ISLAMABAD /LAHORE: A day after army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that if requested, the military was ready to assist the civilian authorities to control the violence in Karachi, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani firmly quashed the idea that the army would be called out in the country’s financial capital.
The prime minister’s remarks came during a brief interaction with reporters in Lahore, where he was holding a meeting with senior provincial leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) at the Governor House.
The nation’s largest city – which is home to approximately one in every ten Pakistanis – has been wracked by violence over the last week that has left scores of people dead. On Sunday, another 11 people were killed in different parts of the metropolis.
There has been a call for military intervention from several quarters, including some business groups within Karachi itself. On Saturday, even Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that army action in Karachi might be appropriate, though his stance was repudiated on Sunday by a spokesperson of his own Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
Gilani said that while it was the Sindh government’s prerogative to call the army, he believed that the violence in Karachi could be dealt with by the law-enforcement agencies in the province.
At an iftar on Sunday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, however, suggested that the provincial government had absolutely no intention of inviting the army to clean up its mess. “The army is a respected institution which has many responsibilities,” said the chief minister. “But in a democratic government, it must be the civilians who take control of law and order.”
The growing chorus for military intervention from some elements of the Karachi business community and a few prominent politicians seems to have alarmed the ruling PPP and the opposition PML-N alike. In a rare move, the PML-N openly repudiated a statement by the Punjab chief minister – one of the party’s senior-most leaders – and said that they ‘strongly’ opposed military intervention.
“The army should not be called out in Karachi,” Senator Mushahidullah Khan, the party spokesperson, told The Express Tribune. “Engaging the army in Karachi could be part of great game against the country.” The senator implied that Shahbaz Sharif’s words had been taken out of context. “Deploying the army in Karachi would be bad for the country and the army itself,” he added.
The unequivocal repudiation of the younger Sharif’s remarks seems to highlight a growing rift that the Punjab chief minister reportedly has with his elder brother and eponymous party chief Nawaz Sharif.
On Saturday, the army chief reportedly said that “Karachi is the jugular vein of the country’s economy and it will be great injustice if the deteriorating law and order situation is allowed to continue for a longer period.”
Gen Kayani’s comments came after the recent spike in violence that has seen about 900 people killed since the beginning of the year, nearly 300 of whom have died since the beginning of July.
Meanwhile, the Sindh governor, chief minister, home minister, police chief and other senior officials met at the Governor House in Karachi on Sunday to discuss the situation and chalk out a strategy to deal with the killings. It is unclear whether the meeting was able to come up with an actual plan to do anything, though most senior officials expressed in trite platitudes how horrible the situation is.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said the government would offer compensation to those who had lost their loved ones during Ramazan, though he did not specify an amount or a date as to when the money would be disbursed.
A spokesperson for the Awami National Party (ANP), meanwhile, said that his party was not involved in the recent spike in bloodshed.
(With additional reporting from our correspondents in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.
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@Realist - Yes, Yes and a BIG yes to military action! People's safety and lives first and no more room for Power hungry politics!! Welcome Pak Army and take control of Karachi that is being eaten Alive or else there may be no nation left!!!!!!!!! No time to waste. . .God is watching!!
Above All The Lives of Karachi People is More important then your Democratic Acts
Even I Support PPP for not bringing Army in karachi. But PPP has to strengthen Police. Police & Police Alone can ensure Peace in the city provided no political influence is used over them. A free hand to police - NO to Military operation in Karachi.! NO , Not again!!
The reason army is deployed in any country of the world in times of emergencies or extra-ordinary events is to utilize this organized and efficient fighting force to combat extra-ordinary situations. The genocide in Karachi is such an extra-ordinary event. It is not o.k. for an army to take over governments from civilian control, but it is not only o.k. but required that army take over difficult situations and restore order while working in civilian control. Pakistan Government's hesitation in utilizing army to deal with the genocide in Karachi shows the bad intentions of the government and its' approval of the killings to achieve their own purposes. If this was not so the government would have utilized the army after thousands of people have been killed in Karachi. In any civilized country in the world people would have demanded government's resignation in such a situation.
PMLN's support for not calling in the army also shows its anti-people color that we have been familiar with.
If you care one iota for the families that have lost their bread-earners and loved ones you will at least speak up to condemn this attitude of the government.
Sometimes it is prudent to call in Army. Lives of citizens are more important then Army - Parliament divide. What is it that politicians feel so scared of Army to bring these khaki's onstreet ?.
Frankly, i dont think Kayani will like to retire abroad like Musharaff or other similar army monsters. So the so called Army phobia i feel is unfounded.