How times change. A few weeks ago, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) was clamouring for the resignations of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf lawmakers to be accepted, arguing that under the constitution, once a resignation is tendered the Speaker is bound to accept it. Today he heads the government’s efforts to bring Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) back into the fold by convincing them to take back their resignations. Unprincipled as his shifting stances are, the Maulana seems to be making some headway, and if the reconciliation is complete, no one would begrudge him his meandering policy in the wake of the stability such reconciliation would bring.

On Wednesday, the JUI-F called on the Prime Minister to apprise him of the progress in the talks with the MQM. Speaking to the media, he was of the opinion that both the government and the embattled MQM were ready to reconcile – if the party’s legitimate concerns are sufficiently addressed. The MQM demands that a monitoring body be formed to oversee the operation, so that its excesses could be controlled. If the formation of such a body would end this unnecessary political tussle then the government should comply. If the Rangers are not specifically targeting the MQM using trumped up charges, then giving oversight to a committee which the MQM is part of should not be a hurdle in the operation. Even if the MQM intends to scuttle the operation against it by using this committee it is highly unlikely that it will be able to do so; so far the Rangers have operated with relative autonomy – even the elected government has been unable to rein them in, the chances of the MQM are equally bleak, if not more.

The fact that the formation of such a committee may be able to end MQM’s protest is a valid enough reason in itself, yet, civilian oversight of the operation is a legitimate and reasonable demand. Despite their efficacy, no one can deny that the Rangers are acting beyond the scope of their powers. Accountability to a civilian monitoring body would check their unbridled power – and would make the civil-military imbalance less glaring.

At the end of the day, the objective is not to eliminate the MQM, it is to eliminate the criminal elements among it. Its moderate political leadership is instrumental in keeping extremist powers at bay, and must not become collateral damage in this operation.