The situation in Karachi is once again playing out with wearing predictability. An activist of one party is killed, setting off a round of violence that brings the metropolis to a complete halt. In retaliation, the other party kills an activist or two and so the vicious cycle continues. At this point, the names of the parties no longer matter and it makes no difference who initially sparked the violence. The blame game played by the political parties is unfair and counterproductive. They are all complicit in turning mourning into senseless rioting and bringing the city to a standstill as they sort out their internal feuds.
At the federal level, the three parties most closely involved in the violence in Karachi are actually coalition partners and the government’s effort to stop their violent activities is dismal. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said a delay in the passage of the Anti-Terrorist Act was to blame for the violence, coupled with the transport of arms from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the presence of Taliban in Karachi. However, none of these arguments seem to hold up to even the faintest scrutiny. Even if the current iteration of the Anti-Terrorist Act was to be passed, there is no way it will deter the armed gangs that work for political parties.
It is true that Karachi became awash in arms in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but that holds little relevance more than 30 years later. All parties and ethnicities are now armed to the teeth. Blaming the violence on the Taliban makes no sense, especially since all the political parties have more than enough reason to continue killing one another.
The situation in Karachi is a purely local one, spurred by the complicated politics of the city. Those at the centre can help with negotiations but their role must necessarily be a secondary one. It is up to the political players in the city to realise that violence is not the best option. They need to reach a lasting truce instead, to restore life in the city back to some semblance of normalcy.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.