Facts on ground in Karachi

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The mon­ster of ter­ror­ism that stalks the streets of Karachi has many faces - he may be a tar­get killer, hired as­sas­sin, street-mug­ger, life-threat­en­ing ex­tor­tion­ist, sec­tar­ian fa­natic or sim­ply a for­eign-funded sabo­teur. But what­ever be the mo­tive be­hind his ac­tion the end re­sult is dis­rup­tion of life in the mega-city that feeds in­se­cu­rity and neg­a­tively im­pacts the city’s so­ciopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tempo and in cases of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in­vites more vi­o­lence. How the city ac­quired this un­en­vi­able distinc­tion there is a his­tory to it, and fin­gers can be pointed in many di­rec­tions. But what gets the max­i­mum fin­ger-point­ing is the city po­lice force, both as a law-en­force­ment agency and as a pros­e­cu­tion wing of the ju­di­cial sys­tem. That the spe­cial public pros­e­cu­tor in the Bal­dia Town fac­tory fire, Shazia Han­jra, has re­signed protest­ing non-co-op­er­a­tive at­ti­tude of the con­cerned po­lice of­fi­cer is a sar­donic com­ment on the du­bi­ous role of the city po­lice in main­tain­ing law and or­der. The sad coda is that bar­ring a few of­fi­cials the Karachi po­lice is deeply politi­cised. Even if one may not be greatly im­pressed by the find­ings of the joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion team in the Bal­dia tragedy it is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept that two years on the trial of the ac­cused is nei­ther here nor there. But for this curse be­ing en­demic among the Karachi po­lice, Army Chief Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif would not have re­marked that “po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency could not gen­er­ate apo­lit­i­cal re­sponse”. How­ever, things are on the move in Karachi - the Rangers have made sig­nif­i­cant gains against the crim­i­nals, of all colours and creeds and its anti-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tion will re­main in force till com­plete restora­tion of peace and nor­mal­ity, and for this to hap­pen the army chief said the army would “go to any ex­tent”.

If our his­tory is any guide, it would be sen­si­ble on the part of the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to wake up to Gen­eral Sharif’s warn­ing that the Karachi op­er­a­tion would con­tinue “with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion, against all crim­i­nals ir­re­spec­tive of their eth­nic, po­lit­i­cal, re­li­gious and sec­tar­ian af­fil­i­a­tions”. It’s good to know that un­der­world mafias and crim­i­nal gangs are on the run and po­lit­i­cal par­ties ap­pear amenable to jet­ti­son­ing their foot sol­diers. How­ever, the oth­er­wise pro­scribed re­li­gious and sec­tar­ian ex­trem­ist out­fits that now op­er­ate un­der changed names re­main de­fi­ant. With only a few ex­cep­tions, most of the vi­o­lence and car­nage in towns and cities is the prod­uct of th­ese re­li­gious groups and par­ties. And, no less iron­i­cally, their lead­ers are free to go around, unchecked by the au­thor­i­ties, and in­cite vi­o­lence, jus­tify their cause, wrongly, as glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Is­lam. One may or may not agree with their dec­la­ra­tions but what one finds ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able is vi­o­lence and may­hem that they com­mit in the name of Is­lam. The fact is that of some 58 Mus­lim coun­tries Pak­istan is the sole ex­cep­tion where such sec­tar­ian-based par­ties and groups op­er­ate, unchecked be­cause they ‘preach’ Is­lam or have ‘free­dom of ex­pres­sion’ un­der the con­sti­tu­tion. Is it that our sec­tar­ian shamans un­der­stand Is­lam bet­ter than their coun­ter­parts in other Mus­lim coun­tries? What an irony that those very re­li­gious par­ties and groups who op­posed cre­ation of Pak­istan tooth and nail now claim to be sole de­fend­ers of its ide­ol­ogy. Of course, it is not for the armed forces to pro­duce a pro­found counter-ar­gu­ment; they have been tasked to re­store nor­mal­ity by snuff­ing out armed re­sis­tance and they are ac­quit­ting well. But the civil­ian lead­er­ship doesn’t seem to be march­ing in lock­step ac­cord­ingly. Not only has it found it­self in­ad­e­quate to jus­tify the need to amend con­sti­tu­tion in or­der to set up mil­i­tary courts - be­cause, for what­ever rea­sons the nor­mal courts had not been able to pun­ish those who chal­lenged the writ of the state - it has also failed to se­cure co-op­er­a­tion of re­li­gious par­ties in stream­lin­ing the sem­i­nar­ies. Good two months have passed and of the 20-point Na­tional Ac­tion Plan only two points have been im­ple­mented. Is it that the civil­ian set-up is for­feit­ing its right to gov­ern? In this war, time is the essence.

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