Karachi, which had shown some signs of calming down as the skirmish legislation between the PPP and MQM on local government faded somewhat into the distance, has been set aflame once more following the unwise diatribe by Senior Minister of the Sindh government Dr Zulfiqar Mirza against MQM chief Altaf Hussain. The PPP, including the president and the interior minister, have already made attempts to distance themselves from Dr Mirza’s quite extraordinary remarks. But the damage has been done. Words cannot be taken back. We can only wonder what compels Dr Mirza to provoke trouble in this fashion, speaking this time at a dinner hosted by the ANP and resisting efforts to prevent him from speaking to the media.
Following Dr Mirza’s assertion that Altaf Hussain was a ‘bigger criminal’ than the leader of rival group MQM-Haqiqi, Afaq Ahmed, there has been sporadic violence not only in Karachi but also in Hyderabad, Sukkur and even Shiqarpur. This must be condemned but is, of course, not unexpected. Given the volatile situation and the rise in temperatures which has come with Dr Mirza’s astonishing attack on the MQM, there is now a very real risk that things could, in fact, grow worse over the coming days.
Far too many people have died in Karachi over the last few days as a result of tensions between political parties. We cannot afford any more deaths. Whatever the rights and wrongs of individuals or political groups, some measure of diplomacy is essential to stop the bloodshed we have seen far too often. The MQM should not let its supporters react in a manner which puts innocent lives in danger and something needs to be done to prevent the kind of uncontrolled outbursts we have witnessed again and again from Dr Mirza. They serve no useful purpose at all and we can only wonder what motivates them. Something needs to be done to keep such destructive words from being said, and to ensure that everyone follows party discipline. The repeated failure by him on this count has created repeated chaos, while the direct attack on Altaf Hussain means that things could be even worse this time round, as tensions continue to mount.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.
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