Dance of death


An all-too familiar script


There is no rhyme to it but plenty of reasons. The violence that has engulfed Karachi in the past few days is, unfortunately, a familiar script. We all know how it plays out. There is one incident and then the dominoes start falling, one after the other.

Over 40 people (and counting) have lost there lives in the past few days’ bloodshed in the provincial metropolitan. One could try to search for the attendant cause of the sudden upsurge in violence but that would be an exercise in futility. The proximate causes (which can be any event – major or minor) exist in a context where, over the years, crime and politics have now become entangled beyond distinction. Add ethnicity to the mix and you’ve got yourself an explosive melange.

The politics of ethnicity have entrenched themselves to an extent in the city that all day-to-day concerns are now mitigated by them. Karachi just doesn’t vote ethnic; it lives ethnic. Group solidarity and ethnicity-based networks in Karachi are ways (sometimes, the only way) to access something as small as the admission of your child to school to something like registering an FIR or buying land in a city where the criminal gangs of the land mafia are perpetuators of much violence. The battle lines have literally been drawn in Karachi – a city segregated ethnically.

However complex the social and political phenomena animating this violence are, the fact of the matter is that it needs to be dealt with and the state machinery must be implicated in its failure to do so. It has either resorted to expedient deals with the political parties or military solutions, both ad hoc measures that address no real root cause. Rather, this has cemented the status of violence as the only means of conflict resolution in the city. But, a political solution won’t be easy to come by. It will have to deal with a hodgepodge of national and local concerns. Also, that the local state structure has been dominated by a single party – by hook or by crook –does not help matters.

Everybody in the city needs to wake up to the fact that Karachi is a heterogeneous polity and staking claim on the city on the basis of ethnicity is no longer tenable. No amount of rabta or amn committee meetings will solve anything unless they are backed by a genuine political will to solve the conflict. Hackneyed, but that’s all there is to offer.



  1. I like the crisp one liner which sums up the issue actually .. : 'Karachi just doesn’t vote ethnic; it lives ethnic'. good one !

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