Some 1,406 people were killed in violence in Karachi between January 1 and August 31 this year, a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Lahore revealed on Saturday. Of this figure, 658 people were killed in July and August alone.
The report, titled Karachi: Unholy Alliances of Mayhem, was compiled by an HRCP fact-finding mission that ventured all over the city for extensive ground research. In similar vein to the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday regarding the same matter, the report pinned responsibility for the killings on the main political parties in Karachi, adding that those responsible for the violent chaos are the ones who must now bring peace to the city.
“There is little evidence that there is even any realisation among the political parties, much less remorse, of how they have failed the people. There are many accessories to these murders. This is one of those instances when no bystander is innocent,” the report states.
Since 2002, political power and state machinery have been used to grab land in Karachi. “While gangs of land-grabbers and mafias have tried to exploit the breakdown of law and order, they do not appear to be the main directors of the horrible game of death and destruction; that distinction belongs to more powerful political groups and it is they who hold the key to peace,” the report reads.
The report terms Karachi a “deeply fractured” city which is in the grip of “linguistic, ethnic and sectarian polarisation.”
The report also states that several analysts believe May 12, 2007, was the turning point in the context of violence in Karachi when another ethnic group, the Pakhtuns, asserted themselves and a turf war started between the incumbents, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and an emerging political force in Karachi, the ANP.
“The demography of Karachi is changing. It has been changing since 1947 but then it stopped. This process of change should not be stopped and if any political party tries to stop this, Karachi will face problems,” said HRCP Secretary General IA Rehman at the launch ceremony.
The report also addresses problems with policing in Karachi. “Law enforcement agencies are inefficient, ill-prepared, poorly resourced, and lack the political support to be effective. The killing of hundreds of policemen in the city in the past decade has affected morale and the policemen are not keen to stick their necks out,” it states.
Talking to reporters, I A Rehman said that during their fact-finding they learnt that Rs1 billion is collected as extortion in Karachi every day. “The genuine problems of people are not legally sorted out in Karachi. A man whose house was looted told us that when he approached police they asked him to do the same. In Kati Pahari police couldn’t show up for four days,” he added.
HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that 15 lawyers in Karachi had been killed since March 15. “Every political party has an armed wing. All parties should take back arms from their workers and come forward to deweaponise the city,” she said. She said that even hospitals were divided on ethnic lines.
Suggesting solutions to Karachi’s problems HRCP Council Member Dr Mehdi Hasan said the state should have effective control in the city. “Police should be trained in a way that the accused which it arrests don’t go scot-free on the basis of a lack of evidence. They should be trained to become better investigators,” he said.
The fact-finding mission made several other recommendations, including: political support be given to law enforcement agencies; compensation be provided without exception to families who lost loved ones in violence in the city; the city be deweaponised and the challenges of overpopulation, unemployment, housing, transport and ill-planned development be addressed; land be recovered from land-grabbers; and all communities be integrated into mainstream urban life in Karachi. The report also recommended that the state’s intervention in Karachi politics come to an end, and that all illegal immigrants in the city be registered.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2011.
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