In the past few days, Lyari once again became the focal point of the violence in Karachi with at least seven people killed there in fighting between local gangs and the police. That the violence in Lyari started almost immediately after President Asif Ali Zardari held a high-level meeting at Bilawal House, in Karachi, in which he ordered the authorities to show no mercy in taking on killers and extortionists shows just how far the situation has spun out of control. For all intents and purposes, the political parties have decided that the state’s writ no longer applies in Karachi and that their various gangs and mafias will sort things out among themselves. What this means is that Lyari, like the rest of the city, will remain vulnerable to bouts of internecine conflict with law-enforcement authorities reduced to playing the role of bystanders.
It is usually when the violence reaches such a crescendo that we begin to hear calls for the Rangers to be given greater powers, such as being allowed to shoot-on-sight, or even for the army to be deployed in the city. To fall prey to these temptations would be profoundly unwise since this is, at best, a stopgap solution and does not resolve anything beyond that timeframe. Essentially, the problem in Karachi is a political one and hence the solution to reducing or eliminating it is also necessarily political.
President Zardari should follow up his Bilawal House meeting, at which the governor, chief minister, other provincial ministers and law-enforcement officials were present, with another meeting that includes local representatives of all the political parties. As the senior partner in the coalition, the PPP needs to admit that it, too, is to blame for the violence. Right now, the state has absented itself from the violence in Karachi. It is now way past the time for it to establish its dominion over the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.
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