Despite the claims made by the government and its coalition partners to revive a code of conduct and remove party flags from different areas of the city, nothing concrete has been done so far.
Flags of different political parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, flutter from buildings, electric poles, main roads and even government offices in Karachi.
The political parties blame one another for the failure of the campaign. But the government claims to have made the drive “successful”. “We are really thankful to the political parties for their cooperation to remove the flags because there are no permanent political flags on any road or building in the city,” said adviser Rashid Rabbani.
The idea behind removing the flags was to avert clashes between activists who used them as markers of street power.
The 10-point code of conduct was initially signed by PPP, MQM and ANP leaders in the presence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in August 2010 when Karachi was in the grip of drive-by shootings.
When the volatile situation revisited Karachi last month, a law and order meeting was held at Chief Minister House. Speaking at a joint press conference, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had initially given 24 hours for the flags to be removed. The government then extended the deadline by a week.
But when people and political parties did not live up to their pledge, the home department asked SHOs to remove the flags from their jurisdictions, saying that they would be held responsible if any flag was still found.
“The police alone cannot remove the flags if political activists threaten them. In this situation the police cannot do their job. It can only be possible with mutual cooperation,” said the Gulshan-e-Iqbal SHO, adding that they had started work for a few days but stopped after some suspects started firing at police teams.
Bashir Jan of the ANP said that soon after the code of conduct was signed by the coalition partners in the Sindh government, the ANP started removing the flags from Sharea Faisal, MT Khan Road, Quaidabad, Landhi, Old Sabzi Mandi, Katti Pahari, Pirabad and even North Nazimabad. But other parties did not follow suit.
“Instead of removing flags the PPP and the MQM have hoisted their flags where we removed ours,” he said, adding that his party had spent a lot of money “decorating” Sharea Faisal (from Nursery to Airport) with ANP flags but now it has MQM ones.
Similarly, he claimed to have taken off ANP flags from Mai Kolachi Road but PPP flags replaced theirs.
But the MQM has counter allegations. Wasay Jalil of the party said that none other but his party was sincere about following the code of conduct, which has failed because the other stakeholders were not serious about it. “We are the main stakeholder of Karachi and started the campaign from Azizababad, Nazimabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and other areas. But other parties were silent spectators; therefore we suspended the campaign,” he added. “Actions speak louder than words. We own Karachi, other should follow otherwise the issue will not be resolved.”
Adviser Rashid Rabbani said they and members of the MQM and the ANP went to different areas and removed the flags, starting from Katti Pahari. “I can say that permanent flags have been removed, but some political workers hoist others for a few days just to celebrate party events, which is permissible,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.