Karachi violence

21 Mar 2011


NEARLY a hundred people have been killed in Karachi over the last two weeks. Is it this city's fate to suffer in silence? Is there no solution to the violence that has torn Karachi apart and which has now reached a level of chaos that is becoming increasingly difficult to decipher? Earlier, it was relatively easy to identify foes and the perpetrators of specific incidents of murder. The finger of blame, not an easy thing to raise publicly in Karachi, could then be pointed in private with considerable surety at one political group or the other. Now the situation is much murkier as 'targeted killings' are being carried out by a wide spectrum of operators, including hardened criminals of little or no ideological or political bent. Ethnicity and sectarianism — call it plain hatred for the other — come into it of course, as do the yearnings of some to check a demographic shift that could undermine their position at the polls. Then there is the lust for power, a 'this is our area' syndrome, that otherwise unempowered citizens find so heady that they can kill real or perceived opponents to achieve their objectives. And let's not forget the land mafia. Karachi, despite its myriad problems, is still prime real estate and the fight over grabbing a piece of the pie is also claiming lives. The last week or so has seen a spike in assassinations that are not readily understood, for they could be attributed to a combination of all these factors.

How long will it be repeated, in print and on television, that Karachi burns again? Somehow sporadic carnage has become an accepted fact of life in the city. People keep score, without much inner reflection, of how many are killed on any given day, almost just as casually as they ask passers-by about the latest from the cricket World Cup. Such desensitisation does not bode well for the future. True, most people have no choice but to get on with it, to get to their workplaces every day and earn a livelihood come what may. But the psychological scars of this relentless exposure to, and tacit acceptance of, violence will only become more engraved over time.

It is time for all groups that claim ownership of Karachi to come together and end this madness. What has become 'normal' is unacceptable and the blame game that dominates life in Karachi cannot provide any solutions. Genuine grievances need to be aired around a table, not through guns or — in a new twist to an already deadly situation — hand grenades. Our elected representatives must restore the rule of law.