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Dying to live

November 14, 2012

Saturday evening a traumatised friend tried to describe cold blooded murder witnessed at sunset outside his home in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. A young man carrying a piece of cloth on his shoulder was calmly shot in the head and left to die by motorcyclists near Jamia Ahsan-ul-Uloom.

It was couple of days earlier, probably Tuesday night or early morning Wednesday when a contingent of law enforcement agencies had raided Ashraf-ul Madaris in Gulistan-i-Johar; located seven kilometres from Ahsan-ul-Uloom and just a kilometre from the main runway of Karachi’s international airport.

There are conflicting reports, some suggesting that security personnel on an inside tip, came looking for a ‘high value militant’ from Swat visiting Maulana Hakim Akhtar. According to witnesses, ones on guard duty, caught by surprise were quickly overpowered. However, in the ensuing commotion and exchange of fire, the wanted militant slipped away!

True reasons for collapsing law and order may continue to linger, shrouded in Karachi’s thick smog. But the city’s rumour mills continue to work overtime adding to the trepidations and despondency of its residents.

One theory suggests that Thursday’s bomb attack against the Rangers was a sequel to Tuesday night’s raid at Ashraf-ul Madaris, while Saturday’s murders were the result of Thursday’s bomb blast. The Mullah Fazlullah faction claiming responsibility for the bomb attack and the efficiency displayed in the killings in Gulshan added fuel to such rumours.

Some journalists also insist that the ongoing violence was a result of numerous sectarian deaths from Quetta to Gilgit and that finally the militant Shia groups had become fed up and were going for retribution. Partly, that may also be the cause of the mayhem on Karachi streets and then there are those who suggest that the evil acts were being committed by our shadowy agencies – but, who knows.

Karachi is vital to Pakistan’s economy. Even in the worst of circumstances it contributes more then 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP, 73 per cent of income tax and 64 per cent of sales tax revenues. Critical imports and most of the exports, major manufacturing, banking, insurance and stock markets have little option to move elsewhere. Yet the share of Karachi’s young in the armed forces, civil bureaucracy, and even national sports teams continue to decline.

The ethnic and sectarian diversity that was once considered to be Karachi’s splendour may have finally become its curse.

Millions of daily wage workers end up loosing their meagre incomes for every day lost to violence or shutdowns. FBR claims average revenue loss in excess of Rs. 13 billion for each day of closure of trade and industry in Karachi.

Whatever the cause more than a 100 people lost their lives in Karachi during the last one week. Yet the Interior Minister, IGP Sindh and the gullible CCPO would want us to believe that most of these murders were due to some personal enmity.

During the last four years, PPP has either been in coalition with its past political rivals or has maintained a good working relationship except maybe for Jamaat Islami! Still, as per lists maintained at the Peoples Secretariat, 426 PPP activists were killed in Karachi during these past four years. MQM has a long list of its own and so does the ANP, Tehrik Jafria, Sunni Tehrik, Ahl-e-Sunnat wal-Jamaat, MQM–Haqiqi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and not to forget the Police and Rangers!

Trade Unionists claim that the banned religious groups getting assembled under the TTP banner were ruthlessly targeting workers of the Awami National Party for the last few months, trying to take over most of its ward offices in Karachi’s Pushtun neighbourhoods. Some even claim that ANP was on its way out.

According to the news coming out of Lyari, pictures of Mr Zaradari have started to go up again after the withdrawal of cases against several members of the Peoples Amn Committee. Sunni Tehrik is a known ally of Amn Committee, as well as MQM-Haqiqi, while their equally deadly rivals Sipah-e-Sahaba and LeT were known to be close to the Taliban.

While some of the PPP coalition partners have heartlessly milked Karachi for the last 20 years, lately it has shown little mercy itself. Karachi suffers at the hands of extremists, land grabbers, builders, every conceivable mafia, a lack of governance and raining poverty.

Every inch of the city’s skyline has been draped with hoardings and hoarders, and every street converted into a commercial zone with no floor height restrictions for builders.

Still, our television screens glitter with images of catwalks in Islamabad, cine awards in Mumbai, laptops being doled out by Shahbaz Sharif, flowerbeds along boulevards in Lahore, record after record being set in the Guinness Book in Punjab with a ticker running underneath reporting the Chief Minister Sindh’s flying Sunday visit to the city’s business district in South.

With 49 ministers in his cabinet the CM finds no room for a Home Minister after the removal of Zulfiqar Mirza and Manzoor Wassan. But then, he may have Tapidars and Shaikhs to run the province.

All night Saturday, Khyaban-e-Hafiz kept buzzing with Police hooters chasing VIPs going for Khurshid Shah’s daughter’s wedding, while Districts East, West and Malir wept for the dead. Security at sensitive public and military installations went to high alert. However, the DIG Police (East) frankly announced that he did not have enough cops to station at every street or market, suggesting we continue to fend ourselves.

Sunday morning another funeral procession came out of the Edhi Home, inviting more violence and 11 more deaths. Monday’s death toll exceeded Sunday’s number! A far cry from Waziristan or Afghanistan, what possible expectation could the Taliban have from Karachi except extortion or destabilisation of this country? Struck with stoic fatalism many members of the civil society grumble they may not survive this wave of militancy and violence.

However, many share a dying wish, “How could a city that has no factory to manufacture arms or ammunitions never run out of guns and bullets? The city with the highest national literacy rate never runs out of target killers?

How is it possible for every law enforcement officer to fail in checking broad daylight murders, snatchings, extortion, kidnappings, influx of Afghan and other illegal aliens? And finally, why couldn’t the FBR allow just a weeks revenue to be invested in policing and the city’s infrastructure?”


The author is a social activist, a member of Citizens for Democracy and the former Administrator of Karachi.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.