ISLAMABAD - Only a day after MQM demanded army deployment in restive Karachi, the federal interior minister said that an army-led operation in the port city was out of question but they were mulling a targeted operation by provincial and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has strong base in the largest city of the country, had demanded handing over the administrative control of Karachi to the army during Tuesday’s National Assembly and Senate sessions.

The demand was rejected by the government and other parties, but the question of army deployment is not wiped off completely as some sources suggested that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would hear the MQM stance on this question in a special cabinet meeting next week.

Addressing a press conference after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan however categorically ruled out army deployment and operation but he said the interior ministry had a plan to launch a Sindh government-led targeted operation in the metropolitan city.

He said the federal cabinet would discuss the details of the proposed operation in its next meeting and final decision would be taken after consultation with Sindh CM and governor. Nisar maintained that deploying army in the city streets would not be a wise decision.

He stressed that a consensus of all the political parties was needed before this action, as he said extortionists and target killers in the city had been identified and unfortunately most of them have political affiliations. The city can get rid of these elements in a non-political and transparent targeted operation.

“Peace cannot be restored in Karachi by issuing political statements or by giving briefings, it requires political will and consensus,” he said. Nisar said the Rangers DG was ready to take up the responsibility but he should be given a free hand and there should be no political pressure on him.

He said the federal government would be proposing that law and order being provincial subject‚ the chief minister of the province should act as captain of the team and all federal agencies and resources would be put at his disposal to ensure success of the operation. “Sindh chief minister will have to lead the operation and the Rangers will be at his disposal,” he said.

“PML-N government is trying to have consensus so that no political party could object after the operation is started,” he said. He said that parameters of the operation should be set and cleared before its start so that there should be no political interference. He said there was also a proposal to form an outer committee having representation of PQM, PTI, ANP, JI, Sunni Tehreek, known media persons as well as businessmen that would oversee the targeted operation. “This would be done so that no one could indulge in politicking over the operation,” he said.

The minister said a number of criminals arrested by Rangers in Karachi had been acquitted by the courts and Attorney General of Pakistan would present such view before the Supreme Court. He said SC instructions would also be assimilated in the policy to improve situation in Karachi. He said he can put startling reports before the media about Karachi but he does not want to indulge in political gimmicky as he does not see every issue through narrow political prism.

Responding to queries, the minister avoided a question about the further action plan of the federal government if they failed in developing political consensus or Sindh government rejected the plan. He however said that the government wanted to give last words to Sindh government. “It should be kept in mind that if the bad circumstances persisted in Karachi, some other dangers are also hovering over the city,” he said. To another question, he said if they would not give space, it would be difficult for the foreign agencies to infiltrate in Karachi. The minister said he would not give his reaction on the MQM demand but it would not be a good decision to push army into the city. PM Nawaz has called a special meeting of the federal cabinet next week to review the law and order situation in the city. Sindh governor, CM, chief secretary, DG Rangers, DG ISI and DG IB would also be asked to attend, as Nisar also pointed out. The PM was quoted as saying in cabinet meeting the situation in Karachi was grave. According to sources, on the directives of the PM, an invitation to MQM leader Farooq Sattar has been extended to attend the cabinet session and it is expected that PM would hear the stance of the MQM on question of army deployment.