KARACHI: In a week marked by revenge killings, days of mourning and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party’s war of words, one of the few places left for a no-holds-barred chat on these two parties is the Jamaat-e-Islami office.
Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Karachi chief, Mohammad Hussain Mehanti, who criticised the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) for holding the city hostage this week, faced a barrage of questions at a press conference on Thursday that ranged from the bizarre to the obvious.
“Is Rehman Malik acting like a don?” was one reporter’s query, while another tried to draw a link between reopening Nato supply routes and the violence in Karachi. He all too innocently asked if this did not hint of a foreign conspiracy.
Reporters kept shouting out questions, cutting each other, prompting Mehanti to ask them to calm down and ask questions one at a time, while he offered his own words of wisdom. “The parties say they have a mandate, but this is fake because of the irregularities with their elections. The mandate is with mafias!”
He accused both parties of using the deaths of their workers, “which we cannot condemn enough”, to instigate violence in the city. Comparing Karachi to Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, Mehanti said that it seemed that a plan was brewing to divide the city into two as Beirut was during the civil war.
The dramatic questions were matched by dramatic answers from the JI head. “The coalition is like a stockpile of arms that will turn the city into rubble,” he said, while questioning why parties that were part of the government were using tactics generally employed by the opposition.
“Rehman Malik comes to Karachi and blames everything on the Taliban, but this violence is not by them, it is by the ANP and the MQM,” he alleged.
“Although the security agencies have a budget of millions of rupees and there are thousands of police officers deputed in the city, no one seems to be able to provide peace to the city’s residents.” He also called on the ‘agencies’ to stop interfering in Karachi’s politics.
His solution is to have the ANP and the MQM leave the ruling coalition. “Karachi’s residents have not had a moment of peace since the day MQM was created,” he said.
The JI leader said that he had just been to Patel Para and everyone in the area was adamant that they wanted peace. But according to him, the government was extremely ineffective and citizens could not be abandoned in this manner.
Reporters kept throwing questions at Mehanti, including the issues with the voter lists, which the JI has been fairly vocal about and has expressed its concerns to the Pakistan Election Commission. The violence in Karachi does not bode well for the elections and will “make it difficult for people to participate in elections”, predicted Mehanti.
A rather morose Mehanti was as upset about problems elsewhere in the country, including Balochistan. “If you go to the press club, it looks like Masailistan (a land of problems) outside.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.
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