Feeding the crocodiles


The path of appeasing sectarian groups is a dangerous one

For the last two weeks, I have been trying to come out of a disconcerted state of mind, as I had wished to write but ended up every time with an incoherent draft. Now half a dozen incomplete drafts are waiting in the documents folder and I have started a new one, as the incomplete drafts have lost their relevance to the happenings around.

Earlier, I had decided to write on the Karachi Literary Festival (KLF) organized by a publishing house. I wanted to have sessions with authors along with discussions on various aspects of the political scene. I also wanted to meet up with the neo-celebrities aka TV anchors and some known faces of the social media. While I penned a couple of paragraphs after attending the first day of the festival, the shocking second blast at Quetta happened, making everything else irrelevant. Georg Carlin says, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist”. Nothing was left to write, except for waves of cynical responses on social media.

The incident had sparked a debate criticizing the whole security apparatus for its inability to thwart such attacks or conduct a massive action against these killing gangs. The criticism was responded with apologetic responses penning the details of army deployments and how being a Shia in Pakistan, “you are on your own”.

After a few days, the debate took a familiar turn, which was the criticism of the political government. The focus was shifted to the Faustian pact between the PML-N and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) in the form of an electoral alliance for the previous elections as well as seat adjustment for the upcoming ones. Some of the op-ed writers have written on this unholy alliance, while declaring Punjab as the centre of gravity in the wave of anti-Shia violence across the country.

The criticism has some merits, as no one should be allowed to hobnob with hardcore militant organizations by allying with their political offshoots. But it does not stop at the PML-N as the PPP leaders too have approved seeking the ASWJ’s help in electoral process, using the argument that these people too are Pakistanis. And now a delegation of the MQM led by Waseem Aftab has visited the ASWJ Karachi office to discuss matters with their Karachi leadership.

Since the meeting was announced on social media accounts of the ASWJ, it has faced disapproval from the liberal circles as well as members of the disheartened Shia community, who vented their frustration with oft-repeated hash-tags and bylines highlighting the disheartenment over the developments around.

The retrogressive politics in the city has divided suburbs of the city on ethnic lines. The residents of the city have been traumatized to a level that members of different ethnic groups fear each other and look at the other with suspicion and mistrust. Areas are ghettoized on the same lines. Everyday rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists and laborers are killed for violating these boundaries highlighted by the flags and graffiti of political parties. But, it does not worry political players as they derive powers from this divide and the insecurity this causes. One cannot avoid their utter disregard for the misery of the people, who have faced the financial repercussions of the ethnic militancy.

Enter religious militancy, posing a serious challenge to the ethnocentric politics. Killing on the basis of faith and religious ideas has transcended the lines drawn here. The ANP has lost its district president, ex-UC Nazim, workers and student leaders in attacks by the Taliban, mostly ethnic Pashtuns from Swat and FATA. On the other hands, the MQM lost its parliamentarians, supporters and activists of the Shia faith by the hands of the LeJ.

Political gimmickry had barred them from recognizing it, and now the realization has come too late. Now, at a point, when the MQM commemorated a three-day mourning on the death of Bashir Bilour, the ANP delegation joined them in the funeral of the MQM MPA Manzar Imam martyred by the same people who claimed responsibility for Bilour’s assassination.

But, it has come too late, with the ANP overlooking the Taliban threat that has pushed them to the walls. Most Pashtun areas are virtually ruled by the Taliban, where their informal authority goes unchallenged. They conduct jirgas, collect extortion money from Pashtun traders and kill dissenters mercilessly.

On the other hand, the MQM is unable to stop the LeJ from killing people in their stronghold, diluting the impression they have painstakingly created in the last three decades. When Raza Haider was killed, they didn’t realize that plying on the dead body of their Shia parliamentarian will provide a cover up to the killers and strengthen their ability to strike back.

But for the residents of Karachi, the realization will bring little to their advantage, both the ANP and MQM have chosen the way of appeasement. Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.”

The writer is a journalist and researcher based in Karachi. He can be reached at [email protected] and interacted at @aliarqam on twitter


  1. We here always something nice from Ali, Pleased to see that his columns will now regularly be publishing.

  2. An excellent analysis of the present state of affairs.Ali Arqam has a very deep insight into the political dynamics of the city of Karachi.An eye opener and a must read for all those who want to understand what is happening in the metropolis.

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