How the Rumor Mills Wreck the Peace of Karachi
By Anila Ali
On December 31st at midday, all of a sudden, my chauffeur came to tell me that sporadic shooting was being heard in some parts of the city. Despite the inconspicuous presence of the Rangers and some troops when I frantically made inquiries from knowledgeable persons whether fighting had broken out in the city I was told that a rumor had mysteriously started circulating that the number 2 in the MQM, Dr. Farooq Sattar, had been assassinated.
When I made further inquiries from other quarters I learned that the rumors were false and some malevolent elements were spreading them to trigger fighting in a city which is slowly returning to normalcy.
A few minutes later, Dr. Farooq Sattar personally appeared on TV channels in Karachi to spite the rumor of his assassination. He appealed to the city’s population to remain calm and peaceful and give no credence to the rumors. I learned from PPP sources that the MQM’s supreme in London had also heard such a rumor but when it was fund to be false he instructed his lieutenants in Karachi to get Dr. Sattar on the TV screens and condemn those who were circulating false rumors.
It is difficult to identify who runs these rumor mills and what is their real gain. On December 30th, when the announcement of the successor of Benazir Bhutto was being announced in Naudero by Asif Ali Zardari, scores of rumors were circulating in the city but the situation returned to normal when her successor in the PPP the nineteen year old, Bilawal to the Bhutto crown was announced by his father. Political analysts have noticed that the succession to the Bhutto political “gaddi” has been accomplished without any bloodshed or fracas. The heir apparent to the “gaddi” is still a student at Oxford but all indications are that like his mother and father, he would like to plunge into the political maelstrom sooner than expected. This would be in line with the political traditions of the Bhutto family. They love power and they can’t allow Pakistan to survive without their leadership. Nevertheless, there are many contenders for the fabulous fortunes of the Bhuttos in their family.
The Bhutto clan has never accounted for the billions of rupees it has amassed over the years. Their income tax payments do not exceed a few hundred dollars and there never has been an official probe into the Bhutto billions and the vast tracks of agricultural land which they possess. Bilawal may have a very difficult time in saving himself from the designs of equally power-hungry and greedy rivals.
The violence that erupted after Benazir’s death was not at all an expression of grief. It was a chance for the have-nots to loot the haves and vent their frustration. Indiscriminate violence has become very common in Karachi. While sitting outside the Aga Khan University Hospital ICU, a family sat in mourning the shooting of their 35-year-old brother who hesitated slightly in handing over his mobile to a thief only to be shot seven times in the intestines. This happened on the night before Benazir’s death. The problem is not that a leader is lost. The leader was the most corrupt leader in the history of Pakistan but the problem lies in the inability of the administration to solve the problems of the poor. Raging, angry and armed young men roamed the streets of Karachi demanding valuables, mobile phones, and cash. That is the state of affairs in Karachi.
Benazir's death was just a way to get back at the society that doesn’t provide the poor with the simplest of utilities.
What was different this time was that the violence affected the posh areas of Karachi which was a clear indication of the protestors’ frustration at their socio-economic state. Young boys stoned shops on 26th street and Zamzama Boulevard. They ransacked any shop they could get into.
Liaquat, a banker and a long time Karachi resident, was driving back from the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Bazaar and a huge boulder was thrown on his car. Several cars were stopped, people were either beaten up or asked to get out and their cars were set ablaze. It has never been so bad in the history of Clifton and Defense. There has been violence in the city but never on 26th Street and Zamzama. To create even more chaos youths in cars on microphones started scaring residents near the 26th Street that there is poison in the water lines and they should not drink any water. This caused disorder and people started calling relatives to save or buy bottled water. If this isn’t terrorism, then what is it? In another eye-witness account, kids aged 12-13 started throwing stones at the telephone mobile shops and looting Razors and other mobiles.
The rangers weren’t visible an where except around the Teen Talwar roundabout. The army was already occupied; the police are a powerless and useless institution. Why weren’t the rangers sent immediately? This reminds one of the inefficiency of the Bush Administration during hurricane Katrina.
Our society has plunged into a deep pit, the night of Benazir’s death showed the barbaric side of our people, it lays dormant, waits for an opportunity and turns savage. This loathsome attitude had nothing to do with Benazir’s death.
The most heartbreaking event was the storming of the Edhi Village Foundation on Karachi highway by 150 armed hooligans. The young vandalized the equipment, beat up the inmates and torched ambulances.
Why would any rational human being want democracy for such an insensitive nation? I strongly urge the military to declare martial law and put an end to the savagery that has engulfed our people. We need to become human beings first and then talk about democracy.