KARACHI: A visibly exasperated Sindh home minister let it all hang out on Monday in a stressful meeting with top business leaders, sparking a fresh war of words on organised violence in Karachi.
The meeting held at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry started off with businessmen lambasting Zulfiqar Mirza and the chief of police Fayyaz Leghari over a lack of protection. As their complaints rolled off, Mirza kept muttering, “Mein is ka abhi jawab deta hoon.” [I’ll just give you an answer to that].
By the time his turn to speak came around, it was obvious that he was chafing at the bit. And what issued forth was nothing short of incendiary:
The business community of Karachi is giving large amounts of Zakat and extortion money to militant organisations who are involved in terrorist activities in the country.
The suspects involved in target killings belong to a big political party of the city. The police have arrested 60 target killers from different towns of the city and out of them, a majority belong to a party which owns the city. The others are affiliated with the Awami National Party, Mohajir Qaumi Movement and Sunni Tehreek.
“Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Imran Farooq was killed in London but markets remained shut in Karachi,” lashed out Mirza. “Innocent Pakhtun, Baloch, Punjabi and Sindhi people fall prey to target killings. Asfandyar Wali Khan did not kill Imran Farooq, then why were Pakhtun men killed after his assassination?” For a political landscape where such questions are never uttered in the public arena, Mirza’s words came as a shock.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s central decision-making body immediately sat down in London and Karachi in reaction.
This was not the first time this coaliton partner had taken note of Mirza’s stance. A speech delivered on the Sindh Assembly floor had precipitated an outcry. From then on, the Pakistan Peoples Party had to dispatch federal home minister Rehman Malik to discuss target killings in Karachi.
“The situation in Karachi will worsen and a large number of Urdu-speaking people will lose their lives if these ethnic groups come forward and make an alliance,” said Mirza, further adding fuel to the fire.
As the Sindh home minister, he said he owns up to his mistakes and takes responsibility for the deteriorating law and order in the city, but political parties whose workers are involved in ‘bhatta culture’ or extortion and target killings should come forward and own up as well.
Mirza, who was continuously whispering with chief of police Fayyaz Leghari during the meeting, said that everyone was making it out that the Shershah attack was important, but why had people forgotten the target killing of 50 innocent people who lost their lives just two days before it? “It could be called a reaction to the spate of target killings,” said Mirza. “During a meeting at Governor House, I had requested the participants to please be kindhearted to the people of Karachi.”
He said that those people who felt that they could have the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government dismissed by sparking violence in Karachi were living in a “dream world”. “We will complete our five-year tenure,” he insisted.
The home minister went on to blame the city’s businessmen for the weakening law and order conditions. “You people have formed associations and supported criminals in an organised way by donating cash and the hides of sacrificial animals in addition to extortion money.”
Whenever he tried to maintain law and order by initiating deweaponisation, hurdles were created and people start blaming him, he said. “Sometimes, they call me the supervisor of the Peoples Aman Committee and the patron of the Lyari gang war,” he said.
“If I were involved in these activities, then why would I have paid Rs5 million in ransom for the release of one of the biggest businessmen in the city and a renowned filmmaker who was kidnapped by militants?”
The minister said that after the target killings, he could have easily claimed that there was a “foreign hand” behind them. “But I cannot look away, like the others.”
Because of the floods, the Sindh government did not have the resources to invest in the police department. “Why do you people not help the police who are the good boys, not the bad boys,” he asked his stunned audience.
Earlier on, KCCI president Saeed Shafi had pointed out that the worsening law and order situation in the city has created fear among businessmen and the Kohinoor mobile market robbery this week had worsened it. Siraj Qasim Teli, the chairman of the BMG Group and a former president of the KCCI, said that the business community was being targeted. Members of the Lyari gang war and the Peoples Aman Committee issue them receipts for extortion.
They have informed the CCPO and other cabinet members of the Sindh government about the menace, but no action has been taken against the real culprits so far.
“We cannot understand why, despite there being a coalition government of major political parties, the law and order situation cannot be improved in a mega city which produces large revenues [for the country],” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2010.
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