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Dying to live


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Saturday evening a traumatised friend tried to describe cold blooded murder witnessed at sunset outside his home in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. A young man carrying a piece of cloth on his shoulder was calmly shot in the head and left to die by motorcyclists near Jamia Ahsan-ul-Uloom.

It was couple of days earlier, probably Tuesday night or early morning Wednesday when a contingent of law enforcement agencies had raided Ashraf-ul Madaris in Gulistan-i-Johar; located seven kilometres from Ahsan-ul-Uloom and just a kilometre from the main runway of Karachi’s international airport.

There are conflicting reports, some suggesting that security personnel on an inside tip, came looking for a ‘high value militant’ from Swat visiting Maulana Hakim Akhtar. According to witnesses, ones on guard duty, caught by surprise were quickly overpowered. However, in the ensuing commotion and exchange of fire, the wanted militant slipped away!

True reasons for collapsing law and order may continue to linger, shrouded in Karachi’s thick smog. But the city’s rumour mills continue to work overtime adding to the trepidations and despondency of its residents.

One theory suggests that Thursday’s bomb attack against the Rangers was a sequel to Tuesday night’s raid at Ashraf-ul Madaris, while Saturday’s murders were the result of Thursday’s bomb blast. The Mullah Fazlullah faction claiming responsibility for the bomb attack and the efficiency displayed in the killings in Gulshan added fuel to such rumours.

Some journalists also insist that the ongoing violence was a result of numerous sectarian deaths from Quetta to Gilgit and that finally the militant Shia groups had become fed up and were going for retribution. Partly, that may also be the cause of the mayhem on Karachi streets and then there are those who suggest that the evil acts were being committed by our shadowy agencies – but, who knows.

Karachi is vital to Pakistan’s economy. Even in the worst of circumstances it contributes more then 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP, 73 per cent of income tax and 64 per cent of sales tax revenues. Critical imports and most of the exports, major manufacturing, banking, insurance and stock markets have little option to move elsewhere. Yet the share of Karachi’s young in the armed forces, civil bureaucracy, and even national sports teams continue to decline.

The ethnic and sectarian diversity that was once considered to be Karachi’s splendour may have finally become its curse.

Millions of daily wage workers end up loosing their meagre incomes for every day lost to violence or shutdowns. FBR claims average revenue loss in excess of Rs. 13 billion for each day of closure of trade and industry in Karachi.

Whatever the cause more than a 100 people lost their lives in Karachi during the last one week. Yet the Interior Minister, IGP Sindh and the gullible CCPO would want us to believe that most of these murders were due to some personal enmity.

During the last four years, PPP has either been in coalition with its past political rivals or has maintained a good working relationship except maybe for Jamaat Islami! Still, as per lists maintained at the Peoples Secretariat, 426 PPP activists were killed in Karachi during these past four years. MQM has a long list of its own and so does the ANP, Tehrik Jafria, Sunni Tehrik, Ahl-e-Sunnat wal-Jamaat, MQM–Haqiqi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and not to forget the Police and Rangers!

Trade Unionists claim that the banned religious groups getting assembled under the TTP banner were ruthlessly targeting workers of the Awami National Party for the last few months, trying to take over most of its ward offices in Karachi’s Pushtun neighbourhoods. Some even claim that ANP was on its way out.

According to the news coming out of Lyari, pictures of Mr Zaradari have started to go up again after the withdrawal of cases against several members of the Peoples Amn Committee. Sunni Tehrik is a known ally of Amn Committee, as well as MQM-Haqiqi, while their equally deadly rivals Sipah-e-Sahaba and LeT were known to be close to the Taliban.

While some of the PPP coalition partners have heartlessly milked Karachi for the last 20 years, lately it has shown little mercy itself. Karachi suffers at the hands of extremists, land grabbers, builders, every conceivable mafia, a lack of governance and raining poverty.

Every inch of the city’s skyline has been draped with hoardings and hoarders, and every street converted into a commercial zone with no floor height restrictions for builders.

Still, our television screens glitter with images of catwalks in Islamabad, cine awards in Mumbai, laptops being doled out by Shahbaz Sharif, flowerbeds along boulevards in Lahore, record after record being set in the Guinness Book in Punjab with a ticker running underneath reporting the Chief Minister Sindh’s flying Sunday visit to the city’s business district in South.

With 49 ministers in his cabinet the CM finds no room for a Home Minister after the removal of Zulfiqar Mirza and Manzoor Wassan. But then, he may have Tapidars and Shaikhs to run the province.

All night Saturday, Khyaban-e-Hafiz kept buzzing with Police hooters chasing VIPs going for Khurshid Shah’s daughter’s wedding, while Districts East, West and Malir wept for the dead. Security at sensitive public and military installations went to high alert. However, the DIG Police (East) frankly announced that he did not have enough cops to station at every street or market, suggesting we continue to fend ourselves.

Sunday morning another funeral procession came out of the Edhi Home, inviting more violence and 11 more deaths. Monday’s death toll exceeded Sunday’s number! A far cry from Waziristan or Afghanistan, what possible expectation could the Taliban have from Karachi except extortion or destabilisation of this country? Struck with stoic fatalism many members of the civil society grumble they may not survive this wave of militancy and violence.

However, many share a dying wish, “How could a city that has no factory to manufacture arms or ammunitions never run out of guns and bullets? The city with the highest national literacy rate never runs out of target killers?

How is it possible for every law enforcement officer to fail in checking broad daylight murders, snatchings, extortion, kidnappings, influx of Afghan and other illegal aliens? And finally, why couldn’t the FBR allow just a weeks revenue to be invested in policing and the city’s infrastructure?”


