Pakistan News

Chimera of terror financing

Chimera of terror financing

THE number of people apprehended by the Rangers in the Karachi operation and charged with terror financing is growing by the day. All of them have been apprehended under a single law, brought in in late 2013 as an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. That law is titled Section 11EEEE, and empowers the Rangers to apprehend anyone and hold them for 90 days provided three conditions are met.

The law in question allows for “the preventive detention of any person who has been concerned in any offence under this Act relating to the security and defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, or public order relating to target killing or kidnapping for ransom and extortion/bhatta, or the maintenance of supplies of services, or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been so concerned, for purpose of inquiry”.

The law is being applied in a wide range of detentions taking place under the Rangers operation today, and in every case, the courts are granting custody of the accused to the Rangers for 90 days based simply on an application which states that “credible information” has been received regarding the person’s involvement in any of the activities listed in the law. The judges are not permitted to ask for the evidence under which the person is being detained, reducing them to mere signing authorities for detention orders issued by the Rangers.

Former minister Asim Hussain has been detained under this law as well as senior management of SSGC. Earlier, the same law was used to detain Qamar Mansoor and Kaiful Wara who were apprehended from the MQM headquarters for organising a speech by MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Reporters covering the detentions say they are seeing on average five to six people presented every day before the ATCs for preventive detention under Section 11EEEE. This is a very large number, and the people apprehended come from a wide range of backgrounds.

At the same time, as a growing number of people are being swept up for involvement in terror financing under this law, the real apparatus for detecting and apprehending terror funds is lying largely dormant. In the latest review with the IMF, which is monitoring the government’s implementation of its commitment to bolster its capacity to apprehend terror financing, the Fund staff said “there is a need to continue bolstering the effectiveness of the framework to mitigate … the financing of terrorism”.

This is in stark contrast to the speed with which the amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act were passed giving the Rangers the wide-ranging and open-ended authority contained in Section 11EEEE. Parliament has been quick to give open-ended authority to the Rangers to apprehend people in the name of pursuing terror financing, but when it comes to giving similar powers to civilian law-enforcement agencies, it has dragged its feet.

To be fair, the Rangers operation has succeeded in bringing a substantial return to normalcy in large parts of Karachi. Traders of the Old City area, the business segment hardest hit by the rising arc of the gang wars in the past decade, report a substantial drop in extortion threats, although earlier this week one incident of firing which resulted in one fatality, soured the atmosphere since the incident was sparked by refusal of some traders to pay extortion money as per an agreed schedule. Large parts of the Old City area were shut for two days as a result earlier in the week.

Crime statistics also tell a similar story. The surge in reported street crime — vehicle and mobile phone snatching, kidnapping and killings — had reached an all-time high in 2013, but all indicators show a dip in subsequent years. There is still a long way to go in bringing things back to where they were in 2006 before the gang wars got under way, but an improvement is definitely visible. However, there are some areas of concern about how the operation is being carried out. The army chief and the prime minister are both repeatedly going on record to say that the operation will be taken to its “logical conclusion”. But what exactly is that logical conclusion?

Do the Rangers have an endgame in mind for the operation? At what point will they be able to declare an end to the operation, and to whom do they intend to hand over once that point has been reached? The incident in the Old City demonstrates that the forces of disorder may be suppressed for the time being but still lurk beneath the surface. The nexus between politics and organised crime may have been substantially dismantled for the moment, but can reconstitute itself very quickly and the Rangers operation cannot be expected to continue indefinitely.

The operation, it would appear, is on a bit of a slippery slope. The roots of violence and disorder in the city trace themselves ultimately to a failure to deliver on governance, particularly in the supply of land which is one of the largest causes behind the killings in the city. This is a gap the Rangers cannot fill, and force can rectify this failure only up to a point.

The key governance failures in Karachi owe themselves to the fact that the city is run by the provincial assembly, whose members have little to no roots in the city itself. Local government is unmistakably the answer, but local government elections are likely to return the same parties to power that are currently being swept up in the dragnet. Actions that seek to predetermine the outcome of the local bodies polls will be counterproductive, so it is far from clear how the authorities directing the operation intend to clinch their gains and bring normalcy to Karachi on a sustainable footing. Let’s hope they’ve thought this through.

The writer is a member of staff.

[email protected]

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2015

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