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Recalcitrant Rao keeps MQM, Karachi on edge

Recalcitrant Rao keeps MQM, Karachi on edge

KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: In an unusual action indicating disagreement between the government and law enforcement authorities, SSP Rao Anwar — known for being tough on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — raided the house of Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hasan on Friday and arrested him.

The raid on the MQM leader’s Buffer Zone residence drew the ire not only of his party but also of both the Pakistan Peoples Party’s provincial government and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s government in the Centre, leading to the suspension of the officer who is said to enjoy powerful connections and have played a proactive role during the 1992 operation as well as the current Rangers-led Karachi operation.

The drama started to unfold in the afternoon when a police party raided Mr Hasan’s residence when he was not home. The raiding party returned empty-handed after a search of the house and an exchange of bitter words with women members of the family.

The situation was brought to the notice of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah by Mr Hasan himself as a result of which the services of the SHO concerned were placed under suspension.

Minutes after Mr Hasan returned home along with some senior MQM leaders, SSP Anwar leading a contingent of policemen and a fleet of police vans and armoured vehicles raided the house again, amid heavy presence of media. The entire episode was broadcast live by news TV channels.

“We are arresting him in two cases lodged with the Site police under charges ranging from extortion to killings,” said SSP Anwar in reply to a journalist’s question as a large number of area people and MQM workers gathered at the place. TV channels showed the policemen tying up Mr Hasan’s hands and dragging him to an armoured vehicle parked nearby.

During the arrest, women members of Mr Hasan’s family were seen pleading and resisting the police move, but in vain.

Senior MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar, with his arm in a sling, also failed to convince any of the officers and was dragged along the opposition leader while trying to stop the law enforcement agency personnel.

CM’s intervention

The police action attracted immediate reaction from the provincial government which had already suspended the SHO for raiding the legislator’s house without the permission of the Sindh Assembly speaker. After Mr Hasan was arrested, the chief minister called Inspector General A.D. Khwaja to get SSP Anwar suspended with immediate effect.

CM Shah did not stop there as he expressed “dismay and displeasure” over the opposition leader’s arrest without any nod from the Sindh Assembly speaker and without “taking the government into confidence”.

“This is not acceptable,” he said while talking to reporters at the Special Security Unit headquarters after attending the funeral of a constable who died in a city hospital on Friday from injuries he had suffered foiling a suicide attack attempt on an Imambargah in Shikarpur during Eid prayers.

“I have ordered the Sindh IG to conduct an inquiry why Khawaja Izhar was arrested. I would take strict action if anyone is found misusing his powers whatever rank he enjoys. Nobody would be allowed to erode the authority of the government. This is a very serious issue and we would not tolerate any such move that [challenges the] writ of the government.”

It was for the first time that both provincial and federal governments sounded in agreement with the concerns and protest of the MQM which has been claiming that it is being subjected to political victimisation in the name of the Karachi operation as soon after the incident Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif contacted CM Shah and endorsed the actions he took after Mr Hasan’s arrest.

He not only appreciated the Sindh chief minister for his reaction to Mr Hasan’s arrest but also called SSP Anwar’s action “illegal”. He sought complete information from the chief minister of the incident and called for complete investigation into the episode.

“Without permission from the speaker, the arrest of any member of parliament is illegal,” Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid said in a statement, quoting from the premier’s conversation with the chief minister. “The rule of law should be ensured at every cost. If the police officer is found guilty, he should be punished according to law.”

Minutes after the CM’s directives, the Sindh IG announced suspending SSP Anwar and initiating an inquiry against him for “violating [the] departmental code of conduct”. The inquiry, he said, would be conducted on a fast pace for early compilation of the report.

“Senior officer Azad Khan has been charge of the inquiry against SSP Anwar with orders of early completion of the report. Mr Anwar is no more SSP Malir and he would be facing inquiry under the defined rules of the police services,” said a statement issued by the Sindh IG office.

An unfazed officer

However, developments taking place one after another and even strong reaction from Islamabad hardly had an effect on SSP Anwar Ahmed Khan — better known as Rao Anwar. Despite orders from the Sindh chief minister, a suspension letter from the IG and even strong reaction from the prime minister, he chose to interact with the media directly and called such moves “wrong” and “political reactions”.

“I have been placed under suspension in haste and it was a wrong way,” said Rao Anwar while talking to the media. “The government has shown political reaction. We have arrested Khawaja Izhar on serious charges that also included treason and no-one but a court of law can order his release. We have done nothing wrong and followed every single step allowed by the law.”

He said it was “propaganda” that the permission of the speaker of Sindh Assembly was needed to arrest any lawmaker as under the rules, the police were required to inform only the secretary of the provincial assembly about such an arrest.

“It’s a strange government that suspends police officers on arrest of criminals and suspects, who raise anti-Pakistan slogans. I don’t care for my service. I am not an officer who compromises or can be harassed by threats. I am not among those officers who bow to their masters...and compromise over rule of law.”

Earlier, after the arrest of Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hasan, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar called the police action part of an “anti-MQM” campaign which had no legal ground. He said the opposition leader was arrested only for his association with the MQM as the SSP failed to share details of any charge for his detention.

“We can’t tolerate it anymore,” he said. “How would it be possible for us to show restraint and control our workers, whose leaders are being arrested in broad daylight in the presence of TV cameras. Is this the way we treat our elected leaders? Is this the way we convey message of democracy and harmony? No, and it’s nothing to do with the MQM-London or MQM-Pakistan, it’s all about anti-MQM campaign.”

Published in Dawn September 17th, 2016

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