May 2, 2011

Once a city of lights

Only the political parties in Karachi can bring peace to the city if they have the resolve

By Salman Abid

One major question that arises after reviewing violence in Karachi pertains to the reaction of leaders and the intelligentsia. Are they looking for any political solution about the increasing violence? Violence in the entire city is increasing day by day and the whole city seems to be under the control of different mafias.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) annual report 2010 shows that only 237 political workers from different parties and 301 citizens have no affiliation with any political group and are among those who have been killed. In the gang wars in Lyari 81 people were killed in different clashes with opponent groups. In March 2011, data shows that some 154 people were targeted in one month alone.

The coalition government of Sindh, led by the PPP and MQM, ANP, PML-F, and JUI-F, is responsible to ensure the law and order situation and governance. Target killing in Karachi bared its fangs once again in 2007-8 when the ANP started politics in Karachi and MQM felt threatened from the ANP. The clashes between the two parties for maintaining power pockets in Karachi resulted in loss of precious lives.

According to the police, 109 people were shot dead in Karachi in the first quarter of 2011. Citizen’s police liaison committee (CLPC) Karachi this year witnessed the largest number of murders in fifteen years according to the CLPC. According to the police, in 335 suicide bombings 1208 people were killed in Pakistan in 2010 but at the same time around 1233 people were killed in Karachi due to target killings.

The people of Karachi want peace and an enabling environment for mobility and business. But, unfortunately, they are living under threat, violence and fear as security agencies have totally failed to protect human life. Interestingly, no one is ready to take responsibility. The inhabitants of Karachi, especially the lower middle class, are paying a heavy price due to bad governance and contradictions within the coalition.

The coalition government is responsible for the whole situation but the coalition partners do not share ownership of the critical challenges in Sindh, particularly in Karachi. The MQM, ANP, and PPP criticise their opponents groups and say these groups. The MQM blames security agencies and establishment forces and says they want to eliminate MQM and their political mandate.

No one is playing a responsible role for bringing peace in Karachi. Land-grabbing, murder, kidnapping, bhatta khori, political and ethnical victimization are threatening the once city of lights.

A few days age the business community showed a strong resistance through protest and rallies against the bhatta mafia. The sad part is that the Sindh government and its coalition partners seem to be directly responsible for the whole issue. Some violent groups are part of the local political parties but no political party has taken action against criminal elements in their ranks.

The striking question is that if the local political parties are not supporting these criminal groups how are they operating in Karachi freely. I think the political parties in Karachi are helpless before these elements. So much so that senior provincial leader of PPP, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, had to resign as interior minister due to a conflict between the interior ministry and MQM leadership.

He presented a list of criminals before the media who have political protection of MQM, which the party denied and demanded replacement of the interior minister. The MQM also pointed towards the ANP leadership and said it strengthened the local mafias for various crimes, including land grabbing.

It is strange that the MQM, which claims to be largest party in Karachi, has failed to manage law and order situation in the city. The MQM complains that administrative powers are not in their hands. If it is true, who is controlling Karachi? It is, indeed, an interesting game; the MQM wants to play double role as they are enjoying the government and ministries and also playing as opposition party.

If the MQM feels strongly that the coalition partners are a major problem for Karachi they should step out from power politics and stand with the masses and resist criminal elements. President Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain, and ANP leader Asfand Yar Wali Khan seem to have come at a common understanding to work jointly in Karachi.

This is good if parties collaborate and cooperate with each other and relate with the local people and their expectations. The Karachi violence should not be seen in isolation from the overall politics in the country. When the parties indirectly or directly engage in negative and criminal activities peace process is obviously not a possibility.

The political parties should come out from the politics of denial and accept their own mistakes. We need a consensus-based political agenda for Karachi. The parties should identify criminal elements from within their own ranks.

Every no-go area should be open to people. A few months ago the MQM presented the bill for surrendering illegal arms. It should take the initiative and surrender all illegal weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment