Reign of terror in Karachi

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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani finally made it to Karachi on Monday, and presided over a Sindh cabinet meeting where he said that the federal government was ready to help the provincial government, but the bleeding of Karachi must first stop.. Which merits the question, who is going to stop it? Is it not the primary responsibility of his party s government at the Centre and in Sindh to provide security to the people?

A day earlier, he had told reporters in Lahore that all political forces would have to sit together to find a solution to the issue, thereby acknowledging that Karachi s problem is political, and the PPP s self-preservation policy, called. reconciliation , is at the root of governmental inaction in the city.

Those keeping count of the killings in Karachi recorded 1, 981 targeted killings (politically motivated assassinations) during the last year: 122 in January, 133 in February, 130 in March , 144 in May, 122 in June, 135 in July, 176 in August, 71 in September, 173 in October, 91 in November, and 84 in December.. The toll has kept mounting in the following months.. Over 100 people lost their lives in the last one week alone, many in blood curdling executions involving torture and beheadings.

So much blood letting would have shaken any government worth the name, but not this one.. It did not seem to care.. In fact, a while ago President Zardari s point man for all occasions, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, had dismissed the assassinations as crimes of passion, saying in most cases jealous girl friends or wives were behind the killings.. Every time fresh violence breaks out, his modus operandi has been to huddle into meetings with the MQM leaders, and to come out to announce that he had fixed the problem and the people need not worry.. Rehman Malik, of course, rarely means what he says.

In the last few days, it s been a free for all sides.. Dozens of people, mostly innocent citizens who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time got caught in the madness engulfing the city.. What did the government do? It kept twiddling its thumbs until horrified citizens all over the country demanded an end to the carnage, which apparently prompted the Prime Minister to head for Karachi where he iterated the ritual of urging all coalition partners and other stakeholders to come together and extend their full support to the law enforcement agencies who, he said, are fully committed to protecting the lives and properties of the citizens.

On the day he arrived in Karachi 12 more people lost their lives.. Another seven fell to partisan terrorists the next day.. The point to be noted is that the mindless violence had continued in the presence of police and the Rangers.. They have now been asked to carry out. surgical operations .

It is more than obvious that this government lacks both the capability and the will to restore peace in the city and provide security to its residents.. The Sindh government issued a polite warning on Tuesday to. extortionists. and. miscreants. telling them to immediately leave the city otherwise strict action would be taken against them.. Although, the Rangers and police are reported to have started. surgical operations. in selected areas, nothing much is expected to come out of the exercise now or later because the. miscreants. act on behalf of one or the other coalition partner.. And they are armed to the teeth.

We all know who is doing what in Karachi.. We don t have the freedom to call a spade a spade, though.. The question agitating the public mind in the city as well as other parts of the country is, what is the way out of this reign of terror? Some have suggested imposition of governor s rule, others army action.. Only the federal government has the authority to exercise these options.. It cannot be expected to appoint an impartial governor to sort out the situation in an even-handed manner.. It has already stated it has no intention to call in the Army.. Therefore, the only way things can change is change of the government itself.. Such change has to take place via legal, constitutional means.. That seems to be out of question at present since its new coalition partner at the Centre, Q-League, has its own compelling reasons to keep the PPP in the saddle.

All things being equal, the only effective solution can be army operation in aid of the civilian authority.. It is a perfectly legitimate course of action.. Established democracies have no qualms about calling in the troops to grapple with extraordinary situations like the one prevailing in Karachi.. Understandably, however, many in this country are wary of the army involvement in Karachi because of an unsavoury history of civil-military relations.. Besides, this is not a long-term solution to that city s problems.. The option has been tried there in the past, restoring peace for a time.. The priority at this point is to break the fight, and provide security to the people.. Hence, it makes perfect sense to ask the army to bring back normality to Karachi.

Given that the government has already rejected that choice, the law of the jungle is to triumph.. The intensity of the recent bloody events, especially the ferocity with which armed gangs targeted rival communities, must have allowed parties contending for control of Karachi to size up one another.. They probably know by now how far they can push back the other, and what their respective limits of control might be.. That may allow them to learn to give one another space.. In fact, the Sindh government seemed to suggest such a solution when it advised the. extortionists. and. miscreants. just to leave the city.. In other words, they have been advised to tolerate one another.

It needs to be said that Karachi is not a unique cosmopolitan centre in terms of being home to large, disparate ethnic communities.. We have several such examples, like Mumbai and New York.. The problem here is that those who came first are unwilling to give space to those who came later and made the city their new home.. The. otherliness. argument one particular party uses to fetch votes, acts as a divisive force and engenders ethnic hatreds and violence.. Karachi belongs to all who live there.. The sooner this reality sinks in the better for all communities.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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