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جمعرات، 25 اگست، 2011

Karachi needs political solution

Accordining to reports, Pakistan People's Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has voiced dispaproval of statement given by Sindh's Senior Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza regarding Interior Minister Rehman Malik, during a recent meeting in Karachi. Mirza has reportedly assured the President that he respected the Interior Minister and that his statement has been twisted.

Rangers personnel arrest suspects during a search operation, on Wednesday.

Karachi has turned fast from economic capital into murder capital of Pakistan and from mother of the poor to murderer of the poor. To put the argument in perspective, let us first see the case of Ciudad Juárez, a city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Juárez is known as murder capital of the world due to the magnitude of violence and killings. It has remained gripped in drug cartel war over the years with some 1,600 murders in 2008, 2,600 in 2009 and 3,100 in 2010. The city has a population of over 1.5 million people. By 2009, annual murder rate had reached 133 per 100,000 inhabitants. More than 50,000 troops and federal police are actively involved in the fight against the cartels. Yet, there is not let up in transgression by drug mafia in Mexico at large, and Juárez in particular.

Karachi has tremendous economic potential. There are over 15,000 industries in five industrial zones of the city. The city generates the lion’s share of 67% for the national exchequer and 35% of the GDP. While ESP issues in Karachi breeds numerous ills. Processional religiosity and agitational politics too stops the wheel of life in the cosmopolitan. Deteriorating the law and order situation stops the wheels of industry and disturbs the trading circles, incurring loss of Rupees 3 to 5 billion per day and it takes 4 to 7 days for normalizing the situation in the aftermath of routine violence. During the current violence, Karachi has suffered an estimated economic loss of Rupees 60 billion affecting economic activities across the country.

 Karachi is weathering a fresh wave of urban terrorism, hosts of civil offences and street crimes. About 1,500 street crime incidents take place daily. Cold-blooded murders are not speciality of Karachi alone. However, disregard to the holy month of Ramadan, as are being witnessed now, have never been the history of the cosmopolitan. Like Karachi (and even Juárez) crimes and murders do take place in other major metropolitans and cosmopolitans of the world too e.g. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, New York and Mumbai. A report recently issued by Karachi Chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) noted that a total of 1,138 people were killed in the city during the first six months of the current year and 490 of them fell prey to targeted killings on political, sectarian and ethnic grounds. It is of note that these are the reported-cum-recorded figures. Like other databases in Pakistan, the crime data is also flawed an incomplete. Actually, innumerable innocent Karachiites have breathed their last while fasting during the month of Ramadan. It is a different kind of urban warfare, with no parallel in the world and has surpassed even Juárez in complexities.

 Unlike Juárez, which is a hub of drug crimes in the world, Karachi has numerous causes of crime and conflict. Some consider it to be purely political terrorism, wherein the political parties have nurtured their own militant wings, active in pursing supreme political causes. The others hint at gangs formed by drug, land and crime mafia to be perpetrating the heinous crimes. Yet others point finger towards foreign hand. Actually, it is a complex mix of all these – a product of intertwining and criss-crossing politico-economic and criminal interests of various stakeholders to include numerous gangs, groups, parties, organization, tycoon and entrepreneurs. Key perpetrators are political militias, terrorist organizations, religious extremists, criminal gangs, land mafia, drug cartels and corporate tycoons involved in illegal business. The fifth hand is always there in form of fifth columnists financed, funded and fomented by the foreign espionage agencies. At any rate, the victims are, more often than not, the poor people of Pakistan, who are either permanent residents of Karachi or dwelling therein to earn living for their beloved ones living elsewhere in the country.

Political cheerleaders acknowledge no involvement in killing and terrorism, but often claim the dead to be their workers. Yet the killing sprees in the past have always abated after “peace deals” between the political parties. Political rejoinders are often considered to be climax of conflict resolution round the world. Nonetheless, Karachi is different in this regards too. Political moorings do allow pauses between the tides of violence but never an end to the menace. This denotes that the polity not only projects solution but is also a part of the problem. Imperatives of security in Karachi are reconciliation, digitization, deweaponization, and de-politicization of police and cosmopolitanization of security system.

