The timing of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is impeccable; while the nation is focused on mourning the victims of the Army Public School Peshawar, the Sindh Assembly sneakily passed a controversial resolution with virtually no debate on the matter. The Ranger’s special policing powers have been extended, but have been curtailed to such an extent that it seriously undermines their capability to counter crime – at least the kind of crime the PPP habitually commits.

The party’s bad faith is obvious, and one wonders if they even bothered to hide it. The Ranger’s extension had been an issue since the beginning of the month, but for the preceding 17 days the PPP-led provincial government has done all in its power to delay discussion. On Wednesday, the Speaker used his special powers to fast-track the resolution to the table – the copies of which weren’t given to the opposition benches – and disregarding protests and eschewing debate, the PPP used its majority to pass the resolution. Such dishonourable tactics are condemnable for any piece of legislation, let alone for a legislation of this magnitude.

The legislation protects Dr Asim Hussain – arrested by the Rangers on charges of abetting terrorists and corruption – from prosecution in all but name. It reads “That any person, who is not directly involved in terrorism and is only suspected of aiding and abetting terrorists or by way of terror financing or facilitating terrorists shall not be placed under preventive detention under any law without prior written approval of the Government of Sindh i.e Chief Minister” The resolution might as well have named Dr Asim and asked for his release. It also limits the Rangers policing to only four fields – crucially omitting corruption. It also forbids the paramilitary force from raiding any government office or cooperating with any other government institution apart from the police.

The arguments for a check on the Rangers powers are legitimate, and a limit to their actions was certainly necessary, but what the PPP has done is mutilation. The provisions – even if we take them on their own merit and disregard the obvious protectionist motive – are nonsensical. How are the Rangers supposed to counter terrorism when ‘aiders, abettors and financers’ of terrorism are not to be apprehended? Terrorists are sustained by a large invisible network which facilitates them, yet that network is now beyond reach because of this resolution. Seeking the CM’s approval before every arrest is tedious and an impediment to prompt and decisive counter-terrorist operations. Similarly, making government offices off-limits undermines the ability of the paramilitary force to root out extremist elements from within our ranks.

The PPP may have protected the embattled Dr Asim but it has pitted the provincial government against the rest of the federation, including the military. The possibility of governor rule, impeachment and other destabilizing measures becomes all too real.