The killing fields


Hundreds of innocent people have lost their lives merely because of their ethnicity in the killing fields of Karachi. On Thursday, the deadliest day for the economic hub of the country, at least 33 more were killed.

The MQM has termed the carnage as ethnic cleansing of the Mohajirs whereas various government spokesmen have dubbed the phenomenon of kidnappings and bodies being left in guinea bags as gang wars. The truth is that it is a free-for-all in Karachi.

The current upsurge in violence started from the unexplained killings in Lyari, the stronghold of the PPP. Naturally, fingers were pointed at the MQM. Since then, killing and mayhem has spread to the rest of the city as well.

The struggle between the MQM, the PPP and the ANP (the three main ethnic groups trying to wrest control of Karachi) is at the root of the problem. According to some, the MQM that has maintained its suzerainty in urban Sindh during the long years of Musharraf is not willing to let go.

The Pashtuns, now virtually as large an ethnic group as the Mohajirs want their piece of the pie, which was always denied to them by their rivals. As far as the PPP is concerned, it stakes its claim in Karachi and in Sukkur and Hyderabad. To ensure stability of its government, the PPP entered into a coalition with the PML(Q) even before the MQM decided to leave the coalition.

The PPP however mistakenly calculated that it would be able to undo the gerrymandering in urban Sindh and impose the now-abandoned commissionerate system without the MQM offering any resistance. The current battle for turf has only resulted in a loss of innocent lives and untold miseries for the hapless citizens of the metropolis.

Theoretically, the MQM-PPP coalition in Sindh was good for political stability as well as for the sake of peace in the province. As blood is being spilt in Karachi with abandon, efforts to bring MQM back in the coalition are afoot.

Obviously, the MQM wants its pound of flesh. Reportedly it wants the ministries of interior (home) and local bodies in the province. The PPP will be loath to give away these key ministries as it will be rendered powerless in the province without them.

As it is, in the eyes of its own supporters in the province as well as in the eyes of the Sindhi nationalists, it is perceived to be kowtowing to the whims of the MQM. The complete success of the recent strike in Sindh called by the nationalists is a huge embarrassment for the PPP.

Governor Ebad has told the prime minister that the MQM would only consider joining the coalition once peace is restored. For that to happen, the MQM has to do a lot of explaining of its own.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the provincial administration have proved to be completely ineffective in quelling the violence in Karachi. Similarly, the Rangers have also proved to be ineffective. According to some reports, the military, which has already expressed dismay at the prevailing situation in the city, is making its own assessment.

At the end of the day, perhaps the army will have to be called in by the provincial government to restore peace in the city. Only by establishing a semblance of normalcy, political dialogue between the stakeholders can succeed.

President Zardari is between a rock and a hard place. If he is seen to give in to the MQM demands, it does not sit well with his own constituency in the party’s backyard. If, however, the present situation is allowed to drift, it can cost the PPP heavily.

In the meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif thinks that the solution to all problems is the holding of snap elections, “before institutions send the government packing”. Predictably, the prime minister has expressed surprise at the logic give by the PML(N) president for holding mid term elections.

Nawaz Sharif has quoted holding of snap general elections by him in 1993 as a precedent when he was unable to get along with the then president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Either the PML(N) president is suffering from a bout of amnesia or he is economising with the truth.

At the time when the PML(N) government after being dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan was restored by the apex court, the presidency armed with article 58-2(B) created all kinds of hurdles in its working. To end the stalemate, the COAS General Waheed Kakar one fine day paid a visit to the prime minister requesting him to resign.

Sharif asked for some time to consult his father, Mian Sharif, and some other non-political advisors and thereby immediately rushed to Lahore. In a meeting in Lahore in which I was present as an observer, it was decided that Sharif should accept Kakar’s “offer” if Ghulam Ishaq is also made to resign and a caretaker neutral government headed by a person acceptable to him holds the general elections.

Sartaj Aziz recommended Moin Qureshi, the international banker. Nawaz Sharif’s proposal was accepted and after resignation of the president, Wasim Sajjad became the interim president and Moin Qureshi the caretaker prime minister.

The rest is history. The dice was heavily loaded against Sharif in the interim setup. He lost the elections and, to this day, he privately regrets being duped by Kakar. His disdain for military strongmen stems from the blunder he made at the time.

In the present scenario, the president and the prime minister not only belong to the same party but also are on the same page. Zardari derives his power from being the unchallenged head of the party. Despite a parliamentary system, the prime minister dare not defy the president.

As for the military, General Kayani has kept his generals out of active politics as a matter of deliberate strategy. Neither him nor his corps commanders socialize with or meet active politicians. Undoubtedly, the army has done its tweaking here and there.

