Whenever I read about the daily death toll in the killing fields of Karachi, those remarkable lines by Rudyard Kipling come to mind. “And the lure of centuries plus a hundred fights/Made them slow to disregard one another’s rights”. Kipling was, of course, writing about the warriors of the North-West Frontier for whom he had an inexplicable fascination. But Kipling could have jolly well been commenting on what is currently taking place in Karachi, a city where people don’t have any rights, where the rule of law can only be found in the history books and where gunmen have discovered the most macabre way of decimating the population in the turf war.
A few days ago, Nargis Rahman, president of the Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace, organised a meeting in at the Hamdard University auditorium in PECHS. The purpose of the get together was to come up with possible solutions to tackle the current malaise. Predictably, the thrust of the arguments centred on the fact that each of the political parties had their hit squads and all they really needed was a nod from their area commanders to indulge in a fresh orgy of slaughter. Issues like population explosion, the breakdown of utilities, irresponsible statements by politicians which evoke reprisals, the rich-poor divide and the gradual destruction of a middle class that could ensure a measure of stability were not touched upon. The focus was on the carnage that is taking place in the city, which appears to have no chance of abating, and the hopelessness of it all.
What followed was a litany of complaints — lumped together under the generally intolerable conditions under which some citizens are living where police and Rangers have imposed a virtual state of siege. Captain Faheemuzzaman suggested that the issue could be studied from a social, political and administrative perspective. A number of other speakers chipped in and vented their spleen. The general impression, however, was that while the country’s political leaders had cast the nation adrift on a sea of wicked lawlessness, and were perfectly willing to traduce a part of the national fabric, they had no intention of putting things right and preferred nature to take its own course. I chipped in by saying that the real problem for the malaise was the fact that there was no rule of law and it is a strange country, indeed, where a prime minister decides which of the Supreme Court’s edicts should be implemented and which should be cast aside.
Some of the solutions that were offered were illuminating. Mehdi Masud revived the old Pakistan spirit by suggesting that concerned citizens should relaunch the Pakistan Movement to save the country. Justice Fakhruddin Ibrahim said that in the next election the people of Karachi should put up three committed youngsters as candidates. With their fiery idealism, frank and outspoken views they could shake up a staid, lethargic revisionist National Assembly. Karamat Ali said that strikes, which adversely affect the daily wage-earner, should be outlawed once and for all, and any party that gives such a call should be boycotted. The most significant suggestion that came from the floor was that voters should ensure that the people who have gotten this country into this mess should not be returned to power. As an Azam-Khan type of martial law is not on the cards, getting rid of this government appears to be the only viable solution.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.