Karachi: elusive peace

Last month, almost 300 people lost their lives in Karachi due to a turf war between rival political parties. There were hopes that during the holy month of Ramzan, violence may abate. Unfortunately, the bloodthirsty armed gangs of rival political factions have no regard for human life or any sacred month. President Zardari held three back to back meetings on Wednesday in order to resolve the Karachi situation. “We believe in taking along all political forces on the issues of national importance, and will continue to do so in future as well. We have to resolve this issue ourselves and at the earliest, keeping in view the importance of this city and its role in the economy of the country,” said the president. On the one hand the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is trying to resolve the situation but on the other we see Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain’s provocative statements. Mr Hussain said that since the government has failed to stop the ongoing violence, the army and Rangers should come forward to protect the lives of innocent people. “What should the Muhajirs do now? Should they go back [to India]? If a 1992-like operation is started again, will the Indian leaders provide accommodation to 50 million Muhajirs of Pakistan?” asked the MQM chief. He had also asked the citizens of Karachi to store one month’s rations. On Thursday, the MQM chief realised his folly and apologised to the people of Sindh for his remarks and appealed to the people of Karachi to remain calm. The Awami National Party (ANP) has also been asking for a military operation. Interior Minister Rehman Malik ruled out a military operation. “Action will focus on those involved in targeted killings and terrorists. This fight will continue till normalcy is restored in the cosmopolitan city,” Mr Malik stated.

It is extremely sad to see that all political parties in Karachi have been playing politics instead of doing anything concrete to bring back normalcy to the metropolis. The issue at hand is that of turf wars and control of the city’s administrative apparatus. The PPP made a coalition government with the MQM and the ANP in order to keep all political forces on board. But the MQM’s ‘quit/rejoin/quit/rejoin’ mantra has exasperated its coalition partners. The MQM is loathe to lose its political power in the city. Even though the MQM claims to be an inclusive party, it is guilty of dividing people along ethnic lines. This is not to say that the MQM alone is responsible for everything that goes wrong in Karachi but a large chunk of the blame still lies at its doorstep. The PPP’s manoeuvres of restoring the commissionerate system and unleashing Zulfiqar Mirza backfired. MQM-Haqiqi’s re-entry in this violence-ridden city made matters worse. The city of lights is now full of darkness and gloom, all because of the highhandedness of the political parties.

What is needed right now is requisite political will to resolve the situation and end the violence once and for all. A military operation is no solution and will only add to the woes of the people of Karachi. The police needs to be strengthened in order to curb violence. If the armed gangs have the patronage of any political party, action must be taken against the perpetrators and their mentors. Karachi has seen more than its share of violence over the decades. It is time to stop this madness and take strict action against all culprits disturbing the peace of the city.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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