The National Assembly on Friday adopted a unanimous motion to form an all-party parliamentary committee to investigate the root causes of violence in Karachi and Balochistan and to suggest durable and sustainable solutions.
The move came at the end of a two-week-long debate in the house on the recent surge in targeted killings in the country’s financial hub.
At least 300 people were gunned down in Karachi in July alone—the highest death toll for a month since violence erupted in late 2008.
Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza asked all political parties to nominate members for the committee which would file a report in two months.
The motion said the committee would examine the law and order situation in Karachi and Quetta but its exact terms of reference would be framed once it is constituted.
The proposal of sending a parliamentary fact-finding commission to probe reasons behind resurging violence in Karachi was first floated in the house by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal and was later approved after Interior Minister Rehman Malik endorsed the suggestion during his speech to wind up the debate with all parliamentary leaders in favour of the commission.
MQM leader Haider Abass Rizvi called for strict implementation of the recommendations given by the committee. He proposed the panel to continue working as a supervisory body till its suggestions are implemented by the government.
A suggestion by Awami National Party’s (ANP) Bushra Gohar to assign the task to the parliamentary committee on national security instead was rejected due to government opposition.
In his speech, Rehman Malik said he would have a lot to share with parliamentarians when they start the probe into targeted killings in Karachi.
Malik, who blamed a ‘terrible mix’ of sectarian, ethnic and political tensions to for violence in Karachi, said that militants forced out after military offensives in Swat and other tribal areas, had “migrated to Karachi”.
To make matters worse, local criminals and mafia groups involved in land grabbing and extortion were also wreaking havoc in the city.
Referring to the proliferation of illegal arms, Malik said the government had chalked out a phased plan to seize “all illegal weapons all over the country, especially in Karachi”, adding that Islamabad was also considering removing loopholes in relevant laws to remove grey areas in the legal system.
As a first step, the minister added, the government had already announced computerisation of arms licences to “avoid duplications”. Also, the government was planning to try “everyone if they were caught possessing illegal weapons under the Anti-Terror Act (ATA), making it a non-bailable offence”.
Anger against Malik within the ranks of the ruling Pakistan People Party (PPP), for his role in reviving the local government system in Sindh, was visible during his speech.
The claims and suggestions in his speech weren’t backed by desk-thumping by party colleagues, nor was there any enthusiasm among the treasury members about his proposals to form a committee on Karachi.
At some point it appeared that he was well aware of his standing in the party.
“There have been some personal attacks on me but I will never say a word,” he said towards the end of his speech.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.
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