“Killing fields of Karachi”
This time it was different from previous shoot outs of such inter-community killings in Karachi: The weapons used by one side were deadly long range guns, rockets and as a photo in a highly prestigious daily showed the attackers were firing from behind well built bunkers. Previous clashes were spontaneous and confined to a tit for tat killings of innocent individuals. Obviously one side had planned these attacks and persons and weapons used were like those used by terrorists in the mountains in the North. These created suspicion that some of the lawless elements from the North have infiltrated in Karachi. To talk of “foreign powers trying to “ destabilizing” Pakistan is a far fetched explanation.
The government and political elements tried to give some unconvincing explanations for this inter-community armed attack. This inter-community fights had some similarities with what I witnessed in foreign countries. There too, the police and army were absent from the scene. The causes of clashes there too were inter-community clash of interests.
The same apathy of law and order, land mafias and such criminals were said to be behind the spates of target killings. This is highly unconvincing. The biggest mafia in the world are the crime mafaias in America and the Sicilian Mafia. They fight with the gangs competing with them. The entire community or inhabitants of an area do not attack othr community in support of the Mafia. The biggest mafia in recent history was that of Al Capone in Chicago. No inter-community wars in support of Al Capone and his opoosite mafia took place. Yes there can be mafias in Karachi but they do not have the backing of entire communities. This is an unacceptable explanation. Another explanation was that some powers want to destabilize Pakistan. This is a far fetched explanation, when it was just a repeat of off again on again inter-communities violence for establishing total control over an area. The only thing new in the present situation as pointed out above in the sign that the elements from the North have joined one side in the inter-community armed clashes.
Raza Haroon a leader of the MQM described the clashes as PPP Governments vendetta against MQM’s resignation from the PPP coalition. This could be plausible but such inter-community mini wars had taken place over years in the past , as Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated “ It had documented deaths of more than 1,100 people in Karachi in the first half of 2011 .. of which 490 were target killings on political, ethnic or secretarian grounds” . The reports in the press said that “Security forces, political groups and non-state armed groups have been blamed for target killings which have been on the rise in the recent years.” This seems to be the real cause of the off again on again blood baths broadly of the two or three ethnic identities living in Karachi. Obviously the authorities are reluctant to name the two groups involved . They know that it was a kind of fighting for assertion of power by one group over the other in which possibly the Taleban joined hands as is clear from the first ever use of long range weapons and of missiles. This is where the firing from previous clashes is different.
Why such clashes are recurring? First because ethnic identity is over powering Pakistanism. The basis of Pakistan nationalism was the brotherhood of all components of the nation , whereas in recent past the grip of unity of Pakistan nationalism has been weakening. In the recent past the first official patronage given to ethnicity was the creation of Khayber Pakhtun khawa Province. Now the ruling Party has included in its manifesto its plans to creation three more ethnic provinces including Sraiki Provinces. Were more provinces suggested for administrative reasons that would have been a different reason .In this atmosphere the ethnic differences are asserting themselves and in fact poised to clash.
Another reason is that the Sindh Government has been unable to solve Karachi’s problems. Karachi’s problems are of a unique nature. May be for this reason Sindh Government and its administration has been unable to handle Karachi’s problems While interior Sindh is entirely agricultural and its educational and economic development level is very different from that of Karachi, a mega city of about 20 million population with a very high rate of literacy , Karachi is economic hub of Pakistan and industrially most advanced in Pakistan; it contributes may be 65 % of funds to the Federal Budget. Structurally the two parts of Sind have different problems and different contents. Karachi needs an autonomous status to be managed by its own representatives of all those who live in Karachi irrespective of their ethnicity- whoever they are whether , Muhajirs or Pakhtuns, Sindhis or any Pakistani permanently residing in Karachi without any discrimination . Let me clarify that Urdu Speaking is not the correct description for the “Muhajirs” and their children because among the Muhajirs mother tongue of some is Gujerati, Memoni, Madrasi, Telugu, Kinari, and so on. Urdu is only the lingua franka of the Subcontinent , not only of Pakistan. It is mother tongue of a small minority of “Muhajirs” from North India only. Once in Cairo at the farewell of the Nepali ambassador by Egyptian Government were present Indian, Bangla Deshi, Sri Lakan, Afghan ambassador and myself, and we started talking amongst ourselves in a dialect understood to most of us. The Egyptian host asked me what tongue are you speaking?. I replied we would all disagree on naming it. I will call it Urdu, the Indian will say Hindi, etc. Do not ask us to name it. What shape this autonomous status of Karachi could be is a matter of detailed consideration which can be decided by inter-community caucus, of all communites?
In the meanwhile, Karachi’s situation will continue to simmer and clashes can recur from time to time if elements from the North have become a new addition in Karachi. Police cannot handle the situation, Rangers are under local control, only the Army can control it, as it is doing in the North. Here one would agree with Pir Pagara Saheb on the necessity of calling Army to control the law and order situation.