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منگل، 22 مارچ، 2011

Karachi on fire once again

The situation in Karachi is defying all expectations as political moves aimed at easing out the situation there have proved to be unproductive. Analysts were hoping that following patch up between PPP and MQM two of the main players would help restore normalcy in the troubled city but so far there is nothing to inspire confidence in this regard. Instead, violence continues unabated with people losing their lives in target killings and protests and arson becoming order of the day.

The latest and fresh wave of killings across the city, said to be mainly on political and ethnic grounds, claimed over a dozen lives on Sunday. The situation is so volatile that now protestors are exchanging fire with personnel of law enforcing agencies, which is indication that things are moving towards a dangerous end. The problem in Karachi has many dimensions and all of them are fully known to the Government and other stakeholders but regrettably there is lack of commitment to address it squarely. Cosmetic measures are taken as a result of which the situation normalises for a day or two but things go out of control even over a minor incident, which means deep-rooted mistrust and chaos. The fast deterioration in security environment requires bitter and hard decision with full backing of all stakeholders but unfortunately we only resort to issuance of statements or shuttling between Islamabad and Karachi or Islamabad and London. Time has come for all stakeholders to sit together and agree on an across-the-board operation to wipe out criminal elements and purge the city of illegal weapons and mafia of all sorts.

March has proved to be a ferociously deadly month for Karachi, a city that bleeds more than it prospers. More than 53 people have died in these 20 plus days with some 16 reported dead in the last 24 hours alone, and the death count continues to rise. Targets include political workers belonging to both the MQM and the PPP. Gunmen fired at a unit office of the MQM indiscriminately and an office of the PPP was targeted with a grenade attack. There are calls from members of the MQM to have the People’s Amn Committee investigated for the presence of criminal elements, who they say are being backed by the PPP. One of the MQM’s key figures and its coordination committee’s Deputy Convener, Farooq Sattar said that dozens of his party members had been shot down by members of the Amn Committee and that President Zardari and Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, despite being shown proof, had not acted on controlling the law and order situation. At the same time, the PPP is making serious and determined steps to strengthen the coalition between itself and the MQM in Sindh. A few days back, the MQM re-entered the Sindh Assembly with much pomp and show announcing that it was no longer boycotting the current session of the assembly.

So why this violent frenzy with most of Karachi whimpering behind closed doors for fear of targeted attacks? This is because Karachi treads on extremely precarious ground because of the political entities in its playing field. Now that the PPP is looking to solidify its partnership with the MQM in Sindh after the many narrow scrapes the coalition has faced, there may be elements sabotaging any hopes of a reconciliation. The issue of the Amn Committee may have led to elements of the PPP and the MQM being at daggers drawn. The irony of this whole situation is that it may not even be the leaders of the political parties who are behind the entire mess in the first place — for a change. Hot-headed political workers (and thugs) seem to have become so conditioned to the use of violence and so desensitised to the bloodshed that has been a regular feature of the city that they may very well have gone on a rampage on their own.

With all the efforts being made by both the PPP and the MQM to re-establish congenial ties and to make stronger the Sindh coalition government, it may not be too far off to say that the leaders of both parties need to take some firm steps against some of their own. If there are some hot-headed elements within both the parties who are targeting each other and bringing Karachi to its knees, those in charge at the helm of both the PPP and MQM need to bring such political workers under control. If this is not done, there is certain danger that, with more violent players in the mix, Karachi may just dive into yet another vicious cycle of ethnic warfare. This is the last thing that this commercial and economic hub needs. What it needs is some solid leadership and, if the Sindh coalition is so keen to govern, it must start doing so by controlling the dismal law and order situation in the city.
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