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ہفتہ، 6 اگست، 2011

Karachi: Fiddling with tinderbox

The fact remains that Karachi is home to a turf war that has been seeing it bleed since the mid-1980s. Mr Altaf Hussain must really have a thorn in his side if he has cried out to the army for help. The PPP's Zulfiqar Mirza has been meeting Afaq Ahmed, the leader of the MQM-Haqiqi, and has called him the "real" leader of the MQM. Now this could very well be seen by Mr Hussain as a prelude to the PPP siding with the MQM (H), a faction that has clashed violently and relentlessly with the MQM. Add to this the fact that the ANP is a party representing the growing Pashtun demographic shift in Karachi and Altaf Hussain may feel as though he is being backed into a corner.

As the beleaguered port city of Karachi is writhing haplessly in the tightening grip of rising flames, the political class across the spectrum is fiddling with this tinderbox just playfully. Convene an all-parties conference to sort out the problem, chant some politicos. Let a bipartisan parliamentary probe team to investigate the problem, chime some others. But who are they kidding? Who doesn’t know that the political parties themselves are part of the problem, not of the solution? The MQM is hell-bent upon preserving its monopolistic control over the city and is not loath of using any device to perpetuate its political hegemony. It is just averse even to entertain the slightest thought that conditions on the ground have drastically altered over the time and what was feasible only until yesterday is absolutely infeasible today. It is not ready to come to terms with the reality that the city’s political pie cannot stay in anyone’s sole grab anymore but has to be shared by all political contenders in keeping with the prevalent realities as well as the ways stipulated by a democratic order. But the challengers too are for a forced grab. They want to snatch the pie from the MQM, each eyeing it avariciously to gobble it up by himself all alone. They too profess commitment to democracy and democratic principles, norms and practices. But as dishonest in their avowals are they all as is the MQM. Force is their actual instrument to dislodge the MQM from Karachi’s sultanate as is it the MQM’s perpetual tool for keeping Karachi its exclusive preserve. And who doesn’t know that for fighting their war for Karachi, every political party harbours in its stables armed militia, without any exception? And who doesn’t know that all the fighting sides have established links with the city’s underworld to put more punch in their fighting for a victorious battle? The political class may feign, pretend or posture. But dupe it cannot the city residents. They know for sure what is blighting their besieged city. It is they who bear all the brunt of this war. It is they who are largely getting killed, maimed or wounded in this silly mad war of the political class. And they know what deceit underlies the political class’s calls for all-parties conference. They have seen such conferences being held in these very times and they know nothing came of them every time. And they know how spurious could be a parliamentary probe when the self-assuming parliamentarians have shown themselves to be no sages or wise men. And deluded they cannot be such deceptive calls as calling the army to pacify the city. Leave aside the army’s capacity to undertake this onerous task, overstretched as it is presently in safeguarding our eastern border, defending our western frontiers and fighting out militancy from the tribal areas. To act for the city’s pacification, the army would require precise information on the gunmen, hideouts and arsenals of parties’ militias and their aligned criminal mafias. After all, the military cannot launch into a blind action, knocking out the whole areas and localities. But the real source of this information could only be the local police and intelligence, not the ISI or the MI, as a PML (N) guru calling for parliamentary briefing by these agencies seems suggesting. And that information cannot come by in the given conditions, as local police and intelligence are deeply politicised outfits, flush as these are with political appointees who are loyal to their own political masters, not to the state or the citizens. Still, the political class can make amends by giving all the way to peaceful democratic means to share political spoils in the city. But the time is running out fast. The underworld, presently the combatants’ piggyback in their war for Karachi, is already perceptibly gaining upper-hand. If politicos do change, the underworld would throw the city irreversibly in ruinous gang warfare like Beirut of the Lebanese civil war era. Or, Munna Pistole, Khanna Tope and Charru Goli will then be coming to represent Karachi in the provincial and federal legislatures. For, this is how politics’ criminalisation invariably culminates. Then, the present-day’s political supremo and gurus will be left to watching videos in wilderness here or abroad, with their hearts weeping over the demise of their glory times. they stand forewarned.
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