We finally have at least a measure of good news from Karachi. The ‘Code of Conduct’ signed between the PPP, MQM and ANP offers some hope of a return to order in a city that has known only death since the frenzy of violence that followed the shooting of an MQM MPA. Around one hundred people have died. This is one hundred too many. Most of those killed were poor people with no interest in anything more than earning a livelihood for themselves and their families. The signing of the accord at a meeting presided over by the prime minister gives rise to optimism that the killings will now end. So far at least 10 people have been killed since the signing of the agreement. The parties have agreed to discuss matters and try to arrive at amicable settlements on those that divide them. We must pray that they succeed in this. Unfortunately the history of such agreements is not promising. Too often a wide chasm has existed between what is said within the closed confines of offices and what actually happens out on the streets. Promises are not always honoured; commitments are not always kept. Leaders, as we well know, in our country are not reputed for remaining true to their word.
It is also a fact that conditions on the ground are not easy. As inevitably happens in the wake of a situation of the kind that has prevailed in Karachi, tensions, suspicions and the hatred these breed run deep. The putting of signatures on a piece of paper will not alter this. Each of the parties involved will need to transmit the message of peace out to their activists on the streets and also to members of the communities they represent. Ethnic killings of the kind we have seen have a terrible tendency to assume a life of their own and transform people into zombies out to seek blind revenge. This of course is one reason why they must end. The effort made to do so is welcome as a move to remove fear from Karachi and ensure life regains its normal rhythm in the country's financial and commercial capital.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.
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