By: Yasmeen Aftab Ali
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George Galloway, the MP for Bradford, has set up a fund to initiate "legal proceedings against the presence in the UK of Altaf Hussain and his activities co-ordinated from the UK but gravely affecting Pakistan," according to a local newspaper report. This has come on heels of the speech of the leader of MQM, Altaf Hussain addressing his party workers and supporters via telephone at his party's Headquarters, Nine Zero. In a speech televised across various media channels, Altaf Hussain demanded to separate Karachi from the rest of Pakistan if the public mandate of his party was not acceptable to the "establishment.' Hussain's party later clarified saying it was taken out of context. " MQM, which once started out as a liberal political party that sought to protect the rights of the Urdu speaking people today stands accused of unlawful actions.
The face of MQM has become impossible to differentiate from that of Altaf Hussain as it often happens in political parties dominated by one leader. How long can Karachi continue to be ruled from abroad through video addresses full of histrionics?
Analyst and writer from Karachi Ali K. Chisti, disagrees that MQM can be held responsible for the lawlessness of Karachi, "The common perception that MQM is behind the violence in Karachi is not true because of the various dynamics owing to different demographic changes witnessed in the last five years. Out of the 11,000 people killed in Karachi in the last five years, only twenty two percent had any political affiliation." He is bull's eye pointing out the changing demographics of Karachi, now the second largest city housing people from northern areas. Fight for economic resources is a bone of contention. Controlling the city of Port Qasim is too attractive a deal.
Things have changed for MQM over time. Being in power from 2002 to 2012 it has been accused of violence and extra-legal actions. It now faces being given a taste of its own medicine. With an increasing Pashtun population in Karachi, ingress of Taliban was not unpredictable. Recent months saw them hitting hard at their sectarian and ethnic opponents. Case to point is the recent murder of MQM MPA Sajid Qureshi and his son, shot dead in North Nazimabad, Karachi. Though there is yet no proof as to who killed him, yet it will be foolish to even speculate whoever did so is not strong enough to take MQM on. Politics of terrorism beget politics of terrorism. The chicken has indeed come home to roost!
Karachi is a melting pot of people hailing from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It boasts a population of 25 to 27 million. "As compared to this massive population it has a police force based on 34000 as compared to 67000 for Lahore," says Chisti. Interestingly, in its verdict on taking of suo mote notice for lawlessness in Karachi, in October 2011, the Supreme Court, in its judgment stated that some criminal groups had political backing and that they had become part of political parties. The Chief Justice also stated that he was informed by Inspector General (IG) of Police that 40% of the police officials had been recruited on political grounds. The verdict had also highlighted that in 1992 operation clean up was launched against MQM, the police had played an active role, following this, 92 police officers/officials disappeared and to date, there is no clue of their whereabouts nor is it known that by whom, and under whose patronage, such persons were abducted and/or killed.
Killings by "Na-maloom Afraad" (unknown persons) have become synonymous with Karachi murders. Karachi seems to be operated by a switch. Strikes, kidnappings, returning to "normal," all turned on and off at the touch of that unseen switch.
Sophisticated weapons are a part of the life in Karachi. They are smuggled in from Afghanistan through Quetta and onward to destination Karachi. They've included 8mm and 9mm calibre pistols of the US and they've included weapons from Israel. People are armed and ready to kill. According to an official report compiled by the joint investigation team (JIT) of all key government agencies, "Most of the target killers belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), MQM-Haqqiqi, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Muhammad, Awami National Party (ANP) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan." (PULSE September 16, 2011)
Where does one go from here? MQM holding fort in Karachi, Altaf Hussain, comfortably ensconced in London, PTI making its debut in the city post 2013 elections, change in paradigm; the emergence of Taliban in Karachi. Then there is the presence of smaller religious and ethnic parties. Things just couldn't get worse. Karachi; a city where scores are settled with power of bullet. The answer has to come in form of a political settlement from within. De-weaponising Karachi is not enough. Reigning in the violent within its ranks by political parties is not enough. Not inducting police force through political pressure is not enough. The political parties and the army will have to come together on one page and agree upon a strategy to deal with the issue rearing its head like an ugly serpent, not just in Karachi but in other provincial cities as well. They will have to take some hard decisions if the issues are to be resolved; is banning other outfits, nonetheless operating clandestinely, without crackdowns and ultimately rooting them out, enough? Is allowing Karachi to become an international playground for vested interests with nefarious groups as "front men' acceptable? Is supporting "favored proxies' in the interest of Pakistan? Are "talks' with Taliban depending upon whims of Taliban (blowing hot and cold) a good strategy? Any dialogue must be based on reducing their ability to create havoc and reduction of their ability to influence ideologically. If there is a well-grounded plan, it is certainly well protected. In the meanwhile these attacks are expected to intensify. The terrorism inflicted upon Pakistan is not localized to one area. It has different faces and has infiltrated our system. The core issue facing Pakistan is the same; support of vested interests for various religious & ethnic parties and non-state actors in Pakistan leading to destabilization.
Who is going to make an Anti-terrorism strategy and when?
The killers are like a many headed serpent; the Hydra in Greek Mythology. The Hydra is a serpent with numerous heads, nine being the number often quoted. It was said as soon as one head was cut, it grew another. A famous quote states even Hercules' alone could not fight Hydra. He needed help to cauterize the beheaded stumps, but one head of Hydra was immortal and had to be buried alive.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, "A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.'