The Rangers in Karachi have announced that political and extremist militants working from within governmental organisations are now in their crosshairs, which is a positive step considering public offices all have plenty of both, as well as ghost employees which will also be targeted. MQM has already blasted this order, claiming that the term ‘politically motivated’ can be used synonymously with ‘MQM workers’ if the Rangers wish it, and this might not be entirely untrue.

It has been three years since the operation in Karachi began, but we are still not clear on what exactly the agenda of the Rangers is in the provincial capital. The Rangers themselves do not seem too sure either. They claim that clamping down on political and religious extremism is the focus, but that does not mean that the paramilitary force can use both terms interchangeably, considering that they mean very different things, and the impact of both on society is also very different. It is good that the force is taking the threat of political violence just as seriously, given Karachi’s tumultuous history, but treating political prisoners like terrorists has already lead to the feeling of marginalisation in the ranks of both PPP and MQM. Violent elements within both parties should be shut down, but this must be done in a way that does not catch innocent political workers in the crossfire. We must not make the mistake of viewing any political movement in absolute terms; as good or evil.

The Rangers is currently wading through murky waters, and the judgement of top leadership is increasingly seeming like the only means through which decisions are made in the Karachi operation. This ad hoc approach cannot be allowed to continue. Three years have passed since the operation began, and it is time that it moves into the next phase. Training and reequipping the police to let them take over from the Rangers in the long-run should now start becoming the focus, and the Rangers themselves need to become more transparent about their dealings, and about who they term extremist or otherwise. There needs to be a structure to the clean-up Karachi endeavour, and it is time that a roadmap is created.