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Govt assailed over violence in Karachi

November 13, 2012

A view of the National Assembly. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: The government came under fire in both the houses of parliament on Monday over the new wave of violence in Karachi, but there was no immediate response to charges from both allies and opponents that the authorities did little against what some saw as rising Talibanisation.

The charges against both the federal and Sindh provincial governments came in speeches on points of order at the start of a winter session of the National Assembly while the Senate, meeting about the same time in its adjacent chamber, saw angry outbursts over both Karachi and Balochistan and a walkout by a government-allied party during a continuing debate over the law and order situation in the country.

More fireworks on the issue are expected in the National Assembly on Tuesday, to which a similar debate carried over from the previous session was deferred because of the absence of Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

“Talibanisation is at its height,” Wasim Akhtar, a member of the government-allied Muttahida Qaumi Movement from Karachi, said in the National Assembly while speaking of what he called worsening situation in Karachi and Hyderabad and appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari to “give some order” as supreme commander and get it implemented.

But in the upper house, Senator Shahi Syed of another government ally, Awami National Party, who led his party’s walkout there to protest at “falling corpses in Karachi”, said Taliban were only five per cent of those engaged in violence in the country’s commercial capital while the remaining 95 per cent were other “criminals”.

Maulana Ataur Rehman of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), who was the first to raise the issue in the National Assembly, accused the authorities of making madressahs in Karachi unsafe by withdrawing security from there and said it was the result this policy that 11 pupils of a madressah were killed overnight.

“Where our ruling class is pushing these youths?” he asked and said: “If this trend continues, these youths will go the other way and there will be turmoil in the country.”

The Maulana, who is a younger brother of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also complained that not so much concern was being shown by the media and authorities over killings of madressah students or religious figures as about attacks like one on Malala Yousufzai, who is now recovering in a British hospital from serious wounds she received in a Taliban-claimed shooting last month that caused an international outrage.

Wasim Akhtar, whose party is a partner of the PPP-led coalition governments at the centre and in Sindh, saw a “comprehensive conspiracy” behind target killings in Karachi and Hyderabad and said nothing was happening to stop the trend while “we are tired of saying it again and again”.

“To whom we should look up to?” he asked. Accusing the authorities of inaction, he said: “We are burying the dead for a week now. Should we come to assemblies or bury the people?”

Sahibzada Fazal Karim, a Sunni religious figure in the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, saw “a conspiracy to make Sunnis and Shias fight each other” as he described Taliban a “running sore” and called for crushing militancy in whatever sect it is found.

He seemed having a dig at the law minister of his own party’s government in Punjab, Rana Sanaullah – once accused of joining a procession of banned sectarian group – saying: “If ministers take out processions with terrorists, then terrorism is bound to spread.”

In the Senate, Kulsoom Parveen of Balochistan National Party-Awami, a government ally, said “nobody was safe today in Balochistan and Karachi” and proposed that both Karachi and Quetta be handed over to the army for at least 10 days during the mourning period of Muharram.

PPP senator and former law minister Babar Awan, sidelined by the party leadership from early this year, spoke of “criminal negligence” by the authorities in both Karachi and Balochistan where he said law-enforcement agencies were doing only “paper work” rather than acting.

“Karachi is slipping away from the hand like sand,” he said raising his right arm and asked: “Is there someone today who can work for peace without regard to political expediency.”

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of the government-allied Pakistan Muslim League-Q, citing his recent visit to Karachi and Quetta as a member of the Senate human rights committee, accused the authorities of not only failing but also showing inefficiency in dealing with the situation in both places where, he said, the government had virtually abdicated its authority.

He talked of “ethnic cleansing” going on Quetta and “free for all” in Balochistan and, while warning that the situation could affect the coming elections, he called for a proactive role by parliament and remedial steps to be taken before that by involving the army and judiciary as well.

With the interior minister absent from both the houses, no other minister stood up to defend the government.

However, it was during the question hour in the National Assembly that parliamentary secretary for interior Rai Mujtaba Kharal cited intelligence reports received by the interior ministry as blaming most of Karachi violence on “rivalries between religious sects and land-mafia connected to political parties”.

He also pointed out that law and order was basically a provincial subject and said the federal government could help in ways like information-sharing.

While the Senate discarded the agenda of its private members’ day to continue the law and order debate, the National Assembly passed a long-pending government bill to give autonomous status by law to the state-run Pakistan Academy of Letter.

The academy was given an autonomous status when it was set up in 1976 through a resolution of the education ministry. But that position could not be sustained under a 1990 Supreme Court judgment.

On behalf of the interior minister, PPP chief whip and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah introduced a bill seeking to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.