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Karachi bleeds

Updated December 27, 2018

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DARKNESS has once again engulfed the city of lights.

Former MQM MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi’s assassination outside his home in Karachi has led to an outpouring of grief, as memories of the worst years for Karachi return, when bomb blasts, targeted killings, gang warfare, sectarian murders and crime had become the norm. CCTV footage showed two men speeding towards his car as he was entering his home, firing several rounds at him. He had no security on him.

The killing is an ugly reminder of how uncertain and brief peace can be in Pakistan’s economic hub.

In the past few years, the city had slowly bounced back to life. On the same day that Abidi was shot dead, the 1990s rock group Junoon were playing at a long-awaited reunion concert. There has been a return of concerts and festivals for the public that had increasingly become more comfortable staying out late. There was even talk of holding international sport events in Karachi. In the last year and a half, there were practically no citywide shutdowns. Much of the fear that had become a permanent part of the lives of Karachiites had dissolved. But preceding Abidi’s assassination, two PSP activists had been shot dead in an armed attack on the party’s office on Sunday. The police said that around a dozen gunmen on six motorcycles had opened fire on the office before fleeing. Several arrests of MQM-L affiliates have been made recently.

In the chaos that makes up Karachi’s political landscape, with various groups competing for power and resources, it is unlikely we will ever know the full truth of who was behind these killings. But the resurgence of violence in recent times is troubling, especially after a period of peace and what had seemed to be a return to normalcy. It was just last month that the Chinese consulate in Karachi was attacked, resulting in fatalities.

Together, these incidents suggest that the danger is not over and that various groups — sectarian, ethnic and political — may still be trying to make a comeback in order to destabilise the city once again. This must be prevented by the law enforcers, and before those charged with the task of maintaining peace in the city begin to celebrate, a much bigger exercise is required to nab elements that are eager to restart the cycle of violence.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2018