Quo Warranto? Deployment Of Paramilitary Forces
Pakistan Rangers got its modern name in 1971, dating back to pre-partition time in 1943 this unit was called Sindh Rifles; after partition the force was assigned to the Eastern borders of Sindh and Punjab with new names Sindh Police Rangers and Punjab Border Police respectively. In 1958 after the border security system was restructured and the Rangers were named West Pakistan Rangers. In 1995 the force was split into two organs namely Punjab Rangers and Mehran Rangers respectively under direct control of Ministry of the Interior of the Federal Government.
Principally, Rangers (perceived by the name and) as written in the preamble of are deployed for the protection of and maintenance of order in the border areas of Pakistan.
26 years back in 1989, Rangers were called in the civilian areas of Sindh for perpetuation of law and order in Karachi specifically and Sindh in general, by the Chief Executive of the Provincial Government; the Chief Minister under Article 147 of Constitution of Pakistan which clearly states:
“147: Power of the Provinces to entrust functions to the Federation
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the Government of a Province may, with the consent of the Federal Government, entrust, either conditionally or unconditionally, to the Federal Government, or to its officers, functions in relation to any matter to which the executive authority of the Province extends [Provided that the Provincial Government shall get the functions so entrusted ratified by the Provincial Assembly within sixty days].”
Now after every lapse of tenure given to the contingent of Paramilitary force in Sindh (60 days), the period would be extended for another 60 days, and so on, until recently when on December 5th, which was the last day of Rangers’ lawful existence in the city after which (subsequent 16 days later) the Provincial Assembly concurred to extend the incumbency of Rangers in Sindh but with limited powers (limiting their role to curbing terrorist activities, especially denial to arrest an official of the government without prior signature of the Chief Minister) that caused a stir between the Province and the centre, and the Interior Minister in his press conference even threatened to impose Governor’s rule in the Province if the Provincial government denied Rangers an unconditional extension. The following correspondence from Federal Government to the Provincial government left the Provincial Government flabbergasted when the prior conveyed that presence of Rangers in Sindh is not under Article 147 of the Constitution but under Anti Terrorism Act 1997.
So in the wake of this heavyweight bout, there are some serious impediments regarding the issue:
1) Since when did the entitlement of the Provincial Government by the Constitution shift to the Federal Government (under an Act of Parliament ATA, 1997)and under which law? And did the centre take the Provincial Government in confidence?
2) If Rangers are operating under the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 (which was not enacted in 1989 when Rangers were stationed initially), why did the centre let it extend the Rangers’ tenure in October and/or every time if it was to be issued by the Federal Government?
3) Why was there a tussle between the centre and the province for the extension of tenure when it could be done by the centre in the first place?
In Sarfaraz Shah’s famous case in 2011, the lawyer representing the accused Ranger personnel reiterated that the presence of Rangers was at the request of the Provincial Government of Sindh.
Article 4 of the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997 reads:
“4. Calling in of armed forces and civil armed forces in aid of civil powers
1) It shall be lawful for the Federal Government to order, and subject to sub-section (2) for the Provincial Government to secure, the presence of armed forces and civil armed forces in any area for the prevention and punishment of terrorist acts and scheduled offences in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
2) If, in the opinion of the Provincial Government, the presence of armed forces, or civil armed forces, is necessary in order to prevent the commission of terrorist acts or scheduled offences in any area, it may request the Federal Government to direct the presence or posting of units or personnel of the armed forces, or civil armed forces, in such numbers as may be deemed necessary for the prevention or control of terrorist acts or scheduled offences.
3) The Federal Government may decide whether the requirements of the situation call for the deployment of i. The civil armed forces; or ii. The armed forces, And so deciding shall, by means of a notification in the official Gazette issued under clause (i) or (ii) authorize and direct the posting thereof”.
Another question that pops up in one’s mind is if the clash between the centre and the province is due to Article 143 of the Constitution which reads:
“143. Inconsistency between Federal and Provincial Law:
If any provision of an Act of a Provincial Assembly is repugnant to any provision of an Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) which Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is competent to enact, then the Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), whether passed before or after the Act of the Provincial Assembly, shall prevail and the Act of the Provincial Assembly shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void”.
The above mentioned Article is a clear sign of the superseding of Federal Act over an Act of the Provincial Assembly but the problem that lies here is that the Constitution of Pakistan is the supreme law of the land which even surpasses the Act inconsistent to it in the country and in the Pakistan Rangers Ordinance, 1959 whose Section 10 reads:
“10. Powers and duties of members
(Provincial)Government may, by a general or special order, confer or impose upon any member of the Force, any of the powers or duties conferred or imposed on a Police Officer of any class or grade by any enactment for the time being in force.”
Section 21 states:
“21. Powers to make rules
[Federal Government] after consultation with the (provincial) Governments of the Punjab and Sindh may frame rules to carry out the purposes of this Ordinance”.
The solution in my humble opinion should be a brief discussion between the centre and the province on issues such as drafting of the procedure of sending paramilitary forces back to their stations and under whose authority it would be done, otherwise this hullabaloo would ruin the image of lawmakers in Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.