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ہفتہ، 9 جولائی، 2011

Karachi’s Under the rule of death

Karachi seems to be sinking deep into abyss of chaos and lawlessness with more people losing their lives in incidents of violence besids injuries to many more and damage to public and private property. The horrible scenes telecast by different channels are sending shock-waves among  people in the length and breadth of the country but regrettably those who are supposed to address the situation are still resorting to mere window-dressing.

For the fourth day running, Karachi remained in the grip of large scale ethnic bloodletting on Thursday. Although at the time of writing these lines the city by and large appeared deserted since markets did not open and transport was off the roads on MQM’s declared day of mourning on Friday, in the troubled areas coinciding with the well known ethnic fault lines that run through the metropolis, the sound of gunfire was almost a constant. The toll of this virtual mini-civil war is rising, with widespread dissatisfaction being voiced by Karachi’s affected citizens that the government and law enforcement agencies are conspicuous by their absence. The gunmen have abandoned individual targeted killings that had been the bane of the city even before the parting of the ways of the MQM and the PPP-led coalition and instead taken to ‘positional’ warfare and indiscriminate killings of innocent citizens on buses and even within their houses. In the absence of any meaningful response by the law enforcement agencies to halt this unfettered massacre, Karachi too is witnessing its own version of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the shape of desperate citizens being forced to abandon their homes and flee to safer areas with the minimum wherewithal to survive. For all intents and purposes, in the areas of intense fighting by means of their menacing presence, and in the rest of the city because of spreading fear, the gunmen rule the roost. It would come as no surprise if within their ranks could be counted land and drug mafias trying to take advantage of the unrest.

MQM’s day of mourning on Friday remained just that, mourning for the city of lights and the dire straits to which it has been condemned. Mercifully, the MQM postponed its planned march, which could have invited more trouble. Nevertheless, as we have said before in this space, the MQM, since leaving the government, has resorted to its time-tested usual terrorist-political tactics. It is difficult to believe that its hand is not detectable in the worst violence to wrack the city for years. That does not mean that there are not other actors who are equally to blame for the descent into open warfare along ethnic lines. The Urdu-speaking and Pashtun people of Karachi are the worst affected communities. The apprehension now is that the concentration of the violence in north-western Karachi may spill over into the rest of the city with a vengeance.

The government claims 235 perpetrators of violence arrested in the last four days. This is the result of a conscious decision not to launch a generalised operation a la the military offensive in 1992, which failed to leave any indelible mark on the circumstances of the city, but instead to gather intelligence and information and then conduct targeted operations against the miscreants. According to Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio, an army action in Karachi would mean the collective failure of the political forces to manage the affairs of the country satisfactorily. He could also have added that it could pose a threat to the continuation of civilian rule once again. While Interior Minister Rehman Malik has once more dashed to Karachi to help out, promising the induction of 1,000 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary to bolster the police and Rangers in the city, the Sindh government has issued shoot on sight orders to quell the violence.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has appealed for calm and peace in Karachi, but his voice sounds more like a plaint than that of an authoritative chief executive, punctuated as the appeal is by the crackle of almost constant gunfire in the streets and alleyways of many areas of the city. In essence, the PPP’s strategy after the 2008 elections to “keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer” seems to have now run its course. It is MQM’s well known and demonstrated track record that it always resorts to the gun when it wants to dictate its own terms to rivals or the power structure. If it is unable to win the day through its habitual tactics of intimidation and at the same time anointing itself as the victim, Karachi is in for bad times, and with it, the country as a whole.
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