The author is a social activist, a member of Citizens for Democracy and the former Administrator of Karachi.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Fahim Zaman Khan is a former Administrator of Karachi City, currently working with the Dawn Media Group. He also heads Dawn's post-2005 earthquake relief efforts in Chitral.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (25) Closed

manomoni Nov 15, 2012 01:40am
It is hard to believe that the country boasts one of the finest army and most feared intelligence agency could not control law and order in a city...
Adil Jadoon Nov 14, 2012 02:59pm
It is not its diversity but the lack of law and order and the lack of interest from the government that is to blame.
Yawar Nov 15, 2012 01:21am
Without deweaponization of Karachi, peace cannot be achieved. All weapons, licensed and unlicensed, should be turned in. After that, the only people carrying weapons in Karachi should be the police and rangers. Anyone else caught with a weapon, regardless of his position in government, or party affiliation, or religious affiliation, should be flogged in public and serve a mandatory 2-year sentence in jail.
Ahmer Nov 15, 2012 05:46am
The ethnic balance of Karachi was disturbed from late 1970s onwards. The peace will remain a distance dream till that is restored.
Asif Nov 15, 2012 12:53am
Islam is almost non-existant in Pakistan
Ndelhi Nov 15, 2012 08:22am
Well Mikal, if Islam is undergoing transformation as a natural process of evolution than lets not lament or police it or try to stop it !! let it continue and let more pakistanis die for islamic trasformation... OR learn from christainity experience and instead of transforming by voilence transform through dialogue . You are in 21st century and not in medival age & their is no pride or solace in comparing to transformation of christanity.
Mikal Nov 14, 2012 03:19pm
Your Statement is quite offensive. Indeed, Islam is a younger religion that that of Christianity and is experiencing a similar evolutionary period as Christianity during the Medieval era where churches exploited populations and literally 'put the fear of god' into them. Not only this, the Spanish Inquisition, the corruptness and subsequent moral collapse of the Vatican and other examples serve to show that one can say Christianity is equally as violent a religion as Islam. Islam is merely experiencing this stage of evolution, it would unwise to pass judgement upon it from one simple phase.
Dawn Reader Nov 14, 2012 04:06pm
A very insightful review of what ails Karachi. One has to invest significantly more in law and order to a level necessary for a mega-city. At the same time one has to recognize that Karachi's fate is not much different from Sao Paulo in Brazil and several similar cities in Mexico where armed gangs have been ruling the streets for years. Random urban violence is an unwelcome development in large cities resulting from rapid urbanization of disunited groups who have not lived in close proximity in the past.
Adil Jadoon Nov 14, 2012 03:02pm
People in Karachi are responsible for their own government, I do not choose for them. Let them choose wisely in the next election rather then voting for PPP, MQM and ANP. You will get what you vote for.
Adil Jadoon Nov 14, 2012 03:01pm
Dont confuse religion with criminal activity and murder, unless of course your intention was to expose your prejudice.
khanm Nov 14, 2012 12:45pm
Only strong political will and sincere efforts can save this city. the city is torn up between agencies, political parties, religious sects, mafias, land grabbers. etc etc. under whoes patronage they survive that remains to be revealed. The only truth will set us free......
Gerry D'Cunha Nov 14, 2012 11:51am
the world is laughing at the situation in pakistan, especially karachi and ask question 'is islam really a peaceful and tolerance religion?
AHA Nov 14, 2012 11:40am
"Even in the worst of circumstances it (Karachi) contributes more then 40 per cent of the nation
Omar Nov 14, 2012 05:28pm
In other words the government has FAILED to do it's duty. PPP/MQM/ANP should be pit on trial and given exemplary punishment.
sbb Nov 14, 2012 07:07pm
Your city (Karachi) had Hindus, Muslims, Sindhis, Shias, Sunnis, etc. as it's citizens when you inherited it. Today, the Hindus and most of the Sindhis have been killed off or driven away. Did you think that it would simply stop at that? Were you that naive?
KJU Nov 14, 2012 09:20pm
Dear Gerry, We understand your concern, which is based on media reports only. Islam is just a by-stander in the city where wolves of different color eat up the hard-working, intelligent and productive masses of the city. The public at large have a huge tolerance for all cultural, ethnic and religious groups, but the vested interests of the coalition partners create an atmosphere of fear and hatred. Things would have been very nice and smooth if all follow Islam in letter and spirit.
Cyrus Howell Nov 15, 2012 05:33pm
That is more accurate.
Cyrus Howell Nov 15, 2012 05:33pm
The Public has a huge tolerance for crime and violence.
Cyrus Howell Nov 15, 2012 05:31pm
Comparing Christianity to Islam is really off the point. Then there were the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Monte Python, the Franco- Prussian War, the Great War, Nazis, Cold War, Vietnam, ad nauseum. "The Muslim Spin".
Azeem Nov 14, 2012 10:21pm
very well written. Being from Karachi, living abroad i feel so so bad about the situation in KHI. I could only wish that there will be a day when we proudly return to KHI and see the beauty of this city again. I personally think the biggest problem is, as mentioned by you in the last line of this para: "Karachi is vital to Pakistan
AHA Nov 15, 2012 11:56am
Yes, Christianity went through its period of pain and agony during the Medieval era. But Christianity did not change, people did. They downsized the influence of their religion in their lives. This led them to create a humane and just social order that was never possible under the religion based government of the Medieval era. I just do not see us getting there.
AHA Nov 15, 2012 12:00pm
Sweet dreams......
Cyrus Howell Nov 15, 2012 05:18pm
Cyrus Howell Nov 15, 2012 04:58pm
In this case he may have been killed for informing to the police. Curiosity killed the cat.
ComparativeReligionStudent Nov 16, 2012 06:49am
Yes it is. And compared to all other religions Islam is the most peaceful and tolerant religion,