|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.
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.
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.