Political meltdown

Karachi’s situation is getting worse with every passing day despite the government’s claims that normalcy is returning. More than 60 people have been killed in the aftermath of MPA Raza Haider’s targeted killing on Monday. Karachi is our economic hub and due to the recent wave of violence, suffered a loss of billions of rupees in just one day of lost business activity. Pakistan is already going through a crunch financially; add to it the flood relief efforts and the situation in Karachi and our economic woes are getting worse.

The spate of targeted killings in the largest metropolis is definitely a cause for concern. Despite a heavy presence of the Rangers, the city is too big for the security forces to maintain peace everywhere. There are other worrying aspects to this whole mayhem. As we have previously pointed out, a conflict between the MQM and the ANP in Sindh would inadvertently hurt the government both in the province and at the Centre because they are the PPP government’s coalition partners. Interior Minister Rehman Malik accused the Sipah e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of being behind Raza Haider’s murder. Some members of the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have also been arrested in this regard. The MQM has raised the question why no action was taken when there was intelligence to the effect that some leaders of the MQM were on the jihadis’ hit list. Mr Malik maintained that late Raza Haider had been informed and was told “to be vigilant, [we] provided him four persons for security and urged him to avoid public places”. We have to realise that it is inherently impossible to guard everyone at all times and when there is a determined body of men who are out to kill someone, it is hard to prevent such a catastrophe. We saw it in the case of late Benazir Bhutto who had threats to her life even before she set foot on Pakistani soil back in 2007. The only thing that can prevent such attacks is if the intelligence agencies are able to penetrate the jihadi networks and pre-empt their attacks. According to some reports, over 10 terrorist groups have reunited in the face of the crackdown being launched against the militants. These groups have had their differences in the past but now they have found a common enemy in the state of Pakistan. Thus, their decision to work together should not come as a surprise because a nexus between the TTP, SSP and the LeJ is a logical possibility. These militant outfits have always had an ideological and theological nexus but it was only because of the differences within the leadership that they were operating separately. If these groups have come together to destabilise the political system, with one stroke they can achieve their purpose, i.e. create a conflict within the Sindh government and in the process lead to a meltdown at the federal level. Thus it is critical that the conflict between the ANP and the MQM be sorted out at the earliest and if the federal government has any intelligence to the effect that it is the militants stoking the fire, it should be shared with both parties. No political party should fall into the trap of the militants and instead there should be reconciliation between the warring coalition partners and the communities that they represent.

The next step is to go after the militants and launch a massive crackdown. The justice system also has to be revamped in order to deal with terrorists. The anti-terror bill presented in the Senate by Mr Malik is a step in the right direction. There are some suggestions to have speedy trials, which should be avoided. Resorting to former US President Bush’s foolish illegalities would not serve the purpose. The state has to retain the moral high ground by convictions and punishment through due process. That said, bail should not be granted to terror suspects so that they are not unleashed once again to wreak havoc. Pakistani soil has suffered enough bloodshed. We must not let our guard down at any cost.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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