The city of blights

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With the exit of the MQM from the government, targeted killings in Karachi have increased by alarming proportions. As a result of the carnage, life in the metropolis has come to a standstill. In the latest attacks, passenger buses plying the city have been attacked and their hapless passengers killed in cold blood.

It is no secret that public transport in Karachi is largely run and controlled by the Pashtuns. Hence, apart from the hapless victims who are being massacred indiscriminately, it is quite obvious who the perpetrators are and which ethnic group is being targeted.

Karachi, for long, has been a killing field for different ethnic groups and mafias. While the MQM was in power during the past decade or so, violence was sporadic. However, in the last few months, there has been a steady increase in targeted killings.

The ethnic rivalry between the MQM and the ANP dates back to when they were coalition partners. The MQM’s anxiety to control the urban centres of Sindh come what may lies at the very root of the problem. Similarly, the Pashtuns who are in substantial numbers in Karachi are not willing to give in. Different terrorist groups living in their safe havens in the city are another complicating factor.

In this context, MQM being in coalition with the PPP at the federal level and Sindh was good for the stability of the province. President Zardari’s last ditch attempt, albeit half-hearted, to bring MQM back into the fold was bound to fail. His meeting with Dr Ishratul Ebad in Dubai was too little, too late to salvage the alliance.

Actually, the PPP had written off the MQM as a coalition partner long before the final parting of ways. The exit of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, a close friend of the president, was a strategic move by the PPP in order to buy time to stabilise its position. For this very reason, an alliance with the PML(Q) was ironed out in undue haste.

The PPP drawing it support from rural Sindh and the MQM claiming its control on the cities, an MQM-PPP coalition was ideal for peace and stability in the province. But it’s easier said than done; the PPP is not willing to concede the cities to its erstwhile coalition partner. The ANP isn’t willing either to give a walkover to the MQM in the metropolis of Karachi.

The MQM that has in recent years changed its nomenclature from Mohajir Quami Movement to Mutahedda Quami Movement has not been able to outgrow its ethnic character. Its attempts to branch out in other provinces have been half-hearted and, hence, have not borne fruit.

Essentially, it remains an urban Sindh-based party which considers Karachi as a closed shop. For this very reason, it has opposed the emigration of Pashtuns to Karachi, even on a humanitarian basis, taking the plea that terrorists will enter under the garb of refugees affected by floods.

Not only to maintain its constituencies in the cities but also to appeal to its rural constituents, the PPP challenges the suzerainty of the MQM over urban Sindh. There have been allegations of large scale gerrymandering in the cities of Sindh in the past. If the PPP tinkers with these urban constituencies, the MQM is not going to take it lying down.

The Azad Kashmir elections by themselves were not a big enough reason for the MQM to quit the coalition. After enjoying the fruits of power under Musharraf and later with the PPP for an uninterrupted period of more than nine years, suddenly close to the general elections it has assumed the mantle of the opposition.

Mian Nawaz Sharif, in political isolation due to being at loggerheads with virtually every major political party including the MQM, saw this as a window of opportunity. The alliance with MQM is opportunistic politics at its best or rather at its worst.

If the violence in Karachi worsens, which it is bound to, it will cost the PML(N) votes not only in urban Sindh but in Punjab and KP as well. Till now, the Sharifs have not taken any position on the endemic violence afflicting Karachi. But sooner or later – in some form or the other – they will have to condemn the carnage, if they want to salvage their already dismal standing everywhere in the country (except in the central Punjab perhaps where they are relatively comfortable).

In order to control the situation in Karachi, fast reaching civil war proportions, the PPP government will have to take political as well as administrative measures. There is no harm in bringing all political parties on board, including the ANP and the MQM, to achieve at least a modicum of peace in Karachi.

Merely dispatching the government’s quintessential man on the spot, Rehman Malik, to the violence-torn city will not be enough. Mr Zardari should take the initiative by making changes in the weak and inept Sindh government.

There has been talk of replacing the incumbent with the maverick Dr Zulfiqar Mirza as Chief Minister of the province. This might not be a bad idea in itself but it could exacerbate matters in the present volatile situation. Perhaps, bringing Mirza back as home minister will deliver the much-needed tough message.

