KARACHI: In a speech marked by a discernible reduction of bellicosity, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain said on Wednesday that the Army and the Rangers be deployed in Karachi on a full-time basis to stop it from frequently descending into violence.
Mr Hussain set alarm bells ringing late on Tuesday night when he asked the beleaguered people of Karachi — where more than 300 people were killed last month alone — to stock up on ration for at least a month. He said the people must do that even if they had to sell valuables.
That the major portion of the Wednesday speech by the MQM chief was in English indicated that he sought to address the international audience in addition to his party’s senior leaders and general workers at the Lal Qila ground in Azizabad.
This impression was strengthened by a statement issued by British Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt after speaking to Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad over the phone.
Mr Burt expressed his concern “at the continuing violence and loss of life that Karachi has faced in recent weeks”.
He said: “I warned that inflammatory statements from any political party risked making the situation worse and that all political leaders and their parties have a duty to refrain from inciting violence and to reduce tensions and restore calm.
“Our Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi, Francis Campbell, has met representatives of all main political parties in Karachi to encourage them to work towards stability in Karachi and the wider region. I have asked my officials to reiterate these
points directly with the leadership of the MQM and to discuss our concerns.”
While Mr Hussain may have refrained from issuing dark warnings on Wednesday, he was no less impassioned in his appeal for a durable peace in the city. “The Rangers and the Army should come to Karachi and see who is involved in terrorism. They should control the law and order situation here.”
Blaming the government for a frequent breakdown of law and order in Karachi, he said he would ask the president and the prime minister and the chief minister of Sindh to stop “official patronisation of the Lyari gang, land mafia and criminal elements”.
Mr Hussain said that the MQM was wrongly blamed from time to time for violence in Karachi. He argued that the law and order issue existed even before the emergence of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, which was later renamed as the Muttahida Qaumi
He said there was no MQM in 1964, but the people of Karachi were punished for supporting Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the Quaid-i-Azam, in the presidential election against Gen Ayub Khan.