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EditorialRangers’ deployment for by-polls

Rangers’ deployment for by-polls

Every time a law and order situation is created or a danger appears about the disruption of peace in the country, the army’s help becomes inevitable as the credibility of local law enforcement infrastructure to contain large-scale violence remains untrustworthy. This time again, the holding of by-polls in Punjab and Sindh, which are going to be held on July 17, is appearing an uphill task for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has sought the deployment of the Rangers at six constituencies in Punjab and Sindh. The development came after violence marred both the local government elections in Sindh and the by-election in Karachi’s NA-240. The CEC has also admitted that its experience with the NA-240 by-election and the first phase of local government elections in Sindh showed that police alone were unable to control violence.

Though seeking help from the institution of the army for controlling the security situation within the country is not unconstitutional, there is a need to train local law enforcement authorities to perform their duties vigilantly. The intervention of the army should be contained in civilian tasks as the sole duty of the army is limited to protecting the borders and dealing with terrorists. In reality, civilian institutions are themselves responsible for the situation. The department of police remains under the influence of local politicians who use them against their opponents. Therefore, an indiscriminate action against those who indulge in violence during polling is not possible due to the partisan role of the local law enforcement agencies. With scanty forces and resources, the police department fails to maintain peace during the polling process. In these circumstances, the Rangers are given special powers to ensure normalcy and curb violence. They are authorised to take action without discrimination against all those who are found involved in any wrongdoing. So far, the Rangers’ role has remained positive in controlling the law and order situations, yet there are certain examples where the paramilitary forces allegedly exceeded their mandate and took the law in their hands.

Nevertheless, political parties themselves and their supporters provide the opening for the intervention of the army in civil affairs. The main responsibility lies with the PML-N in Punjab and PPP in Sindh. Giving Rangers blanket powers and putting them on a path of confrontation with the provincial police setup is a recipe for disaster and chaos. The paramilitary forces should be allowed to keep a guard for maintaining peace. However, this cannot go on forever. They should work under the civilian setup and refrain from taking the law into their hands. Proper monitoring of Rangers deployed at polling stations is also necessary. The provincial governments also need to reform their policing and law enforcement structure. It needs to depoliticise the police for ensuring action without discrimination against all miscreants. The poor police set-up should be free from any political influence.

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