Firstly, the intermission in existing wave of violence is important. This needs reconciliation process involving all stakeholders. These include political parties, civil society, ethnic communities, media, eminent organization representing the corporate bodies and security agencies. Without accord between the stakeholders, the remaining process would not be more than a wishful exercise on a rough paper. It also looks relevant to suggest that Karachi be handed over to Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) till such time that the situation normalizes. If necessary, the government should not hesitate to employ military forces in the most trouble zones for a limited time. This exercise must conclude at making a permanent conciliatory commission made up of all stakeholders.

 Secondly, even while it may be difficult to digitize the entire country, a comprehensive central database must be prepared for Karachi, which should be available with all security agencies. Key figures should be available even online. The database should have the particulars of each citizen and minutiae of each house, key features and assets. Criminal records of individuals and groups should be an essential part of the database. The data should be prepared by NADRA under the auspices of Ministry of Interior, wherein each resident of Karachi, whether permanent or temporary must be obliged to register. This must also include the record of mobile SIMs used by each individual. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has the capacity to do the job, if backed up by political will. Thirdly, weapons, whether legal or illegal, are made to kill. Hence, it is imperative to cleanse the city of weapons. Yet, legal weapons are lesser evil and are authorized under the law. On the way of de-weaponizaiton, it is considered that not only the illegal weapons be cleansed from Karachi but measures must also be taken to control the flow of legal weapons under the shadow of the powerful ones. All arms licenses should be digitized, as has already been announced by the Federal Government besides linking license and weapon number with NIC of the license-holder so as to guard against possession of more than one weapon on one license. For violation beyond the prescribed date, heavy penalties need to be legislated. Weapons buy-back programme can help minimize the number of illegal weapons to some extent. All said, de-weaponization can come true only through a sustained process rather than an event.

 Fourthly, cosmpolitinic security and policing system needs to be introduced in Karachi. At the present, 105 out of total 440 police stations of Sindh are located in Karachi (32 in West Zone, 36 in East Zone, 31 in South Zone and 6 in other areas) with an authorized strength of 28,000 personnel out of total 70,133 policemen in the province. Against the UN recommended norm of 222 policemen per 100,000 people i.e. one cop per 450 people, Pakistan has average police strength of 186 per 100,000 citizens i.e. one cop per 537 citizens; still a healthy figure. The strength of police in Karachi is less than the national average too. On average, one policeman is employed for 715 citizens. This denotes that the strength of police needs to be at least doubled. Besides, the number of police stations i.e. 105 is not sufficient to police a city spread over 3,527 square kilometers. On the average, each police station is to take care of 33 square kilometers, something grossly opposite to the international cosmopolitanic models. Even with the same strength of police personnel, the number of police stations can be enhanced and equipped better. A police station should not be required to take care of more than 16 square kilometers i.e. 2 kilometers on either side, if centrally located. Each police station must have the database of people, assets and crime in the assigned area.

With better mobility and communication means and linkage with the people and communities, police should be held accountable for each crime taking place in the area of jurisdiction. Police should have relative independence to act and react without need to look towards political bosses. All other departments should be linked with police for the purpose of security. Besides, Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) should be dovetailed with the system of security led by the cosmopolitan police. At least one company of Rangers must be permanently deployed in each of the 18 towns of Karachi to act in collusion with police.

In sum, the security edifice of Karachi lies in a political solution dovetailed with apolitical system of security based on total digitization, complete de-weaponizaiton, de-politicization of security forces especially police, and above all, regular reconciliation by permanent conciliatory commission made up of all stakeholders. Let the people at the helm of affairs rest assured that peace in Karachi denotes peace in Pakistan. If it remains peaceful, all would remain at peace. Alternatively, it would keep serving as murder capital of Pakistan and thus, the peace dream of every Pakistani would simply peter out.

By Ehsan Mehmood Khan: The writer is Masters in Strategic Security Studies from NDU, Washington DC and is pursing M Phil at NDU, Islamabad.

(Pakistan Observer)
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