Sectarian killings

As had been feared, the political violence in Karachi has now turned explicitly sectarian

Editorial August 12, 2010

As had been feared, the political violence in Karachi has now turned explicitly sectarian. An employee at the Iran Tea House was gunned down on August 11. In the two days before that, a businessman and a member of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat were also killed in what were seen as sectarian killings. It is an unfortunate byproduct of Karachi’s politics, which are divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, that whenever political violence flares up, it inevitably raises tensions that minority groups will be targeted.

The government response so far seems to be based on hope rather than expectation. The measures announced by Interior Minister Rehman Malik to tackle the violence run the gamut from dictatorial to blindly optimistic. The one thing they share in common is that they are unlikely to work. In recent days, Malik has called for the formation of peace committees. The idea itself is harmless but unlikely to be effective when political parties are credibly accused of being behind many of the killings and the police have been castigated for refusing to take action against those responsible. On August 10, Malik announced that the jail sentence for carrying illegal weapons would be increased from three to 10 years. To expect this to act as a deterrent for people who are motivated by sectarian hatred is unrealistic. Malik’s initial response to the violence was to give the Rangers shoot-on-sight orders but giving law-enforcement agencies lethal power to use blindly is far more likely to inflame passions in the city. It was heartening to see members of the MQM and ANP holding a peace rally in Shah Faisal town. But the situation in Karachi calls for something more than window dressing to hide the mutual loathing the two parties have. As long as they continue to blame each other for the violence and implicitly encourage revenge, the cycle of violence in Karachi will continue to spin.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.


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