Who’s behind Karachi’s killings?

Published: July 23, 2010
The writer works for The Express Tribune 

The writer works for The Express Tribune [email protected]

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.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Rabia
    Jul 23, 2010 - 12:19AM

    great column. Just wish it had gone on a bit longer since the most interesting part was at the very end! Recommend

  • S. Ali Raza
    Jul 23, 2010 - 12:28AM

    But our Government and Army are both ‘Secular’ so it has to be the “religious” behind the menace in Karachi, along with mafia’s supported by political parties.Recommend

  • Hasan Sheikh
    Jul 23, 2010 - 12:29AM

    Typical journalist’s take. adding more confusion to confusion…Recommend

  • Azhar Khan
    Jul 23, 2010 - 12:39AM

    The concluding part of the opinion is much fascinating indeed. It obliges to relate the whole political episode in Pakistan’s context.Recommend

  • asif asim
    Jul 23, 2010 - 12:52AM

    No institution in pakistan is secular.

    In pakistan ‘secular’ is a four letter word.

    Confessing to being secular in our society leads to instant societal ostracization because everyone in our society is dying to prove that they are more religous than the next person.Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jul 23, 2010 - 7:07AM

    So we can use the British slang for testicles in the English media now?
    Hurray for limited English comprehension in the Land of the Pure?
    Apologies for the digression, it’s a well-written piece. Though, judging from your last para, are you suggesting the possibility of a sinister conspiracy by the khakis?Recommend

  • waqas raza
    Jul 23, 2010 - 7:28AM

    can any one explain to me ?whenever the president arrived Karachi,its always been blood bath here,….. i wonder is there any corellation or just a (timely,precise and mysterous)recurring coincidence?????Recommend

  • Jul 23, 2010 - 9:49AM

    The ongoing targeted killings in Karachi, insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and the rising tide of terrorism in Punjab’s main population centres, made me write this piece about rising as a nation and utilizing our real strengths to overcome these challenges.

    The piece can be read at: http://theburningissue.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/utilizing-our-strengths-to-the-maximum-in-these-testing-times/

    It would be great if you people read this piece and give me your feedback at the blog.



  • Jul 23, 2010 - 1:25PM


    caveat: i will only focus on the last five days

    while some target killings may be dubious…settling old scores…or ransom gone haywire….most have the markings of PPI and ANP mafia fighting each other over landRecommend

  • IA
    Jul 23, 2010 - 1:36PM

    There is a perception, of late that killings get intensified in the metropolis when supposed differences increase among the coalition parties ruling the Sindh province over host of some undisclosed issues and whenever VVIP tends to visit the provincial capital.

    Once chief minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah grudgingly admitted during his press conference at his Chamber in Sindh Assembly that the ‘calm’ had returned to the city partly because of giving police powers to Rangers and partly because of political measures. It now appears that the government has lately given more attention to the administrative measures than political efforts to pacify the situation.Recommend

  • Talha
    Jul 23, 2010 - 4:26PM

    You know the usual, CIA-RAW-Mossad allaince (foreign hand), lol.Recommend

  • Arbab Hussain
    Jul 24, 2010 - 1:17AM

    Even if we are playing right into the Army’s hands, why do we make such easy targets? Nobody trusts anyone anymore. The Sindhi vs Pathan vs Muhajjir vs Ewok vs furry bunnies side to the story needs to be taken care of first. Recommend

  • Rabia Ali
    Jul 24, 2010 - 11:34AM

    Wah! good column gp!Recommend

  • Zahid
    Jul 24, 2010 - 12:37PM

    “You know the usual, CIA-RAW-Mossad allaince (foreign hand), lol.” Please add one name also Jamaat Islami the mother of all Taliban.Recommend

  • Farigh
    Jul 24, 2010 - 6:23PM

    With all my apprehensions against army, giving ANP and MQM a clean chit is rather far fetched. Both of them possess abundant arms and even a street child will know that they are not innocentRecommend

  • Khadim Hussain Subhpoto
    Jul 25, 2010 - 12:52AM

    These brutal targeted killings must end now. May sense and sanity prevail! Such irrational and illogical acts, rather complete madness will lead us nowhere but total chaos. All the clashing political parties must reconcile with the fact that we have to all live together. we have no other choice left. Therein, too, lies our salvation and prosperity. What we need most is peace, love, unity and harmony. The sooner we realise this very fact, the better it is for all of us.Recommend

  • blackfish
    Jul 25, 2010 - 1:57AM

    but one key point I would like to leave you with is that, you should note, its Pakhtun vs. MQM not any Paktun party vs. MQM or ever Pakhtun vs. Mahajirs/Karachities or Sinhdis.Recommend

