Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recipe for Peace in Karachi

Upright Opinion
October 20, 2010
Recipe for Peace in Karachi
By Saeed Qureshi
Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan is in the grip of an unremitting carnage. Residents are being killed indiscriminately. The brazen killers and trigger-happy shooters roam with abandon, kill point blank, and move away blithely. The law and order is shattered and social life is virtually paralyzed. People are as frightened as the Jews were during the 12 years (1933-1945) of Nazis’ ethnic cleansing spree before the Second World War in Germany. In Karachi, the movement of the public is strictly hampered and compounded. The city looks like what Delhi presented the gory spectacle after British soldiers ransacked Delhi, killed wantonly, and hanged 35000 residents alone in Delhi.

So one can make a comparison of this spine-chilling situation between Delhi of 1857 and Karachi of 2010. The political players and the government functionaries and even public knows who are responsible for this orgy of human blood. The Defense minister of Sindh audaciously claims that he was the biggest ruffian in the whole of province. He is the first one to be arraigned for his questionable conduct. Since he is the chum of president Zardari he is as safe as moon.
I have seen in the TV footage, corpses of innocent young bystanders and ordinary peddlers and stallholders strewn on the pavements and roadside reminiscent of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. These young boys and old men who were the bread earners of their families became the target of revenge killing.
Karachi as we know has several ethnic groups. These are Mohajars, the Pathans the Afghanis, the local Sindhis besides the minority Balochis, and Makranis. Additionally, there are unaccounted number of foreign immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. This roughly is the demographic complexion of the Karachi’s 20 million population.
Although the three parties namely, MQM, PPP, and ANP are coalition partners in the Sindh government, yet mentally and intrinsically they are hostile towards each other. The MQM considers Karachi as its citadel where bulk of them settled after migrating from India. The ethnic Pathans later joined by Afghans and even Taliban over several decades have been coming to Karachi for economic reasons and have become permanent residents here. Although most of them do small jobs but there are among them who have turned fabulously rich. The Pathan community has also gained political leverage and their candidates are elected in the local or federal elections. The Sindhis are dominant in the sense of being the sons of the soil and lay first claim to power sharing and economic bounties.
As such a simmering tussle and smoldering competition for power, pelf, and over-lordship is always running overtly and overtly between these groups. This cutthroat race spills over to physical elimination of the rivals as we can witness in Mexico where drug mafias and street gangs war against each round the year. Karachi’s extremely fragile, paralyzed breakdown of law and order and perpetual warring can be equated to some extent with Mexico’s border areas, although for different reasons.
Now how can this appalling situation be drastically curbed? The government both at the centre and at province is wary and opposed to handing Karachi over to the army control. The underlying fear is that this army control could be extended to the rest of the country and thus vacating the usefulness of a civilian government. On the other hand, there can be political reasons for keeping the Karachi caldron of violence and target killings boiling. However, the ominous possibility or sinister consequences can be that this unremitting disorder and mayhem may finally burst open into a civil war and there is free for all situation: everyone killing everyone.
I am not convinced that the federal government is either sincere or possesses the necessary muscle to deal with this snowballing trend of violence and lawlessness. So finally it devolves upon the army to step forward and take control of the fast worsening situation. If army moves in, it should first of all clamp curfew and arrest all the ministers and top bureaucrats in the provincial government. Those found involved clandestinely should be summarily prosecuted and awarded deserving punishments. The army should issue an ultimatum for surrender of weapons of every make and brand within a time frame, let us say 48 hours.
After that a house-to-house search should be mounted and those not complying with the orders to surrender the weapons should be summarily sentenced for long jail terms handed out by the military field courts. The people should be asked to pinpoint and report the names of the thugs and bandits, land grabbers and outlaws that are known to the residents. The army should swoop upon all the lawbreakers and criminals in every street and locality and put all of them behind bars or shoot them by the firing squads, depending upon the nature and degree of their crimes.
A list of all the foreigners should be compiled and those staying without any legal documents should be deported within a certain specified period. The religious militants, foreign agents, and clandestine saboteurs hiding in various safe havens of the city should be hunted down along with their protectors and abettors and sentenced, depending upon the intensity of their crimes. Any political figure and party member behind this unrelenting and diabolic yet undetected manslaughter should be shown no mercy.
The only obstacle in this whole projected plan is that the army moves on the order of a sitting political government, which for all indications, the PPPP coalition is not going to do. The alternate is that the army either moves in on its own volition or else is asked by the superior judiciary to do the job. The army should keep this operation for at least a year till harmony and normal peaceful life returns to Karachi.
Besides, the exploding civic problems should be resolved on war footing basis. From improving the public transport system, to provision of running tap water to an uninterrupted supply of electricity, to environmental cleanliness, to expansion of roads, to removal of encroachments on roads and other similar civic reforms should be put in place within the shortest possible time.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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