EVEN as the law and order situation in Karachi gets increasingly out of hand — dozens have been killed since the start of the weekend — the reaction to the sectarian violence that has flared up has been as inadequate as the usual response to political violence in the city. When clashes erupt between activists of ethnic or mainstream political parties, those parties let a certain amount of bloodshed take place before they hammer out a deal and then issue instructions to their workers or affiliates to retreat. While that process is taking place, law enforcement appears to be at a complete loss as it sits back, taking only reactive action, and waits for the politicians to sort out the mess. Meanwhile, the interior minister blames mysterious and unnamed external forces. As sectarian clashes now dominate the Karachi hea-dlines, a similar pattern of response — or lack thereof — seems to be emerging.

In this case it is the ulema who are issuing empty platitudes in public while in reality being unable or unwilling to order their followers to stop the bloodbath. Over the weekend the Milli Yakjehti Council met in Islamabad — not in Karachi, where a meeting of this particular organisation, meant to promote cooperation across sects, would have sent a strong signal against sectarian violence. And while it discussed everything from the role of religious parties in Pakistani politics to unity of Muslims across the world to supporting the blasphemy laws, what got lost in all this talk was the carnage taking place in Karachi, which should have been the focus of the meeting. A couple of days later, the interior minister made the rather remarkable assertion that there is no sectarian conflict in Karachi and that the recent clashes are being carried out by “invisible forces”. He said this after another meeting of the ulema — again held in Islamabad.

The upshot of all this is that officials and lead-ers appear to be doing nothing, leaving an ill-equipped, poorly trained and understaffed law-enforcement structure to react to incidents once they have already taken place. Putting in place extraordinary Muharram security arrangements is a necessary step, but that is only a short-term fix. What it will not improve is the fundamental inability of law enforcement to tackle a problem that is simply beyond its scope; even the army is now vulnerable to anti-state groups, and the Rangers have demonstrated that they cannot fill the void created by an undermanned and easily influenced police force. As long as the ulema and the government fail to develop a more lasting political solution, there is only so much any of these organisations can do.

Updated Nov 14, 2012 12:10am

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Comments (9) (Closed)

Nov 14, 2012 09:49am
Rangers and Police dying.
Nov 14, 2012 03:12pm
Why, aren't our agencies ultra smart, they can handle Soviet?
Iftikhar Husain
Nov 14, 2012 12:13pm
Karachi situation is so bad that the crime prevention agencies do not take seriously as it has become routine. A foreign expert can be used to advice our agencies for a possible solution.
Hassan Raza
Nov 14, 2012 03:59pm
untill and unless there would be no political harmony sectarian attacks will remain mysterious.poitical conflicts should be solved politically.Attacking human lives can never be said "Sectarian Attacks".
Nov 14, 2012 01:52pm
AOA, I think that there are some peoples whom are interesting to create such a situation and take advantage from this situation . And All those peoples whom are in government not taking seriously this issue they are just doing numbering game which is harmful for karachi and nor for karachi but for all pakistan.
Nov 14, 2012 03:40pm
Editor did not see comments concerning sectarian clashes having the reason and solution. All is rhetoric.
Nov 14, 2012 05:53am
Rightfully said by you, Milli Yakjehti Council is as indifferent as any other force in the country.... they met in Islamabad and did not bother to discuss the issue... just beating about the bush and some masala for media
Gerry D'Cunha
Nov 14, 2012 11:42am
wherer are the champions of islam? why aren't they coming out on street to condemn the killings in karachi 'muslims killing muslims'. when these hyprocrates can show their strength on anti-islam film, why are they quiet on this matter?
Nov 14, 2012 04:07am
yes it is painful situation of Karachi where many people dead daily. Different political and religious workers are dying daily basis. What are doing rangers and police.