The law abiding segment of the Pakistani nation watched and hoped for good news, which did not materialise. Instead, the Sindh Government (if there is any such thing) signed a summary that restricted the exercise of extraordinary powers by Rangers to Karachi only. The coterie of ministers in the Sindh Cabinet led by the new puppet Chief Minister (who replaced his octogenarian predecessor) is now endeavouring to sell their twisted logic to the people in defence of this move. Their argument is based on two points. First, that Sindh Rangers are in any case present all over Sindh and second, that the law and order situation in areas other than Karachi is not so bad as to warrant the grant of extraordinary powers that cover the entire province.

These PPP minions are often confronted with the counter argument that in many cases criminals flee Karachi to take refuge in other parts of Sindh. “If this is true”, the ‘jiyalas’ say, “then what stops these criminal elements from crossing the interprovincial boundary into Punjab or Balochistan and if this notion is projected further, why shouldn’t Rangers in these provinces be granted extraordinary powers too”.

While this debate goes on, the PPP ministers conveniently forget the fact that Karachi is the lynchpin to Pakistan’s survival and therefore must be cleaned up methodically and comprehensively. This cleaning up cycle can only be completed effectively if elements seeking refuge in interior Sindh are picked up. Leaving this ‘picking up’ to the police would mean giving them a chance to get away. It is therefore imperative that Rangers are given the same powers they have with reference to Karachi.

Having said this much, the extension of extraordinary powers covering Sindh does in no way create grounds for ignoring the point raised by PPP and MQM, wherein they have demanded extension of these powers to the Province of Punjab and Balochistan. In all fairness, this move will effectively deny safe havens for any absconders, who cross inter provincial boundaries.

The question is whether the Punjab Government will risk arming Rangers with the same powers they have with reference to Karachi. The answer in the foreseeable future is a ‘no’. Punjab’s feudal culture is no different from neighbouring Sindh. This culture gains strength from what could be termed as private armies and outlaws, who enforce the feudal lord’s will over tenants and the less fortunate ones. This trend provides a window for renegades fleeing operations elsewhere to find shelter and safety. A campaign (with military backing) like the one we witnessed in Karachi, is more than likely to net many big names to the great discomfort of politicians. It would not be wrong to state that the overall situation has developed into a Catch 22-like scenario for the ruling party with a tagline that says, “Damned if do and damned if I don’t”. This ‘Gordian Knot’ will however have to be cut, and cut quickly, before it is too late.

There is one last interesting angle to what is happening. PPP stalwarts display confident and aggressive body language, while defending their government’s decision to put a check on Rangers. This body language undergoes a soft change, when demanding grant of extraordinary powers and extension of operations into Punjab. This may be out of a realisation that if such an operation is undertaken, it may net some of their party leadership too.

The extension of powers viz Sindh Rangers was an administrative matter that did not require much deliberation given the fact that the continued presence of the law enforcement arm and the power it wields had brought back much normality to the citizens of the great port city. True to their psyche, politicians on both sides of the divide are using the issue as political leverage against one another. The only casualty in this ‘game of thrones’ will be the state and its people.