Two visits by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to Karachi in one month suggest that the establishment is steeling itself to continue the operation and commit the Rangers to do what is necessary to bring about its end. His second visit on Thursday could mean one of two things; it is either an attempt to boost the morale of the security agencies and commend them to make them more determined to continue the fight, or that there are flaws in the operation that the Rangers have so far neglected. Judging by the tone of General Raheel Sharif’s statement after the meeting in Karachi, it is the former.

One thing that is certain is that things have indeed improved in Karachi, but this improvement is very much at risk with increasing threats from terrorist organisations this month. The closure of Army-run and federal educational institutions coinciding with the COAS visit cannot be mere coincidence. Karachi no longer has no-go areas, but the sheer size of the population and the way it is densely packed makes finding terrorists much harder.

The closed-door policy of the Rangers with handling political suspects and using evidence against them has left much to be desired. While both PPP and MQM are not above the law, handling political workers involved in acts of violence as opposed to dealing with terrorists are two different issues. More transparency is needed for the political worker, in order to alleviate the party’s fear of being singled out. Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah is lauding the PPP government for bringing peace to Karachi, even when PPP has set itself at loggerheads with the Rangers time and again. PPP only extended the duration of special powers given to the Rangers after the opposition severely protested against ending their tenure in Karachi. This extension will end on February 3, 2016 unless the Chief Minister approves the Federal Government’s request to extend the Rangers stay in Karachi. It is clear after three years since the operation started, that the Rangers have two main objectives in Karachi. The first one is simply continuing the fight against extremist militants. But the second focuses on another kind of terrorism; the kind that Karachi has been plagued with for over twenty years now. Eradicating target-killing, extortion and street-crime is clearly also on the agenda. With the Army reaffirming its commitment to continue the operation, one can only wonder when it will come to its “logical end”.