The grenade attack on a school in Ittehad Town, Baldia, in Karachi, which killed the principal and injured five children, one of whom succumbed to injuries later, is sure to ignite debate over the identity of the perpetrators. The principal, who appears to have been directly targeted, was a member of the ANP and had reportedly been threatened for not paying protection money. In recent days, both national and international media has been focusing on the growing power of the Taliban in Karachi and certainly militants would have every reason to target a member of the ANP. The Taliban have also never had any problem with attacking schoolchildren; indeed, it made shutting down and attacking girls’ schools a centrepiece of its war against the state and tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. Indeed, the police have confirmed that the school principal was on the hit list of the Taliban.
But the power politics of Karachi is so complicated and violent that others may end up being blamed too. Political parties in the city have been embroiled in bloody turf battles for many years and have accused one another of extorting money in areas they control. Despite the major political parties of the city being among the most anti-Taliban in the country, they have not sought unity over this issue. However, whatever the magnitude of the differences, these should not be insurmountable and should be reconciled through talks as this is the need of the hour at a time when all major political parties of the city face a common enemy.
Meanwhile, it is the unfortunate children of Pakistan who have been caught in the crosshairs of battles they are far too young to comprehend. There seems to be little chance that the police will arrest the perpetrators, so the dead and injured are set to become yet another statistic. As long as Karachi is awash in weaponry and everyone decides to solve their problems at the butt of a gun, there is little hope for the city. And, as always, it is the most vulnerable who will pay the ultimate price.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2013.