LAHORE: The Punjab government, which has agreed to seek assistance of Rangers in combating terrorists, is under tremendous pressure to also engage the paramilitary force in netting ordinary criminals, highly placed official sources said on Friday.
The provincial government had expressed its willingness to seek deployment of Rangers for a period of two months to assist police and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in hunting down terrorists and their facilitators and combating banned organisations across the province.
A notification for the purpose was prepared last week. It was to be sent to the federal interior ministry by the Punjab chief minister for approval for deployment of Rangers.
Province wants paramilitary force to assist police against terrorists, not criminals
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan had told Dawn that the notification would be issued by the governor and Rangers would only assist police and the CTD in conducting intelligence-based operations and providing security during Eidul Azha and Muharram. “This is not going to be the Karachi-like deployment of Rangers who have been given policing powers by the Sindh Assembly,” he said.
But no notification about Rangers’ deployment has been issued so far.
The only development was a Sept 11 directive by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to police for launching a crackdown on criminal elements throughout the province and breaking their rackets within 60 days.
There has been an increase in intelligence-based combing operations in various parts of the province being jointly conducted by the CTD of Punjab police and intelligence agencies.
Sources in the Punjab government said the notification could not be issued because of objections by the army which wanted Rangers to also deal with ordinary criminals.
But the provincial government insisted that its police were enough to deal with ordinary crimes.
The sources said that as per the draft notification, Rangers (if engaged in Punjab under Section 7, read with 10 of the Pakistan Rangers Ordinance, 1959) will assist police and the CTD in fighting outlawed organisations, terrorists and their facilitators.
The quantum of the force will be determined by the provincial apex committee, headed by the Punjab chief minister, after due assessment of credible information justifying the intelligence-based operations.
According to the sources, the military authorities are not agreeing to such a condition. They also want Rangers to net criminals like police do. The Punjab government had been opposing it altogether, the sources said.
The provincial government had been opposing the deployment of Rangers in the past, fearing this would affect its administrative independence. But this time it is hard to resist the pressure in the aftermath of the recent act of terrorism in Quetta.
The Punjab government is still trying to keep the engagement of Rangers limited to catching terrorists.
“There is pressure on the Punjab government on this issue which is being handled at the highest level,” said an official when asked whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or the Punjab chief minister was holding negotiations on the matter.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who also heads the provincial committee on law and order that deals with such matters, could not be contacted for his comments on the issue despite repeated attempts.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2016