Karachi in mourning

After the two blasts on Friday in Karachi, a three-day mourning period is being observed in the mega city. Markets and schools remained closed on Saturday while public transport was off the roads amid citywide strikes. It was a relief to see that the situation remained relatively peaceful and people showed restraint despite the fact that emotions were running high. The death toll has risen considerably since the day of the blasts and relatives of the victims mourn the loss of precious lives along with the whole Pakistani nation. Security is on high alert following the blasts.

The MQM has demanded an operation against militants hiding in different areas of Karachi. Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Dr Farooq Sattar reiterated MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s warning of a Swat-like situation in Karachi. The authorities have been dismissive of these warnings so far. Rivalry between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns is a bitter reality but to perceive the MQM’s demands as servings its own interests may not be the whole truth. The threat of Talibanisation can most certainly not be ignored given the fact that many militants have taken shelter in the city in the aftermath of the military operations in Swat and South Waziristan. The precarious security situation all over Pakistan, particularly in the northern areas, is no secret but ignoring the militant threat in the country’s largest city can have unprecedented consequences.

Given the tensions along ethnic lines, the presence of different mafias, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other such criminal activities in the city, Karachi is a tinderbox waiting to explode. The militants would inevitably try to exploit this situation to their advantage. They can use their ethnicity to hide in some Pahstun-dominated areas of the city, away from the eyes of the law enforcement agencies. There is no good intelligence on these people, which is why Karachi has become the best possible target for the militants on the run. We must not forget that Karachi accounts for nearly 45 percent of the country’s GDP. Thus any terrorist attack serves as a strong blow to our economy. It is the job of the intelligence agencies to infiltrate the militant groups in order to pre-empt and prevent terrorist activities all over Pakistan. The trend of reacting after an attack has proved clearly inadequate. The intelligence agencies and security forces have to be much more vigilant if they want to avoid major catastrophic incidents in the country. A counter-insurgency mechanism and strategy has to be devised on a war footing. Lack of preparedness following terror attacks is another issue warranting attention. The transfer of a senior official of the Bomb Disposal Squad after he told a private TV channel that the bomb detection apparatus was useless is unfair. The government must upgrade the apparatus instead of taking such unjust actions.

On another note, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) claiming that Blackwater and RAW were behind the blasts is ludicrous. It is high time these so-called guardians of religion woke up to the grim reality that the militant outfits and the Taliban are Pakistanis. The religious political parties should stop their patronage of the militants and for once think about the well being of this nation instead of passing statements that serve their own vested interests.

Law enforcement agencies claim that the Jundullah militant group is behind the two blasts. The authorities arrested four Jundullah members following the Ashura blast back in December, but claim that many more are present in the city and could have been behind the planning of the recent attacks. If that is the case, the security forces should not waste any more time in finding and arresting the remaining members and also launch a countrywide crackdown against all sectarian militant outfits. We have to remain steadfast in the elimination of militancy if we want peace and prosperity to return to the country. Time is of the essence.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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