Once more the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led Sindh assembly failed to table a resolution on the extension of the special policing powers for the Rangers, which expired on December 6th. The issue, should principally have been resolved before the expiry date, was placed 11th on the agenda list, virtually consigning it to a later date. When the opposition parties contested this, asking for this exigent matter to be discussed first, the speaker denied the requests, and postponed the session following the expected ruckus and sloganeering.

The PPP’s feet dragging is understandable, the Rangers have targeted government offices and senior officials for allegations of corruption – the most notable being Dr Asim Hussain – forcing the leadership to hide out in Dubai; denying the extension will surely bring respite. However, the party is not denying the extension either – Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Maula Bux Chandio, Sindh Chief Minister’s Advisor on Information both were keen to clarify that their party was not against the Rangers operation in Karachi, and that the extension in powers will be given soon. If this is the case, what is the reason for the delaying tactics?

The PPP must know that it cannot reasonably resist the pressure to extend the special powers. Its previous attempt to deny the extension failed, when the military and the federal government forced it to do so despite its protests. The situation hasn’t changed, the military is just as insistent and the federal government, through the Interior Minister, has issued a warning saying that it is not above implementing governor rule to get the extension. With the one year anniversary of the Army Public School Attack only a few days away, the PPP’s hesitancy will be viewed in the most unfavourable light. If the delay is aimed at creating a bargaining chip- as is suggested by the draft resolution created by the PPP - to be used to temper the Rangers operation, then the party is playing a very dangerous and destabilising game.

According to reports, the resolution contains clauses that will extend the powers but will ensure that the Rangers can act only in certain matters with the Chief Minister’s prior permission. It also stipulates that the Rangers will not have direct authority to take action against key political figures, government offices, government officials and welfare organisations. Not only does this confirm the suspicions that the party is only delaying the decision to protect its wrongdoings, it paints the party as a selfish one, which will sacrifice the national good for the benefit of a few. The uncertainty over the Rangers operation has already caused the Karachi Stock Exchange to plunge drastically, and is also pitting the federal and the Sindh government against each other. How much longer before the PPP does what it was going to do in any case: extend the powers – or at least hold an open debate on it in the assembly.