If no one knows who is responsible for target killings, how come such killings stop when all political parties gather at Rehman Malik’s table? The trend is that as long as there is peace among the parties, there are no target killings but as soon as political relations worsen, residents of the city pay the price. Is calling the army in, the only option left?
On his TV show Friday evening, Frontline’s host Kamran Shahid of Express News asked political figures this question.
While Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal’s (JUI-F) Senator Azam Swati supported army intervention, Awami National Party’s (ANP) Bashir Bilour insisted on political negotiations. Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Sharmila Farooqi saw no harm in calling in the army but felt that target killings were essentially a political issue. Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Sirajul Haq went all out to blame the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for the unrest.
In the past week, Karachi saw some of its worst bloodshed. No part of the city was spared and residents were so terrorised that even a firecracker made their hearts skip a beat.
According to our correspondent Akber Ali, the government tried its best to restore normalcy. Law-enforcement agencies were seen forcing traders and vendors to open their shops but once the police mobile unit left, businesses would close down again. The police and Rangers did not dare venture into the streets where gunshots echoed throughout the week.
Given these conditions, JUI’s Swati advised that the army should be called in as a “detached and impartial third party” so that there is peace in the city again.
“I blame the political parties, I blame myself for this situation,” he claimed, adding that the political parties are the reason why the police and the Rangers, who are essentially hired by political figures, have been unable to catch the culprits.
“The police and Rangers are meant to control the poor and weak elements of society,” he said. “To control culprits as powerful as political leaders, we need the army.” He clarified, however, that bringing the army in does not mean that democracy will die.
ANP’s Bilour favoured the political process and insisted that all issues are resolved through negotiations. He was hopeful that the talks initiated by Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will succeed in bringing peace.
Swati appreciated the efforts of the ministers in trying to establish peace yet he felt that these short-term measures will not last. “For a long-term solution, we need to de-weaponise the city,” he suggested.
“Our brothers in the MQM claim they have 80 per cent control of Karachi,” claimed Bilour. “In that case, my only request is they let the remaining 20 per cent of the population live in peace.”
Bilour clarified that the Pakhtun have travelled all the way to Karachi to serve the country and it is their “sweat and blood” that has gone into the construction of buildings and flyovers in the city.
He was in favour of catching the culprits, regardless of which political party they belong to. They must be sent to trial. But to achieve this end, he rested his faith first, with the government and then the law-enforcement agencies.
JI’s Haq doubted the usefulness of calling in the army, saying that they were called in before “and the experiment did not work”. He also insisted on blaming the MQM for unrest in the city. “Ever since the MQM gained power in Karachi, the law and order situation has worsened,” he said.
PPP’s Farooqi did not oppose the idea of calling the army in as “they are ours and not imported from abroad”. “The issue of target killings is political and the permanent solution lies with the leadership of the coalition partners,” she said, adding however that, “if the Tehreek-e-Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba have indeed entered Karachi, then it is a very big challenge and the army may have to be summoned”.
Public polls also reflected the same trend: 62 per cent of people support martial law in Karachi and the remaining 38 per cent oppose it.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.
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