After glaring each other down for the better part of the past month, the Sindh provincial government is the first one to blink. The PPP has reluctantly extended the stay of the Rangers in the province for another month, while the Governor, Dr Ishratul Ibad, has also pitched in with his vote of approval.

This has once again left Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah in an awkward position. Despite being quite belligerently adamant that the extension could only be given by the provincial assembly, according to the law, it was the Chief Minister’s Secretariat that released the notification of the stay. After the announcement he termed the reports of differences between the Sindh government and the federation as ‘baseless’ and ‘contrary to the facts’, saying that “there is a very good working relationship among the Sindh government, federal government, Army and the Rangers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tension in PPP and MQM ranks has been palpable and evident in the tenor of their speeches, especially the beleaguered Chief Minister’s. They have been accusing not only the Rangers, but the Federal Investigation Bureau (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for “overstepping boundaries” by investigating white collar crime in Sindh.

The decision to extend the Rangers’ stay was made after a late night phone call to the Chief Minister by PPP Co-Chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, sitting safely in Dubai. It remains to be seen whether he was prompted to do so by pressure from the establishment or because he received the “assurances” he sought from the Rangers. The assurance being that the Rangers would only combat “four heinous crimes — terrorism, targeted killing, kidnapping for ransom and extortion”, and nothing else. With the establishment in a position of strength and the political parties of Sindh on the back foot it seems unlikely that such a concession would be made. Even if the PPP and the MQM manage to hide their financial irregularities from the Rangers, they still have to contend with the FIA and NAB, whose investigations are not dependent on the provincial government’s blessing.

Whether the Rangers will stay beyond the month is a question that now seemingly rests with the Sindh Assembly. The bill for it has already been moved by a PTI lawmaker. The PPP-MQM nexus has the numbers to defeat such a bill. However, another extension can possibly be given too – under similar pressure.

It is a shame that this issue will not be discussed on its merits: the efficacy of the Rangers, their compatibility with the Karachi police and the needs of the city. Rather it will be fought on instincts of self-preservation by politicians quaking in their boots at the prospect of an impending arrest.