The Rangers and the Police have been given shoot at sight orders. Rehman Malik has spoken of targeted actions against the miscreants rather than a full fledged, across-the-board operation. However if the situation deteriorates further, such an operation will become inevitable despite all its appended risks and complications.

In the meanwhile, with Karachi virtually shutdown, the already fragile economy of the country will continue to suffer. The twin menace of ethnic violence and terrorism spinning out of control is perfectly capable of devouring the system.

Apart from those who have perennially prospered by getting a share of power under successive military rules, no mainstream party including the PML(N) would desire such an outcome. Nevertheless, the onus is on the government to salvage the country from a hopeless situation.

 

The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today.

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Mr Nizami for your correct analysis of the present situation in Karachi.

    The creator of the monster of MQM was Ziaul Haq who is in hell but his creation has become full fledged Frankenstein's monster.

    The question is for how long the policy of reconciliation would continue? MQM has been in power since decades. Musharraf patronised them and gave them full freedom to rule Sindh. Karachi is brimming with weapons thanks to this party.

    I agree with you that the present government has to take political as well as administrative actions. As for as political steps are concerned, MQM had free hand in Karachi and they have converted Karachi into their fiefdom. What else they want? Can you, Mr Nizami, believe that so called Ata Turk of Karachi literally closed the doors of educational institutions to Sindhis. He is responsible for demolishing many sindhi goths in the name of beautification of Karachi. He may have built some flyovers, which they are priding themselves of, are ill designed and deficient. There is no account whatsoever of the billions of rupees spent by Mustafa Kamal. Karachi police was politicised by MQM and the result is that police has no professional capability.
    Ishrat Ebad the former governor of Sindh who instead of representing the federation was mouthpiece of Nine Zero. He claimed to belong to the middle class and how it could be possible that he is living in Dubai with his family? Imagine Babar Ghauri another middle class MQM leader who is owining properties abroad.

    As far as the administrative actions are concerned, the government has to take tough actions when it is not hamstrung any more after departure of MQM for what ever reasons. In this modern era, intelligence gathering is not difficult and the miscreants who are entrenched in both sides of katti pahaari can be easily located and neutralised. Can't the federal government provide helicopter borne SSG commandos to take on these criminals who have played havoc with human losses.

    MQM must be made accountable of the misdeeds in the recent past, the glaring example of one of its deeds is 12th May carnage. Unless these thugs are not made accountable the peace will never return to the city of Karachi.

  2. @Observer from London. Well put, you are absolutely right about the MQM's involvement in politics of violence. But than did not the PPP know about it?. Were they not aware of its role on 12 May?. Yet in the game of power politics it was OK for PPP, if the MQM becomes their coalition partner in the province and federation for more than 40 months. Yes more than 5,000 dead citizens, including hundreds of Sindhis was a sacrifice found fit to offer to the Gods of Power.

    • We have been deadly against taking MQM on board and then refrain from taking any action against MQM thugs due to so called reconciliation policy. The terrorists are terrorists to whichever political party they belong. This is unbargainable. People like Rehman Malik come to Karachi and throw dust in the eyes that there was a third element engaged in present carnage just to cover the arse of his Pir who is eaconced in his so called international secretariat.

      The time has come to name and shame these thugs who in the veneer of Motahida re in fact an ethnic and linguist party who have destroyed peace in the province of Sindh.

      The security forces should take on the criminals on both sides of Kati Pahaari and arrest or kill them.

  3. One can only agree with Sarmad Bashir with hid in depth analysis. Without his saying it in many words,People know the ‘self acclaiming saints’who are behind this bloody drama and billion dollars bathakhori in Karachi.Zardari after their recent quittance did not beg them to rejoin though he may which angered MQM resorting to current horrendous killing of innocent.However,one can only weep for Nawaz Sharif as correctly analysed too MQM in his lap which they needed most to woo Zardari and he will find his lap empty soon.The block headed is only ego manically arrogant,would not approach Imran KHAN OR Jamat Islami for the sake of Pakistan.He has frustrated nation and those who liked him.He has reached a position where winning election is becoming difficult for him .

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