A glossary of Rehman-isms

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Pakistans own Inspector Clouseau, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, has struck again. The only difference between the two is that while Clouseau bumblingly ends up apprehending the bad men, Malik ends up saying a lot of things that would be laughable were they not so tragic. One imagines that he must drink a lot of water gallons would be required to wash down the foot he keeps frequently sticking in his mouth.

On Monday, he conducted a press conference that was primarily about the violence in Karachi. The minister claimed that 11 men had been arrested for the targeted killings that have plagued the city for the past several years. One man in particular, he said, had killed more than 100 people. That is, the interior minister claims that less than a dozen men were responsible for all the violence of the past two-and-a-half years. Eleven men, he says, had made the entire security apparatus of the city run around in circles. As such, Malik has accepted the absolute ineptitude of security personnel the police and the paramilitary in Karachi.

The ministers claims, of course, are wrong. While the 11 men in question might well have been involved in the frequent bouts of targeted killings in the city, to suggest that they were the only ones is ridiculous, to say the least.

Karachi is a sprawling metropolis of at least 180 million people, which is brought to a standstill repeatedly by bouts of targeted violence which are almost always politically motivated. Mainstream politics in the city has itself become hostage to various mafias and gangs that try to control, amongst other things, land, drug and arms trade and the transport sector. All of these gangs have mainstream political patronage, in some form or the other, from all three ruling parties.

Under the cover of looking out for their constituents and vote-banks, mafias controlled by these parties fight repeated battles for their various turfs. The MQM locks horns with the ANP over control of land, arms and transport; the ANP fights ethnic battles with JSQM; the MQMs Karachi Amn Committee battles Lyaris Peoples Amn Committee, which has now been merged with the PPP; and the PPP sometimes battles JSQM in the outskirts of the city.

Ignoring this massive mound of nuance, Malik is content with claiming that merely 11 men were involved in all of Karachis violence. As a sitting interior minister of a country where violence is a major problem, perhaps Malik should be less flippant about his job. One reason he gets away with shallow proclamations, meanwhile, is that reporters concerned dont bother to investigate deeper into these claims. No one tried to find out the ethnic or political affiliations of the men that Malik said had been arrested. Even their names are not available. The powers-that-be claim that this information cannot be made public, and reporters sit back peacefully, perhaps prioritising the maintenance of contacts over truth.

Despite this pliancy, Malik lashed out at the media as well on Monday, but for other reasons. He claimed that journalists needed to adopt a positive approach to curb terrorism and help the government instead of glorifying those involved in heinous crimes. Perhaps the actions of criminals might be glorified less were the minister to not promise to emulate them. In the aftermath of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, for instance, Malik had gone on air to heroically claim that he would shoot blasphemers himself. Well, isnt that what Taseers identified murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, thought he was doing too?

Earlier this week, in response to an Interpol alert over possible terrorist attacks in India during the ICC Cricket World Cup, Malik had also claimed that the Taliban were trying to enter India. The reality, however, was that the arrest of a Maldivian man in Colombo had triggered the Interpol alert. The minister might want to heed his own advice; disseminating misinformation is, after all, what he had warned the media against on Monday.

Speaking of warnings, during the same press conference, Malik also issued a be good, Im watching you alert to the Pakistan cricket team, telling them to refrain from match-fixing in Mohali. Reactions to his proclamations understandably ranged between intense annoyance and absolute outrage. Perhaps the minister needs to spend more energy watching what he says issuing statements of this sort to a team that had been performing amazingly well for the most part, and even destroyed Australias 34-match winning streak, serves only to demoralise them and infuriate their supporters. Dear Senator Malik, heres some water to help you swallow the foot that you seem to have permanently installed in your mouth. Thanks to you and people like you, Captain Shahid Afridi thought he needed to apologise to Pakistan after India won the match at Mohali. There was no need for that; we have faith in the team. Above all, we have more faith in Afridis leadership skills than Maliks. Jeay Lala, the Pakhtun pride of Karachi!