ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah came to the federal capital on Wednesday with the hope of receiving the centre’s support for his efforts to curtail the Rangers’ powers in the province, but got only a patient hearing from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Accompanied by provincial Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyyal and Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister, according to sources privy to the meeting held at the Prime Minister Office, apparently came fully prepared to present his government’s case over powers for the paramilitary outfit.
But the prime minister, who was assisted by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, only agreed to hold more talks on issues raised by Mr Shah
“The prime minister, in a nutshell, told the chief minister that the Karachi operation will continue with its present contours for which the federal government has already issued a notification. But at the same time, he assured the CM that where possible the federal government will address his concerns,” a government functionary told Dawn.
That nothing came out of the hour-long meeting could also be gauged from the fact that the media wing of the PM Office only released a picture of the sitting. Both the prime minister and the chief minister have been shown co-chairing the huddle, with their ministers sitting face to face.
Mr Shah argued that the federal government must respect the resolution adopted by the Sindh Assembly to restrict Rangers’ policing powers. He asked the prime minister to rein in the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which were more active in Sindh than elsewhere in the country.
Mr Shah also sought the centre’s help in cases against Dr Asim Hussain because, according to him, there was no evidence against him.
According to a government official, the prime minister said it was in the best interest of both the federal and provincial governments not to cast aspersions on the Karachi operation “because by doing so only the PML-N and the PPP will be targeted by other political parties, especially PTI”.
He repeatedly reminded the chief minister that “both of us” would be blamed if there was a little mismanagement of the operation at this stage, so let’s not touch it.
On the issue of NAB and FIA, Mr Sharif took the stand that the two agencies were also investigating a number of cases against his own party members and it was a wrong perception that the federal government was influencing their running.
According to another government official, the Sindh chief minister desperately sought political engagement of the federal government over the issue of Rangers because at the moment it appeared that despite being head of the operation he stood nowhere.
“I think the Sindh CM was only in search of seeking some relevance to the ongoing operation in Karachi, and Wednesday’s meeting must have helped him because over the past few months Mr Shah can be seen nowhere in the radar,” said the official.
And in order to keep the Sindh government engaged, the official added, the prime minister had directed Chaudhry Nisar to stay in constant touch with the chief minister and try to address his concerns where possible.
About the expenditures of the operation, prime minister reiterated the federal government would continue to foot the bill for Rangers’ stay in Sindh.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, the chief minister insisted that corruption was a provincial subject and his government would keep raising the issue with the centre. He said the prime minister had asked Chaudhry Nisar to visit Karachi and sort out issues.
At the same time, Mr Shah insisted that he was and still is head of the Karachi operation. “I am not here to fight with the federal government, but to raise a few issues. I have asked the prime minister to hold meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) so that we could highlight our issues at the proper forum,” he said.