The crack of doom

Almost all the cities of Sindh are in turmoil following the assassination of Syed Raza Haider, a member of the Sindh Assembly, on Monday. Mr Haider was attending a funeral in a mosque. His guard was also shot down. Raza Haider was an active member at the organisational level of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and also a member of the Sindh Assembly’s standing committees on the board of revenue, cooperation, local government and planning and development. The MQM gave a call for three days of mourning after the targeted killing. More than 40 people have been killed since then and almost 200 injured.

Karachi was already going through a turbulent phase due to a spate of target killings in recent days but some people are of the view that Mr Haider’s death has sounded the death knell. The MQM has openly laid the blame on the Awami National Party (ANP) for targeting its members. The MQM’s coordination committee accused the “armed terrorists of the ANP” of killing Mr Haider and his guard. The ANP leadership has denied these charges and demanded strict action against the culprits.

When two coalition partners of the Sindh Assembly are brazenly attacking each other verbally, it leaves little hope for the province. The targeted killings in Karachi have now taken on an ethnic-political tinge. Previously we have witnessed sectarian killings and ethnic warfare in the city but this new colour to the violent drama unfolding before our eyes looks very ominous. An ANP activist was gunned down in the city after Mr Haider’s death. Clashes between the Mohajirs and Pashtuns, with the backing of political parties, could very well lead to the collapse of the Sindh government if things are not brought under control soon. Talk of Governor’s rule has been in the air following the recent wave of riots in Sindh. The PPP should not sit quietly while Sindh bleeds because the implications of such a situation would not remain confined to Karachi or Sindh. This could have grave consequences for the federal government as well since both the MQM and the ANP are also coalition partners at the Centre. If the Pashtun community is targeted in Sindh, they will willy-nilly bond with each other to show solidarity and the same goes for the Mohajirs. Thus, the thought of the province fracturing along political-ethnic lines should serve as a warning to the Centre. Businesses have also suffered while the day-to-day lives of the people have become a nightmare.

The government has to intervene decisively. As per the claims of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is behind Mr Haider’s assassination. He said that the SSP and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were behind the murder of Raza Haider and had also planned to carry out two suicide attacks at his funeral ceremony. Mr Malik had taken the SSP’s name soon after Mr Haider’s murder, but the MQM is not buying this and continues to blame the ANP. The MQM leadership has demanded that if the intelligence agencies had information about such a plan, why was no action taken earlier? This is a valid question and one that our federal interior minister must answer. He is known for giving off-the-cuff statements without substantiating them. Instead of giving such statements, Mr Malik should err on the side of caution and speak responsibly. Both the Sindh government and the federal government should also act responsibly and try to cool things down before it is too late.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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