The death squads are out again in Karachi. The shootings that have splattered blood on the city’s streets are accompanied by a new wave of terror. It is likely that this was the key intention behind the murders; it is hard to believe those who carried out the latest violence did not intend to unleash a spree of killings and counter-killings which are reported to be continuing in the city. Thirteeen lives have been claimed in the last 36 hours; according to the Sindh government, 136 have died in targeted shootings since the start of the year.
At times, the killings have followed a sectarian script; at other times — as is the case now — the motives seem to be rooted in the ethnic tensions that run through Karachi. The involvement of political parties adds a complicating factor and, potentially, a dangerous twist. The bitter rivalry between the MQM and the ANP has already inflicted much damage. It needs to be brought to and end.
What is most disturbing is the failure to end the mayhem. The interior minister has so far had little success. Indeed, his earlier visits to Karachi too had little lasting impact on bringing the violence there to a halt. The Sindh chief minister has mentioned the possibility of foreign involvement. This seems unconvincing; yet another attempt to point fingers and divert attention from accepting at least some kind of responsibility and admitting that he has been able to do practically nothing to curb the violence.
It seems certain that the demons who stalk Karachi have risen from within the city and have been given life by the tensions that run through it. Karachi’s essential multiculturalism is still to be accepted by all groups who have political weight. The question we need to ask is, who is stirring up the demons? Is there a broader agenda behind the violence in Karachi? Certainly in the past its volatile nature has been used to create instability. Could this be happening again? It is these doubts that need to be cleared up. Rather than flinging accusations at each other, the political parties of Karachi should also concentrate on ensuring they do not become pawns in any game of chess played by other agents for purposes that as yet remain unclear.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2010.
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