  • Khan Baba
    Jul 25, 2010 - 9:21AM

    Kala Pani
    Kuch Kuch samegi mei aata haiRecommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 9:39AM

    The only way is to de-weaponise Karachi, and clean it of all the criminal parties that resort to target killings. Land mafia is a reality in karachi and every political party has a role in it. Have we forgotten the illegal takeover of Federal Government property in Karachi, or the recent KPT land grab in Mai Kolachi, or the Kidney Hill scam. This is an endless series of land grabs and killings, where nobodu has been held accountable. Obviously those in power were behind these criminals, otherwise they would be behind bars or had been hanged by now.Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 10:26AM

    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

    you nailed it in above para, if you remember ANP,PPP were the ones who were denying the existence of Taliban in Karachi when MQM was crying loud and after so many Taliban leaders have been caught from karachi, ANP and PPP are hiding faces on this matter.Recommend

  • Faisal Sattar
    Jul 25, 2010 - 12:16PM

    So the MQM is not making hay while the sunshines. Its not a great opportunity for them to clear the field in Karachi, when the federal and provincial governments clearly cannot stop them (since they need their support). Its obviously the Army which is doing all this to destabilise Karachi, and the country by extension, since we have so much stability all around. Gosh! why didn’t I see it…………………Recommend

  • Phillip Calvert
    Jul 25, 2010 - 12:50PM

    That’s pretty vague analysis, isn’t it? You dismiss all possibilities without sufficient grounds to arrive at the conclusion you want. If you’re talking motives, why not PPP – considering that they would jump at any issue that takes away attention from their otherwise-quite-apparent corruption. Such a situation would also allow them to justify bringing Khi more under provincial govt rule. Also, why don’t you give figures for how many Haqiqi men have died? They might have faced some retaliation, but it doesn’t mean they are victims, not perpetrators! And finally, ANP. You know they are armed, you know they resent the MQM, you know destabilizing MQM rule in Khi aids them. Why not them? Islamic/Taliban-oriented ideological motivations proposed for them are just naive, but the fact remains that ‘they’ have a tremendous economic stake in Khi and they really really want that translated in political terms as well?
    I think you might want to be more ‘analytical’ in the next article…Recommend

  • azam chughtai
    Jul 25, 2010 - 4:25PM

    ANP is anything but a peace seeking party , they ahve started occupying the flats and lands of others by force .

    Even Muhajirs who ahted MQM for its tactics are now appreciating them .

    Thanksto ANP’s goons .Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 6:29PM

    Well wrought, except that –having led us to the threshold of logical truth- you stopped at the beginning. It is not surprising that the MQM, being a thorn in the side of the feudals and fundamentalists alike, is profusely blamed for everything that goes wrong. However, the fact remains that the MQM stands to lose the most from this mayhem. Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 9:14PM

    The timid manner in which you end this piece leaves it limp and ineffective. What you really want to say is that the army is engaged in ‘false flag’ operations much as the USA is. Actually, this subject is one close to my heart, about which I have written at some length in my latest blog post. In so far as the USA is concerned the adoption of ‘false flag’ operations as a tool of the USA government’s imperial ambitions began with 9/11.

    However, I am more sceptical about your veiled allusion relating to Pakistan’s army. I would have been more inclined to believe your theory if Musharraf had still been in power – but with General Kayani’s hand on the reins we need more convincing arguments from you. Recommend

  • Tilsim
    Jul 26, 2010 - 12:41AM

    Unfortnately, this analysis leaves us none the wiser. The Karachi police have provided a breakdown of those murdered to Rehman Malik. This would suggest that a couple of wars are going on: one is a sectarian one but predominantly anti-shia. The sunni extremists are involved in turf war all over the country – that is not a secret.

    The second would have a land mafia element involved: 4 estate agents have been killed. Why kill estate agents if it was just ANP/PPP/MQM killing each other for political dominance? The land mafia is likely to have links to the political parties, one party in particular.

    Whatever the reasons, it is the PPP/MQM/ANP government’s responsibility along with the security forces to bring this into control now. It is ridiculous to have a State that cannot control violence like this in a major metropolis.Recommend

  • Umer Shaikh
    Jul 26, 2010 - 2:20PM

    Who’s Behind Karachi’s Killings?
    The media will never asnwer that despite everyone knows who are the real People/Agencies/Political Parties behind this killing in Karachi. Who says media has the freedom, everyone is corrupt including the media.Recommend

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