police compromised by vested personal/political interest and without coordinated intelligence gathering, the Rangers remained in “forced stupor” as mere spectators. Even when arrested the militants were treated as royalty in the police stations, being garlanded on being set free. The para-military force’s discipline and motivation suffered grievously during this decade of inaction, their capacity and potential deteriorating and diminishing considerably from 2000 to 2010,a sorry reflection on successive two stars in command during this time.
Militant political activists and armed criminal gangs took over entire localities in Karachi, MQM’s sector offices acting as enforcement arms for Altaf’s whims and caprices. With militants being now “legal” as part of the Sindh ruling coalition Karachi’s citizens started screaming and Kayani finally lost his patience. He moved Maj Gen Ijaz Chaudhry post-haste started from his Division conducting counter-insurgency operations in South Waziristan as DG Rangers in April 2010. Re-organising his command Ijaz weeded out undesirable elements and re-trained them for their mission statement. The first “acid test” was a major operation against the Kallu gang in Dalmia, thereafter with Gen Kayani’s support Ijaz persisted with low-key operations. In September 2011 when the Supreme Court (SC) summoned him, he handed over a sealed list of criminals from the political parties constituting the Sindh Coalition to Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry. Stunned by this stark description of “democracy’s” governance mode in the Province, the SC gave DG Rangers the go-ahead to continue with his mission, monitoring the Rangers activity on weekly reports. The by-product was smooth conduct of 2013 elections, at least in the urban areas of Sindh. Promoted in Oct 2011 Ijaz stayed as DG Rangers as a Lt Gen for six months till taking over as Comd 5 Corps in March 2012 and persisting with anti-militant operations. Only two weeks before Kayani retired, he replaced Ijaz with a bizarre posting, a quite awful favourite who was to retire after only 9 months. Sajjad Akram was succeeded by Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as Commander 5 Corps. Once Gen Raheel Shareef took over as COAS, the pace of this operation quickened considerably. After the Peshawar APS incident and the subsequent launch of “Operation Zarb-i-Azb”, the Karachi operation went into overdrive!
Karachi city remained on another plane of criminality with the Rangers battling both criminals and terrorists in the field, while facing die-hard opposition from their mentors in the govt in Sindh. To top it all the Sindh Assembly adopted a Resolution in 2015 asking for checks and conditions on Rangers’ special powers to raid and arrest suspects. Calling for the break-up of Pakistan on August 22, 2016Altaf Hussain’s hatred filled speech had a far more sinister purpose; he predicted that the country would cease to exist soon. The speed of the mob’s reaction to Altaf’s speech suggested that this was neither spur-of-the-moment nor spontaneous, there was method in his madness. Armed to the teeth MQM activists had taken up ambush positions in and around Zainab Market. Had the Rangers not been delayed by traffic, hundreds of innocent civilians would have been murdered in cold blood and blamed on the Rangers. The MQM game plan engineered by India’s RAW was to defame the Army by default.
With full backing from Gen Raheel Sharif, Naveed Mukhtar took immediate and decisive action on Aug 23. All 122 MQM unit/sector offices meant to maintain control by use of terror in these localities were demolished in two days. The tacit political and administrative support of the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah notwithstanding, this decision to eradicate MQM’s terror complexes is a watershed in Karachi’s history. Comd 5 Corps delivered the maximum impact by applying quantum of force at the right timing and the right place. With MQM disintegrating into small factions, the back of this once powerful political party was broken and Karachi got its freedom!
From being6th most dangerous city out of 300 cities in 2014, Karachi dropped in rank to 50thin 2016, amply demonstrating the wonderful work done by the Rangers(read the Army).The touchstone of the continuing success of Comd 5 Corps. Lt Gen Shahid Baig Mirza, who succeeded Naveed and Maj Gen Mohammad Saeed replacing Maj Gen (now Lt Gen) Bilal Akbar as DG Rangers, lies in their firm but quiet enforcing of writ of law like Ijaz, Naveed and Bilal Akbar didbefore them, this notwithstanding the many political hurdles placed before them by the Sindh Govt. With those criminals and terrorists not apprehended going into hiding, what will happen to the city if Army backs off? There is no “Doctrine of Necessity” derailing democracy as alleged by the politicians and their paid media hacks, it is being derailed by the penchant of our politicians to corrupt the prime institutions of governance for their own vested interest.
Hogging all the credit for cricket’s return to Pakistan, PSL grudgingly mentioned the role of security agencies but did not give even passing mention to the tremendous ultimate sacrifice rendered by our soldiers over the years to make Pakistan safe. Lest we forget, it is their sacrifice which made cricket a domestic happening instead of PSL remaining a “Yatra” filling Dubai’s coffers.
The writer is a defence and security analyst.