Descent into anarchy

Published: March 27, 2012

The battle that is currently playing out in Karachi is essentially one of demography. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

There is a common perception that Karachi is an ungovernable city, a proposition that can be hard to argue against when the entire metropolis grinds to a halt and a sense of anarchy pervades the air. The aftermath of the murder of an MQM worker — with the responsibility placed by the MQM on gangs in Lyari — played out with wearying familiarity. Once again, the country’s nerve centre was forced to shut down as the cycle of retaliatory violence started. At times like this, it is tempting to wash our hands off the city, proclaim it anarchic and fall prey to the feeling that its troubles can never be solved. That, however, ignores the fact that the problems in Karachi are solvable.

The battle that is currently playing out in Karachi is essentially one of demography. The Mohajir majority, who find their most reliable patrons in the MQM, live in fear of the growing number of Pakhtuns in the city, as represented by the ANP. The PPP has its pockets of influence, particularly among the Baloch. All three parties are vying for greater power in the city, but many think that they — or some elements in their ranks — seem to be seeking this more through non-electoral means. As this fight for power continues, these periodic bursts of violence have become more common. That is reason for worry, not despair. All three factions are capable of governance and, in fact, have proven that in the past.

Deweaponisation has been proposed as a solution but it would be quixotic to think that the political parties will just abide by a ban on guns. A more lasting solution will perhaps, take years as the political parties come to the realisation that each other’s spheres of influence have to be respected and eliminating the parties themselves is not a viable option. The interim will be ugly, but the best shot at peace in Karachi lies in the hope that those who wish to rule the city eschew violence for governance. The parties can start by purging their rank and file of the black sheep involved in such acts and by working out their differences through dialogue and a binding code of conduct.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.

Reader Comments (4)

  • Shehzad Shah
    Mar 28, 2012 - 1:49AM

    It is entirely solvable but that was never the issue anyway. The problem rather is ‘who is going to do the solving’? Those with the authority to do so have a interest in maintaining the status quo. Over the long-term, the real solution is economic growth that is inclusive & well-distributed; when the pie is growing faster than the number of diners at the table, the threat of one eating another’s share will recede. Consider that New York is home to a community of immigrants not just from every part of the US, but every country of the world. No one’s burned a bus there in a very long time. Better policing & reducing the quantity of weapons swimming around will help. Why can’t there be complete ban on weapons in the city of Karachi, licensed or otherwise? Whenever the police see a weapon, they immediately confiscate it, and if it is licensed the holder can go to the police station & receive compensation. But it will have to be done across the board with no allowance made for the retinue of ministers & sardars, and that unfortunately is a pipe dream since it is these very people who rule the city. As I said, the problem is ‘who?’ not ‘what?’.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 28, 2012 - 2:00AM

    The battle being played out in Karachi and all over Pakistan is for power and the exercise of that power in the coming general election. Politicians conjure up all kinds of reasons to start mayhem. Do you ever wonder that when a crisis raging, the country politicians like Zardari, Gilani and Nawaz Sharif are always on or extending their overseas trips??? Do you see the comparison with David Cameron rushing back to the UK and calling Parliament to address the Riots crisis?? Do you then wonder how the electoral process defeats the Pakistani voters choice by ballot stuffing aided by the Election Commission?? If you can decipher that then you can also decipher why Pakistan is Burning and Falling Apart. Its all POLITICS.

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  • Qasim
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:04PM

    All political leaders (MQM, ANP, PPP and sundry) should be ashamed for their endless reliance on violence; innocent killings, looting, anarchy and arson. Despite their proclamations and pleas, NO ONE is innocent. Industry and businesses are shifting and foundations shaking. At this rate, only ruins and graveyards will be left for them to rule. A bleeding Karachi is/will not of any value to anyone.

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  • Mukhtiar Badshah
    Apr 14, 2012 - 1:43PM

    The past rule unite continent and rule then divide continent and rule and now divide further and rule

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