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A new front?

January 18, 2013

THE killing of MQM provincial lawmaker Manzar Imam in Karachi on Thursday sent a wave of fear across the metropolis as well as other cities in Sindh, as life came to a complete halt, with business and educational activities suspended on Friday. This is the second Muttahida MPA to be killed in this government’s tenure. Earlier, lawmaker Raza Haider was gunned down in 2010. Following that episode the city saw a prolonged orgy of violence in which nearly 100 people, mostly belonging to one ethnic community, were killed. Though there was widespread panic this time around, violence was, fortunately, muted compared to past incidents. The TTP has claimed the killing, while reports indicate that Manzar Imam was on Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s ‘hit list’.

The legislator’s murder reveals the inability of the law enforcement apparatus to control the relentless plague of targeted killings in the metropolis. If a serving lawmaker travelling with a police escort is not safe from the assassin’s bullet, what is the common citizen to do to protect himself? Secondly, it appears that the TTP is emerging as a major player in Karachi’s toxic, violent power game. The militant group has made its aversion to the MQM quite clear in the recent past, while elsewhere in the country the outfit has also assassinated ANP leaders, the most recent victim being Bashir Bilour. While sectarian, ethnic and political militants have long been active in the city, the TTP’s entry into the game, specifically to target political forces, is a highly disturbing development. There is a dire need for Karachi’s major political forces, including the MQM, PPP and ANP, to set aside their political differences and close ranks to put up a united front against urban religious militancy. All parties are believed to harbour militant wings and to often use these to display street power or win turf wars. However, such a situation is not sustainable. Now confronted with a common, and more ruthless, enemy, political forces with stakes in Karachi need to use the democratic and legal tools at their disposal to prevent the spread of religious militancy in the city.