The clock has been turned back two decades in the country’s financial capital – and it revolves around that one contentious word: ‘Operation.’
With the city under fresh tension — this time sectarian — following a bomb attack near an imbargah, Monday saw the rhetoric of an operation slowly build up towards a political storm, and threatening to go even further than that.
Tension on the matter had been building up for a few days, but was truly set off by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah’s statement that a sweeping security operation in Karachi is on the cards to bring normalcy to the city.
The notion was also echoed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s chief. Nawaz Sharif expressed support for an operation in the city, saying that peace would remain elusive if “military wings of the ruling PPP and its coalition partners” continued to operate in Karachi.
“The Supreme Court had ordered in its verdict in Karachi law and order case that the military wings of the political parties be eliminated from Karachi,” he pointed out, while addressing the media on Monday.
On his part, Khursheed Shah claimed that all stakeholders have been taken on board in terms of the operation, adding that all political parties, including the MQM and the ANP, supported such a move in Karachi. He was talking to media persons outside Parliament House after briefing a parliamentary committee.
The government, however, is yet to decide a “method of action” in order to avoid “collateral damage,” he added.
Before him, the Senate passed a motion that recommended the de-weaponisation of Karachi, and Senators lashed out at the “militant wings of political parties” in the city.
MQM takes exception
Later in the day, Karachi’s ruling party seemed to take exception to the buildup. First, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain raised the spectre of an operation similar to that in Karachi in 1992.
The reference is alarming given that the 1992 operation and its aftermath ushered in the darkest days of Karachi in terms of politico-ethnic violence.
In a speech on Monday, Hussain raised concern that “certain state powers” were baying for an operation, and his party is being made a “sacrificial lamb”.
In a speech to members of the party in Lahore and Rawalpindi, Hussain said that baseless allegations were being leveled against the MQM as part of a plan to “crush the party.”
Hussain said that those conspiring should realise that, unlike in 1992, the MQM now has a presence throughout the country and its supporters would protest at any action against it.
Hussain’s speech was followed by strongly-worded statement by members of the MQM Rabita (Coordination) Committee, who turned on “a federal minister” for his statement on the violence in Karachi.
It is unclear whether the reference was to Khursheed Shah or Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Earlier on Monday, Malik said that the attack on an imambargah on Sunday was the work of a ‘third power’ and was not a sectarian attack.
The committee noted that Karachi’s residents were well aware which banned organisations were involved in sectarian killings, but instead of blaming them, “the minister” was threatening Karachiites with an operation.
They noted that the passage of a resolution in the Senate, calling for Karachi to be “cleansed of weapons” was meaningful for Pakistanis. In the statement, they asked whether they were only weapons in Karachi and not the rest of Pakistan. The party leaders also questioned whether the Pakistan Peoples Party’s members were “reigniting their policy against Karachi”.
The senate resolution
Earlier in the day, a majority of senators agreed that the law and order situation in the financial hub of the country could not reach normalcy without abolishing militant wings of political parties.
The motion, moved by Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Shahi Syed, sought effective measures from the government to deweaponise Karachi in view of the prevailing law and order situation.
During the session, in surprising move, ANP Senator Azam Khan Hoti – the K-P chief minister’s father – expressed his sympathies with the MQM, recalling that previous military operations launched in Karachi either by the Pakistan Peoples Party or the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the 1990s had proved to be a thrashing of the MQM rather than militants.
He went on to proceeded towards MQM Senator Babar Khan Ghauri and shook his hand, saying it was the only way to remain united against the common enemy – militancy and terrorism.
“The best way to resolve the issue is to sit together and show sincerity and honesty to correct the situation,” he said.
ANP turns to SC
ANP’s Haji Muhammad Adeel approached the apex court on the worsening law and order situation in Karachi, saying that the court’s orders in the suo motu case on Karachi violence were violated by the authorities concerned. He filed a contempt of court petition against the Sindh chief secretary, home secretary and inspector general of the Sindh Police for this defiance.
Correction: An earlier version of the article had incorrectly stated ANP Senator Azam Khan Hoti as K-P CM’s son. The error is regretted.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AZAM KHAN AND PEER MUHAMMAD IN ISLAMABAD AND SABA IMTIAZ IN KARACHI
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2012.