Editorial in Dawn, Karachi
IS Karachi located on a different planet? Does it operate within some dreadful other-world dimension that is simply impossible to comprehend? On Thursday the city again descended into anarchy after the murder of a senior leader of the ANP’s Karachi chapter. Several people lost their lives, vehicles were torched, tyres were burnt and, given the level of intimidation, shopkeepers had no option but to pull down their shutters. True, Karachi is no stranger to such mayhem and its residents have tragically come to expect that violence will flare up from time to time. But this latest round of murder and arson needs to be seen in an entirely different context.
At a time when Pakistan is drowning and millions are going hungry, some elements still see it fit to settle personal scores on the streets of Karachi. Everyone in the country is either worrying about the devastation wreaked by record floods or is aiding the relief operation in one capacity or another. Beyond our borders, the world too is helping out and monitoring the situation with growing concern. From the UN and international lending agencies to the United States and the Arab League, a number of influential global players have made urgent appeals for aid to Pakistan. The misery engulfing the country has made headline news across the world and some foreigners who travelled to the flood zone came back looking genuinely distressed.
All this is lost on those who are, incredibly enough, still focused on eliminating their rivals. It seems they couldn’t care less about the hundreds who have died, those who are dying a slow death and the millions whose lives have been destroyed, perhaps forever. The mindset of such people simply beggars belief: at a time of grave crisis all that matters to them are their political, sectarian and ethnic vendettas. Killers obviously have no heart to begin with but it was hoped that their minders higher up in the hierarchy would rein them in for the time being. Instead, someone somewhere clearly issued orders for an assassination that was bound to spark another cycle of violence.
While Pakistan drowns, Karachi burns yet again. The city has been turned into a parallel universe in which chaos rules and lives are cheap. It is high time the state woke up to the alarming disconnect between Karachi and the rest of the country. The Sindh government is clearly incapable of dousing the fire and as such the response must come from somewhere else. No solution may be in sight right now but one must be found sooner than later.
Karachi’s hydra of violence
Editorial in Daily Times, Lahore
The political rivalry between MQM and ANP is costing Karachi heavily. A little over two weeks after the murder of MQM MPA Raza Haider that led to the killing of about 90 people, Karachi is once again in the grip of unrest. Over a dozen people have been killed and a score injured in violence that ensued after the assassination of the Sindh security chief of ANP Obaidullah Yousafzai on Thursday, sending a stark message that a person in charge of provincial security of the party cannot ensure protection of his own life. The ANP has threatened to quit the coalition government in Sindh if the killers are not arrested within 72 hours, while the MQM has condemned the murder. It appears uncertain if the code of conduct signed earlier this month between the two parties engaged in intense rivalry would be able to calm the situation. Political pacts have little value unless their signatories earnestly pledge to implement them in letter and spirit.
Karachi is home to sizable populations of both Pashtuns and Mohajirs, represented by their respective political parties. Tensions between the two communities have heightened during the tenure of the current coalition government in Sindh, especially after the dissolution of the local governments. The pattern of Obaidullah Yousafzai’s murder is shockingly similar to many of those carried out earlier, followed by widespread violence. Although the police have claimed to have arrested two members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi involved in the MQM MPA’s murder, the root cause of the brewing violence in the city, it has done little to calm sentiments. The latest incident appears more of a tit-for-tat killing. If indeed the proscribed outfits are using the rivalry between the two parties to their advantage, there is an urgent need to renew efforts for reconciliation. It seems that the initiative of the prime minister after Haider Raza’s assassination was not powerful enough to ensure lasting peace as mistrust and resentments have once again reared their ugly heads, exhibited in the brinkmanship of the ANP.
Renunciation of violence and peaceful coexistence is not a luxury; it is the dire need of the hour, because there can be no end to revenge killings. Not only should the ANP and MQM sit together and sort out the real problems, they need to devise a mechanism to prevent tit-for-tat targeted killings. They should take into account the fact that this battle for turf has the potential of throwing the entire country into disarray. Moreover, without the autonomy of the law enforcement agencies from political influence, no impartial investigation and prosecution can be carried out. The two parties need to rise above their partisan considerations and let justice take its course, so that those guilty of creating the mayhem could be duly punished. Without this, targeted killings cannot be tackled. In this atmosphere of mutual mistrust, PPP is eminently placed to mediate between MQM and ANP. It is the senior coalition partner and has not been involved in the current spate of targeted killings. Pakistan can ill afford to allow violence to engulf the metropolis once again at a time when the energies of the leadership should be focused on rescue and relief activities in the biggest natural disaster to hit the country. The prime minister should call both warring parties and urge them to give precedence to national interests over their parochial political ones.