There is a sense that the operation in Karachi to clean up the city and take down the criminal and sectarian infrastructures — some of which lie within political organisations — was a job only half done. The appalling attack on the Ismaili community in Safoora Goth that killed at least 45 people may be the event that signals a taking off of the handbrake; and in the aftermath of a Sindh Apex Committee meeting on May 14, Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has ordered an expansion of the operation. This in itself is an unspoken acknowledgement that not all criminal, terrorist or sectarian elements had been tackled, but would be henceforward.
Apex committees were formed to monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan that was formulated after the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar last December. Their efficacy has been far from uniform thus far, and in the instance of Sindh, there is just cause for complaint as the Rs3.4 billion package promised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the Sindh police has not been delivered. General Sharif has said that he will take up the matter with the prime minister, which is all very well, but the police and others can hardly be expected to take on heavily-armed elements with one hand tied behind their back and vulnerable soft-skin vehicles — when what they really need are armoured personnel carriers.
There is now to be enhanced surveillance at entry points to the city, apex committee meetings weekly rather than monthly, and increased coordination between intelligence agencies. This latter has long bedevilled effective counterterrorism interventions as the intelligence apparatus is notoriously poor at acting in concert with one another. If all this fine resolve does indeed translate into actions which confront head on some of the political and religious ‘untouchables’, then we warmly welcome and support them. If, however, it is yet another deployment of smoke and mirrors, looking busy doing nothing, then we reserve the right to be critical of all concerned. Fine words there are aplenty, but what Karachi needs now is steely resolve.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2015.