A call for peace

Prime Minister Gilani has been at his pragmatic best by finally going to Karachi and bringing the PPP’s coalition partners together to resolve their issues instead of allowing the bloodbath to continue. More than 90 people have lost their lives in less than a week after the targeted killing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) Syed Raza Haider last week. The violence in Karachi is a cause for concern for the entire country, which is why the prime minister finally had to intervene. On Saturday, the MQM, the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) signed a 10-point code of conduct. The important points covered in the code of conduct will ensure that the political parties will assist the law enforcement agencies to take action against the drug mafia, the land mafia and those on a killing spree. Terrorists belonging to banned outfits will be identified, action taken against them, and the Sindh government will constitute a judicial commission to probe Mr Haider’s murder. The most significant part of the code of conduct is that the political parties will consult each other over any dispute. This is very pertinent as we have seen that as soon as a member of one of the coalition parties is targeted, a blame game ensues. Such things could have eventually led to a collapse of the coalition government but Prime Minister Gilani’s timely intervention has stopped that from happening, at least for the moment. By sitting down together, talking reasonably and coming out with a proper mechanism and strategy to put an end to this madness, the Sindh coalition would go a long way in giving a semblance of stability to the metropolis.

As far as the land mafia, the drug rackets and the assassinations are concerned, it has been seen that criminal gangs show themselves as being aligned to a political party, be it the MQM, the ANP or the PPP, in order to safeguard themselves. And when a crackdown is launched against them, they play the ‘political victimisation’ card. This has to stop. All the political parties must check within their ranks and if there are any criminals falsely aligning themselves on any pretext, they should be taken to task.

Mr Gilani also said that nobody would be allowed to display weapons in Karachi. He directed the Interior Ministry to come up with a strategy after consulting the political leadership in Sindh. We know that even the military operation in the early 90s failed in its bid to de-weaponise Karachi. And now, some 20 years later, it may be too ambitious to think that de-weaponising the city is easy. While most people are in favour of clearing up the city in particular and the country in general of the weapons culture that started during the Zia era, the experience of so many decades demands that we should be realistic instead of overly idealistic. Those who are displaying arms without a licence should be jailed and punished according to the law, thus initiating a gradual process of de-weaponising Karachi.

The PPP, ANP and the MQM all have legitimate stakes in the city and need to be reconciled so that the city does not fall prey to terrorist elements again. These inimical forces are only interested in destabilising the political process. The police and security forces have to get maximum cooperation from all political parties so that it is easier to track down criminals and then keep them behind bars. We owe it to the people of Karachi that peace be restored in the city as soon as possible.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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