Of all the insanity engulfing the country today, nothing fascinates me more than the phenomenon of target killings in Karachi. The fascination does not stem from my proximity to the phenomenon; not because I am a sociopath, or sadistic.
It is purely from an analyst’s point of view. Let me explain.
I have been asked, an infinite number of times, what it is all about. And I have struggled for an answer or even an option. Reports suggest that the number of people killed since 2008, I believe, is over 300. Show me a person who knows for sure what triggers these bouts of madness, and I’ll show you someone who knows how deep the 9/11 rabbit hole goes.
Political parties can be, and most probably are, responsible for retaliatory attacks. But who initiates it all is still up for debate. There’s little in the form of concrete motive. The parties almost always come to an understanding after days of violence, following which there are weeks of peace. And then we’re back to square one.
Even if one is to take the simplistic assertion of the MQM being behind all violence in Karachi, it still doesn’t make sense. We then have the counter, and equally convenient: Why would a party that rules perhaps the most important city in the country want to destabalise it? The nauseatingly middle-class motto of investment and infrastructure, which the MQM has made its own to gain even more popularity in suburban Karachi, does not allow for it.
Another assertion has it that the volatile Awami National Party (ANP), a new stakeholder in the politics of Karachi, is to blame. They (‘they’, incidentally, is most often a politically correct way of referring to Pathans) are making space, it is argued. A hostile takeover. Jirgas in Karachi. Taliban on the loose. Threatening our liberal and secular way of life. Bollocks.
Then there is the mercenary-based argument of Haqiqi, those forgotten hardliners that gave even the MQM nightmares. But what is their agenda, then? Politically they are a no show, which actually makes it perfect for them. But remember that they have suffered the greatest amount of losses of their own over the last three years.
I will not honour the theory that the PPP is behind it with a refutation. The same goes for the Jamaat-e-Islami. There’s some facile explanation about the “land mafia” being behind the killings, which I won’t bother with either.
What we do know is that the current spate of target killings have come about since the PPP took power. There was nothing of the sort under Musharraf – not at this level at least – discounting May 12. The closest thing we saw of this nature was during the decade of democracy in the late 80s and early 90s – and it wasn’t as complicated then. In fact, it was pretty straightforward. But such violence always comes around during times of civilian rule.
Democracies have always been plagued by mysterious urban violence. And I believe that’s where the motive may lie. But we may never know.
Let me share with you this other fascinating issue that I have been following these days about a trial regarding an attempted coup back in 2007 in Turkey. The civilian government has uncovered plans of an operation codenamed “Sledgehammer”, according to which the omnipotent armed forces, secular in nature, would facilitate enough violence and instability in the country, especially the urban centres, that it would have reason, if it wanted, to overthrow the semi-Islamist government, should the latter transgress beyond certain set parameters.
Now that makes sense, doesn’t it?
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2010.