Political parties harbour private militias, criminal gangs: HRCP

Published: October 8, 2011

HRCP report says political parties harbour private militias and criminal gangs while the police has been rendered ineffective due to politics. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

LAHORE: Pakistan’s human rights body Saturday called for political parties to disband private militias and disarm criminal gangs to end bloodshed in the country’s commercial capital, Karachi.

The body also said that the police in the port city had been politicised, fails to take action and are ill-equipped to deal with the gangs, Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told a news conference.

The commission echoed a recent ruling from the Supreme Court, saying political parties have formed armed wings operating as private militias and warned: “All such militias must be disbanded.”

More than 1,000 people have been killed in violence in Karachi this year, including 100 in a single week in August.

The gang wars have been linked to ethnic tensions between the Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking majority represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and Pashtun migrants affiliated to the Awami National Party (ANP).

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which was elected in 2008 after nine years of military rule, insists that civilian authorities are capable of controlling the bloodshed, despite calls for military involvement.

In a report compiled by its fact finding team HRCP said: “All of the main political parties in Karachi shoulder considerable blame for their consistent and prolonged failure to prevent the loss of human life and of property.”

The commission also accused the government, saying: “The state has miserably and utterly failed in its responsibility to safeguard the people’s right to life.”

Karachi is in a state of turmoil, it said, warning that there is potential for infinitely more chaos.

The commission said the police department must be “depoliticised” and the law of the land must be invoked without exception “for any instigation to violence”.

Karachi must be purged of all weapons, both licensed or otherwise, the commission said, calling for “total deweaponisation”.

The HRCP report follows Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling which also blamed “unimaginable brutalities” in Karachi on criminal gangs which have received financial support from political parties.

Chief judge Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry warned the government that it must take stern action to stop the violence.

Karachi, with a population of 18 million, is gateway to the Arabian Sea and provides the bulk of the democratically fragile country’s income.

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