KARACHI - The Supreme Court Thursday held the federal government equally responsible for deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi, with the chief justice noting that when the provincial government didn’t act to improve the situation, the federal interior ministry also didn’t do the needful.

During the hearing of implementation case of SC’s earlier verdict on security situation in the port city, Sindh Advocate General elaborated that 20 armored personnel carriers (APCs) were requested for the province from the federal ministry, but ministry officials had refused to issue a no objection certificate (NOC).

In response to this, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry demanded a reason for the refusal and stated that the case has been pending for the last five months, indicating that the federal ministry was uninterested in the matter. He further held the federal ministry responsible for ongoing violence in the city.

During proceedings, Attorney General Munir A Malik submitted the federal government’s report over the law and order situation in the city, stating that Karachi faces numerous dangers primarily due to the rapid increase in the city’s population. Terrorism, sectarianism, ethnic and political killings are some of the large impediments to law and order in the city, it said.

According to the report, drugs, smuggling, extortion and possession of illegal weapons has become the norm in Karachi. There is a need to increase the deployment of Rangers and police to maintain law and order. The report also called for modern equipment to be provided for the identification of criminals.

The report calls for action against members of the Muhajir Republican Army and avoiding operation in Lyari. If the need arises, there can be a ban placed on pillion riding and use of mobile phones in this troubled area.

The AGP informed the apex court that after the passage of the 18th amendment the role of the federal government was cautious. Malik pointed out that different political parties were ruling at the centre and in Sindh. The Chief Justice replied that the constitution was the same and it did not matter which parties were in government.

During the hearing, the chief justice asked tough questions and he asked DIG South District Ameer Sheikh if he is willing to bring peace in the city, where people are losing their lives. Admitting that he is powerless, DIG South District Ameer Sheikh offered to surrender before the court in Karachi law and order case.

The DIG told the court that policemen who had taken part in the 1992 operation had been targeted and killed. He said the police are terrified and he cannot provide any outcome in such a situation. “If we arrest members of the Sunni Tehreek, Katchi, Baloch or Muttahida, unknown men set fire to Karachi.” The DIG added that help was required to capture criminals as those policemen who follow principles are transferred.

Chief Justice Chaudhry told the DIG to work bravely and inform the court if there were any hurdles or political interference in the police affairs. “Lyari is not the Temple of Somnath which cannot be conquered,” he observed.

Addressing Sindh IGP, the chief justice said, “If you cannot do anything, let us know. We will tell the federation to appoint capable officers. We ourselves think that Sindh IGP may be a victim of expediency and is giving a bad name to the system.”

The court rejected the report presented by Sindh IGP and chief secretary. Chief Justice Chaudhry remarked that if the report was accepted it would mean that there had been no killings in Karachi. He added that drugs, smuggled goods and weapons were being supplied throughout Pakistan via Karachi port. “Peace will not be restored until institutions are neutral,” he said.

Justice Chaudhry said that everyone attending this hearing should speak the truth and a pile of written investigation reports cannot resolve the issue. “The chief secretary and IGP are compromising to unknown circumstances and are reluctant to reveal the truth,” he observed. Expressing dissatisfaction over the report, Justice Chaudhry remarked that they (the government) are admitting that no-go areas existed in Karachi. He said that had they acted earlier, the situation would have been much better today.

The chief justice asked what intelligence agencies were doing if entire containers of weapons were disappearing from the Karachi port. Addressing the chief secretary, the CJ said he did not write to the federation about preventing arms and weapons from entering through the port. He said that 60-70 percent revenue is generated from this city and it feeds the entire country.

“Arms are not pouring down from the skies and going into the earth in Karachi... Ammunitions earlier caught in Balochistan were also linked to Karachi. Around 19,000 containers containing weapons are missing and being used in the province,” he said. The court issued a notice to customs chief collector and asked him to appear before the court.

The CJ criticised holding of press conferences and remarked that the parties have started politics as soon as the SC bench arrived in the city to hear the case. While having an argument with the advocate general, the CJ said that if anyone is interested in earning credit, then one should fulfil one’s duties first.

He, then, asked the advocate general about Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) and inquired about its head and trainers. The advocate general apprised the bench that CPLC is an effective institution to solve kidnapping for ransom cases. He said that Ahmed Chinoy is the head and it works under Sindh governor. Responding to this, the CJ said it meant that police department is not capable of undertaking this job.

Attorney General Munir A Malik said that advocate general should write to the federation about the issues faced by Sindh. An important session of the federal cabinet has been summoned to discuss the Karachi unrest next week, he added.