There is no greater indictment of the political system than the fact that the Supreme Court has had to take suo motu notice of the violence in Karachi. Over 400 lives have been taken in the last three months and the response of the various political parties has been to pass the buck and shift the blame. Expecting the Supreme Court, no matter how well-intentioned, to be able to bring an end to the violence or even provide justice to the families of those who have been murdered is far-fetched and fanciful. What it can do through its hearings is to hold the law-enforcement agencies, and by extension the politicians who command them, accountable for the worst violence the city has seen in 15 years.
In just a couple of days of hearings, the Supreme Court has already been able to embarrass the Sindh police and for good reason. The Sindh Inspector-General Wajid Durrani was told that his presentation was no better than a police report. It has quickly become obvious that the law-enforcement agencies are either unable, or more likely unwilling to identify who is behind the violence in Karachi. The Supreme Court too may not be able to get answers out of them but at least this is the first time the police will be strongly questioned about their inaction.
Questioning just the police, however, is not enough. Until the political parties that have inflamed the violence are held accountable, the Supreme Court will be unable to get to the bottom of the matter. Zulfiqar Mirza’s press conference on August 28 may have been quickly disavowed by the PPP leadership but what he said resonated with those who are opposed to the MQM. Similarly, those in the city predisposed to oppose the PPP and the ANP would level similarly heinous charges against those parties. The violence in Karachi is a failure of politics, not police work. Those placing great hope in the Supreme Court to sort out the situation should also be wary. This suo motu action feels more like an inquest than an investigation. It may point a few fingers and embarrass those in power but it is extremely unlikely to change the ground realities in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.