Pakistan has never had a stable relationship with democracy; our country’s history has shown the vulnerability of the democratic process, and how easily it can be set aside. This is why the allegations put forward by Mustafa Kamal about interference of the establishment in Karachi’s politics were alarming and warranted a proper response. The establishment has now responded, but its credibility is seriously questioned

Sindh Rangers Director General Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed clarified that the establishment has not supported any political party but his explanation is not as comforting as we would like it to be. The DG Rangers did agree that MQM and PSP leaders had multiple meetings with Rangers and law enforcement agencies; however, he negated the claim that the armed forces had brokered an alliance between the two.

Instead of being assuring as intended, the vagueness of the statement makes the situation look even more incriminating. He confirmed the PSP- MQM meeting under the LEA’s supervision and that at the meeting “military official might have shared an opinion that an alliance would be in the interest of the city, but ‘this is not our institutional policy’. By throwing around words but not defining their scope, the DG does not help clarify anything and makes it look like someone caught red-handed.

Where the establishment does have some weight is the argument on how politics in Karachi are essential to its national security, and with the history of crime in Karachi, the establishment has to stay informed on the going on of parties. Here, it must be admitted that the Rangers have done commendable work in improving the law and order situation in Karachi; however, there is a fine line between staying informed and electoral engineering by the establishment.

A DG of the paramilitary group, a subgroup of the army, knows better that the establishment “sharing an opinion” on the merger of political parties is not just a mere exculpatory suggestion; nor is it directly related to national security. It is difficult to see how the PSP and MQM operating as different parties, which they have done so for a year, serve as an imminent threat to security, which is the only justification for the establishment getting involved – even then the Rangers can only do the work of a normal law enforcement agency, not aim to become the kingmakers and shadowy political operators like they are doing now.

Such a weak non-clarification from the Rangers, where they basically admitted everything with the explanation that “it isn’t like that”, is likely to shed further doubt and mistrust of the establishment. This is a good opportunity for those dedicated to the democratic struggle to make this a precedent and ensure a proper, accountable response. This meddling policy – which is all but confirmed by this recent statement – needs be addressed and explained by the people at the helm of the military, it cannot be allowed to become a “normal” way of doing things.