To reboot Karachi
THE Karachi operation was launched two years ago to establish peace in a city torn apart by violence and disorder. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came last year to assess progress made in one year, the general impression was that there was still a lot to be desired. But the pace of action has greatly picked up in recent months. There is no doubt now that this is for real. And seemingly invincible citadels of power and authority are beginning to totter.
So, if there is a likelihood of Karachi being transformed in a meaningful way, what will it look like in the near future? Will it be some kind of a rebirth or a state of paralysis that comes in the wake of serious breaches in a prevailing system of governance? What will be the healing process - socially, politically and bureaucratically?
We do not know if these and similar questions come up when they, the movers and shakers of this operation, meet to plan and to review and to draw the lines for battles that are in the offing. Perhaps these matters of a somewhat societal and philosophical nature are beyond their scope. In that case, who exactly is the keeper of the city's conscience? Who will administer the renovation of its economic, civic and cultural structures?
Considering the turmoil and the confusion that the latest actions initiated under the wings of the Rangers have created, it may be too early to debate the after-effects of the operation and worry about the shape of a ' naya' Karachi. But concerned citizens, who have a vested interest in Karachi's peace and wellbeing, should be more aware of their roles and responsibilities in the present circumstances.
Though I have opted to focus on Karachi, this week's developments also have a bearing on the country's overall security and political situation. A distraction it may be but Imran Khan this week completed a hat-trick when the election tribunal de-seated MNA Siddique Baloch in NA-154 on PTI leader Jahangir Tareen's petition. Before that NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq was de-seated from NA-122. It was in May that Khawaja Saad Rafiq had suffered the same fate in NA-125, though he obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court against the tribunal's decision.
Losing face in this encounter, the PML-N has decided to go for by-elections in the Lodhran (NA-154) and Lahore constituencies rather than seek stay orders from the Supreme Court and has challenged Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen to contest the polls themselves instead of fielding other candidates. The decision on Saad Rafique's seat was deferred because of the railways minister's absence from the country. In any case, confrontation between the PTI and PML-N is building up. It will certainly be a thrilling show.
But the most explosive story of the week was the arrest on Wednesday of Dr Asim Hussain, a close associate of Asif Ali Zardari. The stage for this high-profile arrest was set when raids were conducted by the FIA on a number of government offices in the city to probe cases of corruption against some PPP leaders and a number of high officials.
Still, Dr Asim's arrest by the Rangers has sent alarm bells ringing in the top echelons of PPP. That he was put under preventive detention for 90 days by an anti-terrorism court for allegedly using embezzled funds to finance terrorism has shocked many observers. One measure of the scare that recent investigations and raids have created is that the serving chief secretary of the province is himself on bail that he sought for fear that he might be arrested.
Naturally, the PPP leadership is furious. In addition to the arrest of the former petroleum minister who has been very close to Zardari, an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim on Thursday after the FIA named them in the final investigation reports of a dozen cases pertaining to a multi-billion rupee trade subsidy swindle.
Amin Fahim, incidentally, is very sick and under treatment in London. So much else has happened in many different cases that the position of the PPP's Sindh government is becoming untenable. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah is constantly issuing angry statements to protest that the federal agencies and the Rangers were unlawfully interfering in provincial matters. But he appears to be helpless about it. Apprehensions that after targeting the MQM, the guns would be turned towards the PPP have been validated.
The Karachi operation that was technically launched two years ago was completely transformed after the enforcement of the National Action Plan.