Karachi: too little to late

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Given the gravity of situation that has obtained in Karachi for over many months now it is only natural, and is also expected that the government of Sindh should feel deeply concerned and get engaged in hammering out some kind of a workable plan to pull the country s largest city out of this mess of all-encompassing violence and anarchy..

And as expected, the federal government is no less perturbed and is fully co-operative as it too is sparing no effort to help the provincial government to effectively deliver on this demanding challenge.. Evidence to this is a series of meetings held, sometimes simultaneously, in Karachi and Islamabad in which the evolving Karachi crisis is incisively looked into and remedial steps are proposed.

Should there be a hurdle in the way Interior Minister Rahman Malik is always there to fly out to Karachi to clinch consensus.. Tuesday was one more such day when the Sindh government conducted extensive discussions, as its senior leadership met in Islamabad for the same purpose.

But isn t it frustrating that despite all this toing and froing the violence keeps erupting in various parts of Karachi in a variety of weird ways.. More body bags were found and there were also incidents of targeted firing the day these meetings were being held.. Why? The one answer to this has been provided by the Sindh government itself:

In its press release issued following the meeting it has counselled the. terrorists and extortionists. to. leave Karachi immediately and go somewhere else.. Otherwise stern action would be taken against them .. How more non-serious a government can be if instead of getting hold of these offenders of law and bringing them to justice it has offered them a safe passage out of an impending operation.

Equally disturbing is the official position in that the alleged criminals have been spared of any prosecution for their past felonies.. Their banishment from Karachi is the only punishment that the Sindh government thinks is good enough.. Then there is this outlandish advice to the terrorists and extortionists to shift their business to some other place - as if Karachi is the only city that the Sindh government has to secure against violence.

Obviously, there is something more crucial on the mind of the PPP-headed governments in Sindh and the Centre than continuing violence in Karachi, and that is to hold on to the power whatever the cost.. No wonder then the meetings both in Karachi and Islamabad came up with pronounced rejection of the demand increasingly being made by the civil society, business community and even the PPP s coalition partners to invite the armed forces to control violence.. The option to call military. in aid of civil power. is very much a constitutional provision, clearly laid down to cope with situations that the police and other civilian outfits cannot.. To think that once the door is opened for the army to step in it would impose martial law in Pakistan, reflects the unease because of our history of military and quasi-military rule, but is patently absurd; if wanted the armed forces could take over much before.

However, such a development would have certainly proved the failure of the civilian set-up in restoring normalcy in Karachi, confirming the widely held perception that political parties are as much responsible for the incessant violence in the city as their protégés in the underworld.

Now that the government of Sindh has rejected the option of calling in the military and decided to take up the challenge it has got to revisit its attitude towards the law-breakers and the law enforcement apparatus it has under its control.. The most obvious that it should do is to depoliticize the police force, upgrade its morale, strengthen its capacity and enhance its powers.. Rangers and paramilitary forces are good but the mainstay for a peaceful Karachi has to be its police force.

Secondly, intelligence network needs to be organised along modern lines by equipping its staff with upgraded gadgetry.. Then there is the prosecution branch that has to be made more effective in order to ensure that the guilty don t get away easily.. But equally important is to lower the political temperature of the city - for without receiving co-operation of other stakeholders the government cannot make any worthwhile headway in the fight against violence.

The fact has to be accepted that in the mega city of Karachi size there would be a rich mosaic of ethnic diversity, conflicting politics, outside interference and local rivalries.. But so are many other mega cities which live and flourish in absolute harmony; all of it depends on what leadership is available to a mega city.


Courtesy: Business Recorder

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