Karachi’s unending woes

More than two dozen people have been killed while dozens others injured in the fresh bout of violence to have hit Karachi. By-elections of a Sindh Assembly seat in Orangi Town (PS-94) took place yesterday amidst more violence. The metropolis has seen a spate of target killings in recent months. The Sindh government has not been able to cope with the situation and even federal interior minister Rehman Malik’s assurances to catch the culprits time and again have not materialised into anything substantial. Now the situation has taken a turn for the worse and political tensions are at an all-time high.

The Awami National Party (ANP) boycotted the by-election in PS-94 after alleging that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) would rig the election and because the ANP did not get adequate security by the concerned authorities. On the other hand, the MQM alleged that “soon after announcing its boycott of the by-election, ANP’s terrorists began killing innocent citizens in a bid to sabotage the election process”. The ANP leadership denied these charges. Another new development is that the MQM is reportedly contemplating to quit the coalition government and Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad would hand in his resignation to President Zardari. At the time of writing these lines, the MQM had neither confirmed nor denied these reports.

The blame game between the ANP and the MQM is nothing new. It has been going on for months, but since most of those murdered are Pashtuns, the MQM heads the cast of usual suspects. This time even the Baloch, Punjabi, Hazaras and people of other ethnicities were also killed. The MQM has kept a tight lid on controlling Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh for decades now. Elections in Karachi are usually said to be rigged by the MQM, be they general elections or by-polls. The MQM is involved in land grabbing, collecting bhatta (extortion money) and there are even allegations of terrorism and target killings against the party. This is not to say that the other groups involved in this four-corner turf war in urban Sindh are not guilty of committing crimes and other violations. But the major responsibility lies with the MQM since it has been in power in Sindh one way or another all through these years. It is unfortunate that for all the wrong reasons, our establishment has supported the MQM from its inception. Both the MQM and the ANP are the PPP’s coalition partners both at the Centre and in Sindh. Thus even the PPP seems to be on the defensive in fully confronting their leadership. But the turf war between the ANP and the MQM could lead to dire consequences, not just for Karachi but the country as a whole. Karachi is the economic hub of Pakistan and any violent incident brings it to a standstill, leading to millions of rupees loss of production and revenue.

It is time that instead of just paying lip service while not doing anything concrete, the PPP takes control of the situation. Political expediency does not mean that you let a city burn and its citizens suffer just because your coalition partners might quit the government. The culprits must be caught and taken to task for the deaths of innocent people. Justice must be served.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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