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An effective solution needed

August 27, 2011

Relatives mourn during a funeral ceremony for three shooting victims in Karachi on August 19, 2011. – AFP Photo

After making headlines for months, the ghastly political violence in Karachi seems to have taken a breather but for how long no one knows. However, what is apparent is the fact that it brought back memories of trussed up bodies, sounds of automatic gunfire and the reign of terror that became a hallmark of the city in the 90s.

Karachi is a layer cake, with the MQM, PPP, ANP and various gangs vying for an ample share over its resources. Over the years, there has been a demographic shift in Karachi, with this division igniting economic and political problems and leading to the emergence of ethnically homogenous communities where an outsider cannot enter.

The  periods of prolonged violence in Karachi are directly linked to periods of  political confrontation.  Currently, there are very important issues of favourable electoral demarcations for future, local body systems and important portfolios in the cabinet that area at stake. The making and breaking of deals to achieve higher political objectives will decide which political group in the city maintains an upper hand.

Believing whole heartedly in ‘the end justifies the means’, the political parties leave no stone unturned, even if it means engineering violence. The political parties have militant cadres and have interlink ages  with the underworld who unleash violence as and when needed.  Political parties  use their criminal bands  and the underworld as an instrument of violence, terror, intimidation and impunity. The mafia who have a symbiotic relationship with politicians of Karachi in return expand their own business of gun running, drug trafficking and land grabbing.

While the mayhem continues, there is a glaring lack of political will on part of the federal government to address the issue, all the while as it struggles to appease its allies. An indiscriminate operation against groups would alienate them from the government and that is what the government wants to avoid, throwing Karachiites further into the blazing inferno.  In any civilised society, law and order is held supreme but here it is the other way around.

With the news trickling in that 200 Frontier Constabulary (FC) troops have arrived in the city, one wonders how long before lasting peace returns to the city. There is no dearth of security forces in the city. Karachi has over 56,000 law enforcement personnel comprising police along with the Rangers and FC.  But are the law enforcing personnel in the police independent? That simple answer is that they are not. Years of misuse by political actors has turned the police into a politicised force on a tight leash.  In the '90s, the police force led by Shoaib Suddle carried out a successful operation against political terrorism and restored peace. The same is needed now  but the force needs a free hand and a strong will on part of the government.

As for the calls of deploying army in the city. There is no doubt that the  army can  clean up the mess by sorting out the different political patrons in an even handed manner. But the army would fail to  address the underlying complicated political problems which could only be addressed by the politicians. Even in the past, following the military operation of 1992 in Karachi and Sindh, the problems reappeared after a short while.

Of late, an operation in Karachi has finally begun but there are few takers in this activity. When the government is pitted to keep allies on its side, then operations cannot be indiscriminate. What kind of operation was this which could not be launched against the mafia in Lyari when ‘human shields’ came out protesting against the police and the rangers and the police had to return. Your guess is as good as mine.

After making headlines for months, the ghastly political violence in Karachi seems to have taken a breather but for how long no one knows. However, what is apparent is the fact that it brought back memories of trussed up bodies, sounds of automatic gunfire and the reign of terror that became a hallmark of the city in the 90s. 

Karachi is a layer cake, with the MQM, PPP, ANP and various gangs vying for an ample share over its resources. Over the years, there has been a demographic shift in Karachi, with this division igniting economic and political problems and leading to the emergence of ethnically homogenous communities where an outsider cannot enter.

The  periods of prolonged violence in Karachi are directly linked to periods of  political confrontation.  Currently, there are very important issues of favourable electoral demarcations for future, local body systems and important portfolios in the cabinet that area at stake. The making and breaking of deals to achieve higher political objectives will decide which political group in the city maintains an upper hand.

Believing whole heartedly in ‘the end justifies the means’, the political parties leave no stone unturned, even if it means engineering violence. The political parties have militant cadres and have interlink ages  with the underworld who unleash violence as and when needed.  Political parties  use their criminal bands  and the underworld as an instrument of violence, terror, intimidation and impunity. The mafia who have a symbiotic relationship with politicians of Karachi in return expand their own business of gun running, drug trafficking and land grabbing.

While the mayhem continues, there is a glaring lack of political will on part of the federal government to address the issue, all the while as it struggles to appease its allies. An indiscriminate operation against groups would alienate them from the government and that is what the government wants to avoid, throwing Karachiites further into the blazing inferno.  In any civilised society, law and order is held supreme but here it is the other way around.

With the news trickling in that 200 Frontier Constabulary (FC) troops have arrived in the city, one wonders how long before lasting peace returns to the city. There is no dearth of security forces in the city. Karachi has over 56,000 law enforcement personnel comprising police along with the Rangers and FC.  But are the law enforcing personnel in the police independent? That simple answer is that they are not. Years of misuse by political actors has turned the police into a politicised force on a tight leash.  In the '90s, the police force led by Shoaib Suddle carried out a successful operation against political terrorism and restored peace. The same is needed now  but the force needs a free hand and a strong will on part of the government.

As for the calls of deploying army in the city. There is no doubt that the  army can  clean up the mess by sorting out the different political patrons in an even handed manner. But the army would fail to  address the underlying complicated political problems which could only be addressed by the politicians. Even in the past, following the military operation of 1992 in Karachi and Sindh, the problems reappeared after a short while.

Of late, an operation in Karachi has finally begun but there are few takers in this activity. When the government is pitted to keep allies on its side, then operations cannot be indiscriminate. What kind of operation was this which could not be launched against the mafia in Lyari when ‘human shields’ came out protesting against the police and the rangers and the police had to return. Your guess is as good as mine.