Political pains and Karachi

One would think that at a time as critical as this in the country’s bloody history of ethnic and political warfare, as far as commercial hub Karachi is concerned, our political players would be forced to get their act together and rise up to meet the challenge. However, staying true to form, our politicians have not only further brought their vocation into disrepute, they have depreciated parliament where their latest tirade took place.

In a session of the National Assembly on Thursday, that was specifically convened to address the devastating situation in Karachi, political giants PPP and PML-N used the floor to score biting points against each other. Launching attacks and counter-attacks against the leadership of each other’s parties and their respective treatment of the judiciary, it seemed as though Karachi was the last thing on the minds of the elected government and its opposition.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has stated that a staggering 800 people have been gunned down in Karachi this year, with 300 killed in July alone. Shame on the torchbearers of democracy then who cannot seem to lift themselves out of their petty squabbles while the country’s most important city burns.Meanwhile MQM chief Altaf Hussain seems to have gotten a whiff of the discontent that has raised its head after his call to the army to come in and “deweaponise” the city. Added to his irresponsible remarks were the statements that came from an MQM MNA about how Sindhis and the Baloch used to polish Hindu shoes before partition and one understands why the Awami Tehreek observed a partial strike on Friday and is calling for full shutter-down protests in the days to come.

No wonder then that Mr Hussain has apologised to any Sindhi nationalists that may have been offended by his and his party member’s words. However, one does wonder at the irony of Altaf Hussain’s call to the army as it would come as no surprise to anyone that if a serious operation for deweaponisation were to be undertaken, the MQM might have to surrender plenty of the muscle it has been flexing in recent days.

The fact remains that Karachi is home to a turf war that has been seeing it bleed since the mid-1980s. Mr Hussain must really have a thorn in his side if he has cried out to the army for help. The PPP’s Zulfiqar Mirza has been meeting Afaq Ahmed, the leader of the MQM-Haqiqi, and has called him the “real” leader of the MQM. Now this could very well be seen by Mr Hussain as a prelude to the PPP siding with the MQM (H), a faction that has clashed violently and relentlessly with the MQM. Add to this the fact that the ANP is a party representing the growing Pashtun demographic shift in Karachi and Altaf Hussain may feel as though he is being backed into a corner.

History is witness to the fact that calling in the army in Pakistan holds little reward and high risks. The military is a blunt weapon in the context of urban warfare. Its deployment in a complicated situation like Karachi runs the risk of high collateral damage, thereby exacerbating the problem rather than producing a solution. Besides, the deployment of the military to try and resolve political problems, more often than not, tends to lead to the military’s intervention in the politics of the country. It is therefore imperative that the law enforcement agencies be allowed to do their job without interference.

Although it has been said umpteen times before, a political solution combined with fearless law enforcement is mandatory to see an end to the bloodbath in Karachi. For that our politicos will have to refrain from petty politics and step up to rid Karachi of its ethnic/political strife. – Dailytimes