For the various incidents of target killing in Karachi over the last week or so that have resulted in the loss of over two dozen lives, a resumption of violence would be a misnomer. In Karachi, it seems violence never goes away entirely, it just ebbs and flows with no discernible pattern. What makes all this bloodletting so frustrating is that everyone knows that both the fault and the solution lies with the city’s warring political parties and the criminal gangs they control and patronise. For the last few months, a new wrinkle has been added to this political fighting as the PPP, which has always enjoyed support in Lyari, has been locked in an internecine battle. The People’s Amn Committee, founded with the support of the PPP, has now turned away from the party and, as is always the case in Karachi, is voicing its disagreements with guns.
Meanwhile, activists of the MQM have been among the worst hit in the latest bout of violence. And if we know anything about the MQM, it is that they will hit back with even greater force. This means that the city should brace for further, even bloodier, violence in the days ahead. Apart from the devastating loss of life, the country’s economic hub will continue to suffer unsustainable financial losses. Soon, if there isn’t a significant stop in bloodletting, people will begin clamouring for the paramilitary Rangers to take matters into their own hands. What we all know is that shoot-to-kill orders and military involvement only compounds the problems in the city.
The obvious solution would be for the city’s political parties to abandon the battlefield and take to the negotiating table. This is unlikely to happen as all the various political actors find it easier to maintain control of their areas at the barrel of a gun. Cooler heads need to prevail at the centre, with the leaders of the PPP, the MQM and the ANP calling on their Karachi lieutenants to cease and desist. Karachi is too important to the rest of the country for this to be a purely local issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.