Foreign policy remains the military’s domain and the government has given it a free reign in this area. President Zardari and Gilani unlike Nawaz Sharif as prime minister have gone an extra mile not to ruffle any feathers at the GHQ. The government neither has a constitutional obligation nor any political compulsion to hold mid-term elections.

Nevertheless, no civilian government in Pakistan can take the military for granted. Hence, there is a need to keep it on board. All the more reason the Karachi mess should be sorted out asap.

The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today


  1. Thanks Mr Nizami for your analysis about Karachi situation. I would like to disagree that reversal to commissionerate system could not be done without consent of MQM. After nearly 4 years the supine government of PPP took an action towards right direction according to the aspiration of hinterland SIndh. This was going well but unfortunately an unwanted comments by Mr Zulfiqar Mirza gave an opportunity to MQM supremo to show his street power and the whole world saw that as soon as Altaf asked the mischiefmonger to stop the violence stopped.

    The way the PPP has reversed its own bill passed by Sindh Assembly has thoroughly demoralised Sindhis without whose support PPP could never have formed the government.

    Recent outburst of violence in which the men are being abducted and then brutally tortured and murdered and put in bags and then thrown on the streets. This tyoe of violence has signature of one ethnic and lingust party whose leader is being pleaded by the President to join the coalition. The government, instead of concentrating on taking on murderes is using its energies to appease the thugs.

    God Help Karachi.

  2. the elements around which the noose of army is being tightened elsewhere are trying to wriggle out by creating mess in karachi to such a level that army digress and put focus on karachi so that they get a breathing space.

  3. The problem stems from Lyari where rival baloch factions fought for many years. Under former prov. interior minister these gangs were used to destabalize areas such as Nayaabad (Katchi dominated). Ask Katchis who too were voters of PPP as to how these gangs were on a killing spree to drive Katchis out of Nayaabad. Then under similar patronage ANP affiliated militants started extortion in Korangi and Scheme 33. This all disturbed balance in Karachi. Apart from these areas, Karachi is mostly safe. These matters are not reported on private channels since big anchor persons do not go to streets such as CNN people usually make indepth coverage. Army operation is needed in Lyari & Kharadar to flush out 'backed' criminals who are unfortunately harming own government. Army suspicions are already their that PP led set up is not interested to end violence. For instance, many court cases pertaining to land grabbing and plot mafia are pending due to weak prosecution. People think that this set up should go so that court could help in evacuating properties.

    • Your comments appear to absolve completety MQM of present carnage. Do you think MQM has nothing to do with present killings. People abducted then tortured to death, their bodies drilled and put in bags and then thrown on the streets. MQM is creating this situation to gain maximum benefit from its benefactor Zardari.

      • I think you are writing on pre conceived notion and also probably never visited Lyari. I have visited that place twice in recent times and many of my subordinates are also from that place. The native 'Aman Committee' members are misguided and killing ruthlessly. Aman Committee has unfortunately found refuge into the hands of one pious senior minister and it is a common knowledge that the sitting MNA of the area and the slain MNA were at loggerheads with Aman Committee. AC have not even spared shooting elderly woman. The neighboring Nayabad area is awash with stories of their cruelty & bhattas. As u know there is no MQM in that area. Hence you need to take a holistic view. This situation is giving a bad name to Karachi so journalist are blaming MQM.

  4. still analyzing the situation and politics involved because thats the only thing u people can do! Let me spell it our for you experts and analysts…theres going to be a bloody revolution and thats the only thing that might make this country a democracy…otherwise this country doesnt work on democracy!

  5. WHO knows better than you all TV channels,newspapers are flooded with the MQM workers,loyalists and foot soldiers.These people have been forced into electronic and print media by MQM modus operndi of blackmailing,terrorism,fascism,bathakhori etc.They loyal TV anchors,newscaster,Tv analsts,few editors,columnists are sold to them and project them as grand saviours .They dare not speak one word or write one word against MQM and nmust spin even 1000 killed in Karachi as against MQM ethnic cleansing of Urdu speaking etc.We are not free nor our media.They are slave to MQM.Therefore nothing good can happen to Pakistan but for MQM as they are supported by UNconscientious media persons and Zardari is bootshiner of Altaf;that is our tragedy .ONLY mqm CAN PROTECT HIS SHODDY POWER AND BILLION OF ILLGOTTEN DOLLARS-WITH THE COURTESY OF MEDIA,BOTH ELECTRONIC AND PRINT CLAIMING TO BE OBSERVING PRINCIPLES.whr=en they shiver in their pants to speak one word against MQM.COWARD MEDIA-THEREFORE LIARS.

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