By: Yasmeen Ali
Drenched in blood, from the mindless killings in Karachi that erupted a few weeks ago, and, have continued unabated, a pattern emerges. People are being pulled off from public transport vehicles, being killed, after visiting their ID cards. In a number of instances , those being targeted, in the recent round of killings are Urdu speaking settlers from Karachi. MQM , the party ruling Karachi sits outside Government. The oft seen tantrum thrown and the Government's wooing efforts to draw it back within the fold. The MQM Head, on phone, in a public message from England, called upon the people of Karachi to store a month's rations in their homes shortly before the recent bloodbath.
Karachi today, presents a different political landscape than the Karachi of yesteryears. Pashtuns form 20 to 25% of Karachi's population, arresting 2 provincial seats for them in the first time of Karachi's political history during the last elections. This changed political ground reality must be accepted by all stake holders.
The killings in Karachi may be like a many headed serpent, the Hydra in Greek Mythology. The Hydra ,is a serpent having numerous heads ,nine being the number often quoted .It was said as soon as one head was cut, another grew in it's place, but a famous quote states even Hercules' alone could not fight Hydra. It was only when he was helped, by 'Iola's', who cauterized the beheaded stumps, that Hercules succeeded, but one head of Hydra was immortal and had to be buried alive.
Are the killings the outcome of murderers & looters going under the garb of political activists, or "Bhatta Mafia" (Extortionists) as stated by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah?(The News 20th August 2011).This may be true in some cases, but not in all. Are these killers the militants within parties, putting innocent lives to death, and settling personal scores as they go along? Is there a "foreign hand" involved here as well? All can be true to varying degrees.
A friend shared his views with me, " This is a turf war nothing more or less, an army take over is not the solution, a secret task force under the army is. This unit must be ultra secret and to report only to the ISI and IB which will pin point the gangs and its leaders. They must be equipped with the latest weaponry and helicopters in order to strike hard and fast and then disappear. This unit will have no political affiliations or considerations what so ever".
Instead of playing the blame-game, all political parties must move towards resolving this situation. It must be a joint effort by all political parties who need to rise above their local and provincial level politics to bring peace to Karachi. Three simple steps, inter linked, will go a long way to help Karachi normalize.
First, acceptance of the new landscape of Karachi. A genuine desire to move towards peaceful solution to this embattled city. A clear Code of Conduct to be followed by all party leaders; avoid inflammatory speeches and attacks on leaders of other parties. This can only be interpreted as a green signal to their workers cadre to start riots and mayhem. Divest their cadres from militant elements. This must be done. Until and unless parties rely on street power to settle scores, issues can never be resolved. Only when the rouge elements lose political backing will they be dealt with according to law.
A crucial question which must be addressed is the supply of
illegal weapons in Karachi. In a statement Rangers Brigadier Waseem said that
the armed groups were using sophisticated weapons like machine guns, assault
rifles such as AK47 and .222; in layman's language called the
Kalashnikov(Express Tribune July 25th 2011). Many years ago, the
Government had withdrawn licenses of .222 and issued "regular" weapon licenses
instead. This included licenses held by security companies. The question that
rears its ugly head is: from where are these licenses coming from? What is the
supply line? The leak must be stemmed.
The law and order situation directly impacts the economic health of Karachi. More than 25% of total taxes are paid by Karachi, more than 20% of total GDP is contributed by Karachi , the seaport is in Karachi. When the economy of Karachi is hit, the entire of Pakistan is hit. The law and order situation directly impacts the economic graph of Karachi and the rest of Pakistan.
The situation in Karachi is reflective of the overall situation in Pakistan in a more severe form.
Jonathan S. Landay, National Security and
Intelligence Correspondent, at the McClatchy Newspapers had this to say ," I haven't
visited Karachi in several years, so I don't feel qualified to propose a
solution. This tragedy has been building for years, for the most part a result
of years of inflammatory ethnic politics,
racketeering and strong-arming by all of the major political parties.
Now the chick has come home to roost. It will take the leaders of the national parties working together to bring an end to this - or a concerted citizens movement, which is probably na-ve".
Hercules awaits Iola's help to kill Hydra.
In the meanwhile Karachi burns!
(Yasmeen Ali is a lawyer based in Lahore,Pakistan & can be contacted through this site's messaging system.