LAHORE - The PPP-led government in Sindh and the PML-N in the Centre can dangerously lock horns on constitutional plain in case the issue of Rangers operation in Karachi failed to get a political solution, comment jurists on the on the on-going tussle between the two.

The jurists desire a midway coming through the talks between the two governments to save peace in Karachi which has largely been secured through the Army-backed Rangers operation in this port city which is also the biggest commercial hub of the country.

Admitting the fact that Rangers force was deployed in Karachi through federally approved Anti-terrorist Act which can only be revoked at the National Assembly, yet they say the maintenance of law and order is the primary responsibility of the provincial government under the 18th amendment that can modify its mode as per the situation.

However, a section of legal experts says National Action Plan also governs peace issue in Karachi as such the plan can be deemed supplementing the Act for perpetuating stay of Rangers in Karachi with special powers to raid and investigate into the high crime. But constitution does not provide for the Rangers to probe.

The jurists says tug of war between the two sides is out of conflict of interest which surfaced later and did not exist when the operation was consented to by all political parties to secure the much-needed peace in Karachi a year ago. They said the federal government can legislate through National Assembly on Karachi operation but that may again entail questions.

“The Rangers authority issue has been raised at this point to save some political leaders of Sindh. A dangerous situation can crop up if application of law is done more to safeguard individuals than the national interest”, said former Law Minister and senior jurist SM Zafar.

He said the political government is departing from what was decided initially and if that departure is made and Rangers is made toothless or withdrawn, the nefarious elements will re-emerge with greater force to play havoc with life and property of the citizens in Karachi.

He said the federal government has constitutional authority of direct rule in Sindh but that stage can be averted as Army wants peace and success of operation against terrorists and the corrupt in Karachi which the institution will materialise disregarding what expediencies are being harboured at political level on both sides.

The Sindh government in fact wants to get some concessions in the Rangers action and does not strictly seek end to its operation, the veteran jurist said. “Things will continue to go on without any change, Zafar said. He said the federal government cannot set aside a resolution passed by the Sindh government about the Rangers power. The Centre is however competent to take extreme step of governor rule and emergency in Sindh to let the Rangers stay with power albeit on sound and convincing reasons. Mr Zafar however did not see things going that way.

Former Advocate General Khwaja Harris Ahmad says Sindh cannot meddle with the federally carried out legislation about the provinces yet the provincial assembly was competent to seek as to what extent it needed the federal assistance.

Special law governed operation in Karachi in the background of peculiar situation of unrest in that city. And now it needs to be seen whether special law can overpower the constitutional authority of the provincial government, he said.

Khwaja said situation was quite tricky and serious and if that is dragged too much on the legal plain, complications can erupt. The federal government can go for declaring state of emergency or clamping governor rule in that province which again would be subject to approval of the assembly after expiry of 90 days, he added.

Former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, Abid Hassan Minto says maintaining law and order is responsibility of the provincial government which can request the federal government under the constitution to help it meet the situation. He said the federal law cannot take away power of the provincial assembly. He said article 147 incorporated in the constitution after 18th amendment clearly defines this aspect. As to Rangers operation in Karachi, he said, it was a consensus political decision but that cannot override powers of the assembly. He said the party ruling Sindh will be competent to move the court of law if the federal government proclaimed governor’s rule.

The best way, he said, is to talk out the matter and reach a decision instead of entering a situation which will disserve the cause of peace in Karachi and bring about more complications. He said Rangers operation can command more acceptance if it is carried out in other provinces also.

Supreme Court lawyer Muhammad Azhar Siddiq says the constitution provides the provincial government to dissolve the assembly if it feels pressed hard by the circumstances. He said the Sindh government has also his option but odds against it seem not strong that it will take to that course. He said the federal government was empowered to legislate on Sindh situation in terms of Article 148 and 149 read with fundamental rights and Supreme Court judgment on maintaining law and order in Karachi. But for that, it would not only need majority but political consensus also, he added.

Former Lahore High Court Bar Association President Ahmad Awais said situation in Sindh was serious as it was plagued with violence and corruption of the worst order, which was more than maintaining law and order. Rangers was deputed in Sindh to nab the corrupt and the killers with consensus of all parties and the stakeholders therefore its ownership belongs to all. Rangers powers as such, are seen in this background and not desire of a person, he said. So, law would be applied to meet the end, he added.