DOUSING THE KARACHI INFERNOOR
August 26, 2011
Once a peaceful cosmopolitan port city, Karachi is reaching a state of complete anarchy. Extortion, sectarianism and ethnicity have emerged as major problems in the city, concedes Interior Minister Rehman Malik. However, he expressed his helplessness against ‘extremely strong’ Bhatta Mafia (extortionists) in Karachi where each group was engaged in fighting to expand its turf.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, on August 20, 2011, Rehman Malik underlined the need for tackling these problems urgently and firmly, and revealed that President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have directed across-the-board action against culprits. He stated: “Our enemies are bent upon weakening Karachi – the commercial hub of Pakistan – as part of their strategy to create anarchy across the country,” adding that the incidents of terrorism were meant at weakening Pakistan.
Sindh Home Minister, who was present on the occasion, said: “When the culprits are arrested, political parties approach us and mount pressure for their release, and after this, they accuse that the government has failed.” No doubt, Pakistan is passing through challenging times, which call for a well thought out and clear cut strategy to deal with the situation firmly, boldly, squarely and, of course, unitedly. The global head honcho wanted to create anarchy in Pakistan, according to a private TV channel, and then exploit the situation to get a resolution passed from the United Nations to either seize the country’s nuclear assets or destroy these. To substantiate this, the programme’s anchor-person quoted a programme recently telecast by a private TV channel in America.
The situation demands that the arrested culprits should be thoroughly interrogated and dealt with sternly, and if someone approached for the release of a culprit, he should also be booked as an accomplice or abetter in crime without any regard to his status. No one, irrespective of his political affiliation, should be spared. If we don’t act and act swiftly, the world might consider our leaders to be naive and indecisive. We have yet to clear negative attributes like the one, probably, uttered by Nikita Khrushchev, who once said, with reference to Present Ayub Khan, that Pakistan produces handsome leaders and ugly decisions. Let us remove the negative perception once for all through a prudent decision and well-coordinated action by all stakeholders to restore peace in Karachi.
Meanwhile, a meeting convened by President Zardai in Islamabad, on August 20, 2011 has led to speculations about the possibility of some political and administrative changes in Sindh, and replacement of the incumbent chief minister by a seasoned federal minister and diehard PPP loyalist. President Zardari reportedly held the meeting to discuss Karachi situation and find a political solution to bring peace to the metropolis. Interestingly, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wasan were conspicuous by their absence from this meeting which was attended by Minister for Local Government Agha Siraj Durrani, Minister for Planning and Development Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, Minister for Law Muhammad Ayaz Soomro, Agriculture Minister Syed Ali Nawaz Shah and Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah. This meeting, according sources in the Presidency, was very important from the political point of view as all the ministers, who met the President, are considered close to him. Before convening this meeting, President Zardari held parleys with ANP chief Asfandyar Wali, on August 19, on the Karachi situation.
Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has also expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Karachi – the jugular vein of Pakistan’s economy, saying it will be great injustice if it is allowed to continue for a longer period. Army was ready to restore peace in Karachi, if the government asked for it. However, Kayani said: “By utilising the services of the Rangers and Police in an effective manner, the situation could be brought under control in the country’s industrial hub.” It was wrong to undermine the ability of Rangers, he added.
Off-shooting from Lyari and Landhi following fighting between two groups on July 22, the murderous tide has enveloped the whole city, consuming human lives almost on a daily basis while over 150 vehicles and motorcycles have also been burnt. According to official sources, at least 500 persons have been killed in Karachi, during the current year, as a result of ethnicity, crime, political feuds and sectarianism. Impelled by the situation, both MQM and ANP – coalition partners of PPP’s provincial government – demand that Army be called in to control the situation and restore peace in Karachi. PML-N, Tehrik-i-Insaf and a number of Ulema have also endorsed this demand. But the ruling PPP does not support it, saying that the turmoil in Karachi is an old issue and that there was no need to hand over the city’s control to the army. Rather, all the stakeholders should sit together to resolve it.
Meanwhile, PPP MNA from Lyari, Nabeel Gabol, has revealed that opponent groups in Karachi have kidnapped their rivals ‘in hundreds’, and if all stakeholders do not stand behind law-enforcement agencies and allow them to conduct a ruthless cleansing operation against the saboteurs, a durable solution to Karachi violence and anarchy would remain elusive with continuation of bloodshed of innocent people by terrorists, numbering not more than 500. He said, gangs in almost all areas of Karachi check the people at exist and entry points, and detain and keep in torture cells innocent people of opponent group, in hundreds, on ethnic grounds. Normal life has been shattered in a city that accommodated everyone in its lap, irrespective of his regional identity and political background.
However, growing political tensions and schism have divided Karachiites on the basis of politico-ethnic affiliations. The seeds of division were sown by the establishment post-1977 events when novices in statecraft created one political party in Karachi to whittle down PPP’s force and popularity, and when the newly-created party became uncontrollable and unmanageable, they carved out one more entity out of it. Now, according to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, “we have armed another political party which may become uncontrollable one day and then again we have to look towards the other party to rein it in.”
The old guard nostalgically recall the good old days when people from many countries, in particular from the Middle East and Far East, thronged Karachi for education, lucrative jobs, trade and commerce. In the past, for foreign students’ boarding and lodging, Karachi University had an exclusive hostel for international students. But when tensions and sectarian killings gripped Karachi, the foreign students panicked and left for more peaceful destinations. Now, capital was flowing out, while the industrialists and businessmen were relocating their ventures to comparatively more safer regions. In 1981-82, when wall chalking had started to appear in the metropolis in support of a newly-created political party, a religious scholar of foresight, Maulana Idrees Meerathi had predicted that this was bound to fuel ethnicity and bloodshed in the city. But the establishment did not pay any heed and continued with its crafty moves to counter the force of one political party, pitting another one against it. The continuing killings in Karachi are a reminder of what happened here in 1986 with the difference that the sprouting of political support enjoying mafia gangs, land grabbers, drug pushers/barons, extortionists and thugs, has made the current situation more complicated. Since Karachi happens to be hub of the country’s trade, business and industry, the instability in this city means a devastating blow to an economy which already stands on shaky ground.
The political authorities of the province seem to be incapable to handle the situation. Whenever a spate of atrocities and killings envelop Karachi, the authorities swing into action, vowing to deal with the situation sternly. But the results of their actions prove to be truce-like, producing only temporary results. However, by now, the authorities must have realised that they cannot handle the situation in Karachi with poorly trained intelligence outfits and untrained, unmotivated and politicised police force. Given the situation, there is no harm in seeking help from friendly countries and asking them to share intelligence through satellite monitoring of arms and terrorists’ movements so that the authorities could nab the culprits and bring peace to Karachi through an across-the-board action, as directed by the country’s top hierarchy.