They termed it a ‘day of mourning,’, on three days last week in Karachi. ‘Mourning in this particular political parlance indicates not a spell of grieving, but a foray into extreme violence. ‘Mourning’, ‘strike’, provoke the same action — killings and arson. And who and what are the main perpetrators? Well, it is not de rigueur to admit what we all think we know for fear of reprisal but truly as far as Karachi is concerned, in all incidents of violence the political parties that make up the Sindh government coalition are the prime movers and shakers.
The start of it all was a political party “worker’s” murder, reportedly undertaken by gangsters from the Lyari district. Whatever or whoever, the killings that followed and the destruction of vehicles that took place cannot in any way be justified nor can the fact that this city shut itself down completely out of sheer fear.
‘Workers’ of some political parties can be knocked off without any tangible consequence. However, the same cannot be said for other parties because in such cases the city experiences a debilitating strike. By the same token, a couple of parties can issue strike calls and the results are comparatively negligible in comparison with those that have to merely mention the word ‘strike’ and the citizens of Karachi respond within minutes, many scurrying to the safety of their homes.
Fear predominates as it did on the three days last week, at a cost, so the experts say, of a couple of billion rupees loss to the economy each day. The main sufferers are, of course, those on daily wages, but who cares, they are mere members of the great unwashed with no clout at all. On the first ‘day of mourning’ schools shut down mid-morning and children were whisked away, driven home in trepidation, which cannot be doing them any psychological good. Markets and shops pull down their shutters, public transport disappears before it is subjected to arson — all cooperating fully in the ‘mourning’ process whilst for days, individuals are gunned down and scores of vehicles set on fire.
Quite unfortunate and in fact absurd is what happens when, after a strike, in which lives have been lost and millions of rupees worth of damage is done to private and public property, one hears of phrases like a “successful strike” being bandied about in the media. Surely, the primary reason for such a strike being ‘successful’ is that people rather be safe than sorry and do not want to risk going out of their homes and risking their lives.
On International Women’s Day, this publication printed the story of the 1985 accidental death of a college student Bushra Zaidi, which led to a mammoth spell of ‘mourning’, of violence and turmoil in Karachi. Since then, over two decades ago, the political parties have waged their turf wars at the city’s expense, directing Karachi’s moods and swings with its countless days of ‘mourning’ and strikes’.
A new phenomenon was born in 2008, when sectarian strife and inter-party rivalry reached its peak with slayings galore, and the term ‘target killings’ was coined. They continue, whether sectarian or inter-party, the Sindh government washing its hands of all responsibility, aided and abetted by the members of the irresponsible coalition.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.