Just a few days ago, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that there would be a significant reduction in target killings in Karachi now that many of the culprits had been apprehended. The hollowness and naivety of those words are already apparent as three census workers, along with five others, were shot dead in the city on April 12. Politically motivated violence in Karachi has become such an ingrained fabric of the city that even government employees going about vital business of the state are no longer immune to its repercussions. It is far too early to say with any certainty who is behind the killings but there are some pertinent facts to notice.
Firstly, the census was supposed to have been conducted in 2008. That it is already three years late points to the insecurity of mainstream political parties in the country. Pakistan has witnessed significant migration of its rural population to urban centres since the last census was conducted. This should lead to more parliamentary seats being allotted to cities like Karachi after the census is completed. Since the MQM dominates the politics of Karachi, this would obviously give the party greater electoral gains. It is perhaps surprising then that the three census workers who were killed belonged to the MQM.
But there is a need to look beyond — the outbreak of political violence in the metropolis goes beyond just one party. The government has already hinted that an outside actor, most likely the Taliban and its ideological partners, are behind the violence. That seems slightly far-fetched given that the political parties in the city already have sufficient motive to go on killing sprees. None of these parties have been willing to rise above their own self-interest to save Karachi. Instead they have been all to willing to engage in a war of words and blame their opponents. The savage murder of the census workers should convince all to rise above rhetoric and strive for peace. If even that doesn’t do the trick then target killings in Karachi will continue to be a norm.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2011.