WHILE the unfortunate city of Karachi bleeds, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has blamed a third force for the target killings not only to destabilize the city but the country as well. The Minister for obvious reasons did not name the third force yet it is no secret that it is India which is systematically destabilizing Pakistan through acts of terrorism not only in Karachi but in FATA and Balochistan as well.
The Interior Minister who dashed to Karachi on the directive of the Prime Minister as the situation deteriorated said the third force is exploiting the on-going verbal spat between political parties. We strongly believe that time has come that Mr Malik call a spade a spade and publicly present the proof of those behind the senseless killings in the industrial and commercial hub of the country. The Karachi city police Chief Fayyaz Leghari has also stated that he can’t say the recent targeted killings were carried out for political or ethnic reasons. There should be no doubt in any body’s mind that innocent citizens including political workers of all the parties are being killed to aggravate the situation to the advantage of those behind the conspiracy. It is satisfying that the top leadership of MQM and ANP have directed their leaders not to issue statements blaming each other for killings as that would further heat up the temperature while need of the time is to deal with it with cool mindedness and cooperation. The situation we think can be brought under control only when all the religious and political parties join hands so that those behind the killings could be brought to justice irrespective of their political affiliations. Karachi is a unique city where people belonging to every ethnicity live and earn their livings and maintaining peace and harmony there is of utmost most importance. There is a possibility that some people might be using the umbrella of political parties to carry out the brutal acts. Therefore it was a good move by the Interior Minister to meet the leaders of religious parties, MQM and others taking them into confidence that action against the lawbreakers would not mean political victimisation but to restore peace in the mega city. There are certain motives behind repeated occurrence of targeted killings, which need to be thoroughly examined and remedial measures taken to ensure lasting peace. This would only be possible if all the stakeholders extend a helping hand to the Government and the law enforcing agencies. To address concerns of political parties, we would propose that a committee comprising their representatives be formed which should extend support to the law enforcement agencies in carrying out their search operations and actions against those behind target killings and foil the designs of the third force.
Hand-over Karachi to the Army
The law and order situation and social peace, which was already precarious in Karachi, now with the target killing of GEO reporter Wali Khan Babar, has reached a saturation point. In addition to this deliberate brutal murder, several other citizens were also murdered today. The lives of these slain citizens are as precious as those of the prime minister and president of Pakistan The GEO’s Ace and promising youthful reporter was known for his valor, deep dedication and passion for journalistic profession and hard work. He was merely 28 and was yet to see many springs in his life. His life was cut short by death squads rampaging and targeting the opponents and all and sundry at their own bidding without check.
A volatile province whose interior minister has the audacity to publically claim that “we are creating all this mayhem” and still remains in the high office because he is a close friend of the head of the state of Pakistan. It is a brazen slap on the face of the civil society. How can he be serious about maintaining peace and curb proliferating lawlessness when he claims to be one of those shooting at random? The government in power, like other burning issues, has kept this most pressing and endemic issue of restoring order and peace in Karachi on the back burner. It has been stalling to seize this overly critical problem because its own stalwarts are part of the gang wars now spreading like a prairie fire. It is easy to issue condolence messages on the spur of the moment and forget the follow up actions when the heat and inflamed passions settle down.
The restoration of societal peace in Karachi is of paramount importance for its being the largest city and also the lifeline and jugular vein for the economy of the entire country. If its economy is choked and business activities, industries and port are either closed or run by fits and starts, then Pakistan is heading towards a total economic collapse. The government is reluctant to hand over the task of restoring peace in Karachi to the army under the fear that it would pave way for the army’s take over. It would also be perceived as the government’s failure to provide safety and security to the life and property and other activities to the people of Pakistan. This is pure treachery and reprehensible self interest and a sordid bid for survival in power at an unforgivable cost of the unremitting orgy of blood of the citizens of Pakistan.
Even a child knows that Karachi has become a battlefield of the ethnic war being fought between three distinct communities, Muhajirs, the Pathans and the other fringe segments such as Punjabis, Baluchis and radical religious militants. The immigrants whose majority is illegal play their part by stoking the violence as paid agents. However, the main confrontation is between the Muhajirs and Pathans. Muhajirs who came to Pakistan after partition of India in 1947and mostly settled in Karachi. The Pathans mostly economic workers came to Karachi for jobs and to earn a living. Initially they were peaceful. But later as a result of the Afghan civil war, the suburban localities where these Pushto speaking normally lived turned into flourishing markets for drug and weapons trade both for domestic consumption and illicit export.
The influential drug dealers started settling down in down town Karachi by buying businesses and property. They were joined by a huge influx of the Afghan refugees who also engaged in lucrative legal and illegal pursuits for making money. For drug dealers and weapon sellers, human life has no significance. The tragedy is that these monstrous elemens are backed and protected by politicians, bureaucrats and highly influential persons from other walks of life as they also get hefty shares from these unlawful and contraband businesses. The Muhajirs initially swallowed this bizarre situation but when it started threatening and undermining their survival and ethnic solidarity they came out to stand up and face them in a tit for tat violent style. In due course they also organised and mobilized their own cadres to fight back and settle the scores for blood with blood. Both the communities have been engaged in attacks and counterattacks since 1984 when Altaf Hussain established the Muhajir Qaumi Movement later renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The MQM has been accused of kidnapping and killing for ransom, target shooting and ambushing and torturing the dissidents from their own party. But usually the MQM’s such activities can be treated as retaliation or reprisals to the atrocities its cadres are subjected to. There are common yet unsubstantiated accusations against the MQM for taking Bhatta (extortion money) from the shopkeepers. Before an open civil war breaks out, the government should move fast to hand over the task of restoring peace in Karachi to the army. The rangers and the police have failed in rooting out the crime and violence from Karachi. Invariably the action by the law enforcement agencies is to cordon the areas after the incidence of crime and then leave after some time. If the criminals, terrorists and sharp shooters are being aided by the politicians then it would be ridiculous and futile to expect of them to sincerely put out the flames of ethnic wars and stamp out deadly feuding.
While the known criminals with incontrovertible evidence can be dealt with by summary trials and face firing squads, those caught as suspects can be kept in custody, interrogated and if proven guilty should be given heavy jail terms or shot depending upon the nature and severity of the crimes. In this military action, no politicians and powerful individuals who incite and abet these criminals should be spared. They should also be given death sentences or incarcerated for their complicity In the meantime, the government should convene all parties conference to hammer out a permanent solution to establish durable peace and order in Karachi particularly and elsewhere generally where, violence and terrorism is rampant and mushrooming by leaps and bounds without any let up.
The writer is a Dallas-based journalist and a former diplomat.