Army’s ‘concern’ on Karachi

Major-General Athar Abbas, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that the Pakistan army felt concerned about the poor law and order situation in Karachi, just like all other people. Major-General Abbas said that it was the duty of the law enforcement agencies to conduct operations against all criminals and terrorists without discrimination as it “would help bring peace to Karachi”. According to the DG ISPR, the army was concerned over the death of innocent citizens in the metropolis and the poor law and order situation in Karachi had an impact on the whole country. So far the army had remained relatively quiet on the situation in Karachi, as it should have. Now, with Major-General Abbas’s comments, it seems that the army is once again trying to meddle in matters that are in the domain of the democratically elected government. Whether the public agrees with President Zardari’s reconciliation policy or not is a separate matter but the army’s ‘concern’ may sound to some as critical of the civilian government’s policy. The army should not have any role in such issues. This is the actual problem that the Pakistani state is faced with. Every now and then, the army – which is the most powerful institution in Pakistan – tries to undermine the civilians by asserting its authority. The army needs to stop this if it wants the country to progress. Pakistan has a parliamentary democracy whereby parliament is supreme, not the army or any other institution. All institutions of the state must remain within their constitutional parameters.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) tried to appease the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) by ignoring its criminal activities ever since it came to power in 2008. This policy annoyed Sindhi nationalists and the PPP’s own Sindhi constituency. It was in this context that PPP’s leader Zulfiqar Mirza gave up all party and government positions in protest and lashed out at the MQM and Interior Minister Rehman Malik. There is no doubt that the surgical operation being conducted in Karachi should be across the board and should target all those responsible for the breakdown of law and order in the city. Criminal gangs working side by side with different political parties should be nailed and penalised. The MQM was the party that initiated a trend of terrorist wings and torture cells in Karachi. Other political parties followed suit in order to counter the MQM’s dominance. So far, MQM-dominated areas have not been targeted by the law enforcement agencies. It is time the government forgets about annoying the MQM and does something for the public instead. Interestingly, Prime Minister Gilani asked land grabbers to vacate state land worth trillions of rupees within a month. Mr Gilani said, “People of the country in general and the people of Sindh in particular stood up against the land grabbers, extortionists, and terrorists and they would not rest till these criminals are eliminated from the province.” It is beyond comprehension why the prime minister is appealing to the land grabbers to vacate state land instead of ensuring that they do so by taking strict action against them. The people of Karachi have already suffered a lot at the hands of criminals and now they want some reprieve. Peace in Sindh, particularly in Karachi, can only be restored once the government decides to nab all those responsible for terrorising the people.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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