Karachi Situation: What Is Lacking?
By Salahudin Haider
Karachi

Why has Karachi, the principal city of Pakistan, sunk into an abyss and creating scare among  those living here? Crucial question. Is lack of coordination or conflict of interests the reason for the disconcerting situation? Difficult to answer but both are destructive in nature and have inflicted colossal damage on life and image of Karachi, the economic engine of the country.

Who, after all, has been behind these Karachi killings? The Supreme Court, grappling with a number of vital issues for the last many months, made a stunning remark by pointing  fingers at the Inspector General of Sindh Police. The fact that he has been on contract seemed annoying to the apex court jurists. Who is in command? The Chief Justice dropped the bomb shell.

The IG Sindh police has been on contract. Then who is giving orders, and who is in charge of the situation. Has the IG been given the contact to kill people?. In January alone, more than 70 souls have perished on Karachi streets, the nation’s biggest judicial forum was aghast by these harrowing facts.  Vital questions that need cool, dispassionate answers.

There has also been an unending tug of war between the federal and the provincial interior ministers. Rehman Malik orders search operation of the suspected areas and even suggests imposing curfew to execute his plans. In came the resistance from the PPP.  An unbalanced statement from the state minister for shipping Nabeel Gabol cost him the coveted position he was holding for the last three years. Not only that. He had to suffer much heavier penalty. He was snubbed by no less a person than President and PPP chief Asif Zardar. Remove the prefix of “sardar” from your name, he was bluntly told and was also ordered to forget the Lyari constituency for contesting elections because Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be aspirant for a national assembly seat from there.  Nabeel is in hiding since sending his resignation to the prime minister. Raids had taken place at his Defense Housing Authority residence, from where a lot of policemen were withdrawn. Nabeel had claimed earlier that he had private guards.

The federal interior minister’s announcement for siege and search operation was a welcome step. It could not however be implemented because the rangers, and police were supposed to carry it out jointly. The police was ignored completely. Rangers took command of the whole operation, and arrested over 600 people. No arms or ammunition, no drug bags were recovered from the locality where the operation was carried out. Arrests were mostly for pillion riding, which the Sindh government on its own had imposed in Karachi for one month. Secondly, rangers were not vested with prosecution authority. They were to hand over those in custody to police for further action. Naturally police reputation is known to every one. They would fill their pockets and let off the people. The whole thing looked funny from the beginning. The operation lacked purpose. It naturally could not yield the desired results and a follow-up of that never was to be seen again.

Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza questioned the authority of the rangers to carry out the operation on their own, reminding the par-military force that although he had signed the operation to vest certain authority in them, the rangers continued to be at the disposal of the provincial government, implying that their action to carry out the operation, either lacked the authority or clearly over stepped the powers given to them. His statement on Thursday was a clear pointer to the tragic state of affairs, that coordination and understanding have been missing from the two most important organs of the government. Rehman Malik, in fact, was never liked by the Sindh government. He is even being detested by the Awami National party chief for Sindh, Shahi Syed. The ANP leader whose credentials are open to question, came to Karachi in chappals and tattered clothes some years ago. Accusations are that he started the land grabbing mafia and became rich overnight, owning property and petrol pumps. He has reportedly sold them now and allegedly repatriated money to foreign accounts. There are also accusations, wild they may appear, but questions are asked as to why these killings started after the arrival of Shahi Syed in Karachi? Personally, I would avoid indulging in rhetoric. It is the job of courts and law experts to find solutions to these important issues

The ANP has asked for the army to carry out operations. Both PPP and MQM, coalition partners in the Sindh government and poles apart, have accused each other of being behind these killings. Irrespective of their correctness, the fact remains that land grabbing and drug trafficking have been a major issue in Karachi and have caused these killings because government lands were, and are, still being illegally occupied. MQM resists these. To say that Karachi is not the sole property of MQM is a bit too harsh a statement. MQM never claimed its propriety rights, not in Karachi, not in Hyderabad, the two major cities from where it has been sweeping elections from the lowest tiers of democratic institutions to the highest. Above all, it has shown to the world that given the resources and the time, it can do wonders, which it has. Karachi and Hyderabad stand completely changed because of the hard labor of their city and tehsil nazims. All that MQM wants is peaceful conditions and an atmosphere to develop the city which is vital for people’s welfare. Altaf Hussain has appealed to people and all political parties to sit together and find a solution to Karachi’s problems. The city’s streets have turned into killing fields. The phenomenon developed over the last one-and-a-half year, needs to be checked now. Such killings cannot be allowed to go on. Some one has to call for an end to them.

The problem is that PPP never believed in transferring power to the lowest strata of democratic institutions. The 1988 and the 1994 Benazir governments had in their manifesto to develop local body institutions and appoint their nazims as governors. That part of the manifesto was never implemented. Even today the PPP wishes to revert to the system of commissionerate in Karachi and Hyderabad and the rest of the province, MQM does not want that and believes in pursuing the system of nazims and town nazims. That question has remained unresolved todate, The prime minister visited 90, the nerve center of MQM, begging votes to save him power, but avoided promising to restore the nazimeen system. He merely dodged the issue by saying that the bill to restore commissioners in Sindh stood deferred.

If killings have to be stopped in Karachi, the blame game must end first, and then all those, including PPP, MQM, ANP, Sunni Tehrik, and others have to sit together and find an amicable solution to a highly ticklish issue. But then illegal activities like land grabbing and drug mafia have to be banished.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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