Thursday, April 09, 2015 – THE up- coming by- election in Karachi (Constituency NA 246) has upped the political temperature of the city by many notches. However, so far it has remained confined to sundry scuffles and levelling of high pitched allegations and counter allegations against each other by the main contesting parties—the MQM and the PTI. Both Altaf Hussain of the MQM and Imran Khan of the PTI have been seen/heard personally getting involved in the fray.
Thankfully, so far the confrontation has not degenerated into the usual Karachi style bloody row punctuated with fatalities. One hopes it remains so until after the polling day—April 23, 2015.
Mercifully, even the backdrop has remained free from the usual mayhem of daily target killings and calls of strikes at the drop of a hat since March 11, 2015 when the Rangers raided the Nine-Zero offices of the MQM and arrested a number of wanted criminals and recovered a vast quantity of highly sophisticated arms and ammunition.
The Supreme Court in its ruling of September 2013 had ordered the provincial law and order agencies to clear the city of its armed hordes, cleanse the political parties of their militant wings and smash the sleeping cells of terrorist bands.
But no significant movement was noticed on this front until the country-wide launch on June 16, 2014of Zarb-i-Azb against all kinds of terrorists—both good and bad— with focus on North Waziristan Agency and Karachi.
The focus on Karachi was prompted by the June 9 surprise attack on Jinnah International Airport—considered to be a near-effective terrorist bid to expose the vulnerability of the state itself.
Most political parties instead of curbing the activities of their militant wings for the time being to avoid coming in the way of the Zarb-i-Azb campaign let them continue their bloody game perhaps thinking that the Rangers would be too pre-occupied going after the terrorists in the city to bother about the armed activists of political parties.
When these militants started getting killed in the campaign’s cross-fire, some of their host parties began accusing the law enforcement agencies of picking up and killing what they termed as their political workers and when this did not work they were left with no option but to order their militants to go under cover along with their weapons preferably in and round the party headquarters thinking that the law enforcing agencies would not dare raid their headquarters looking for criminals.
So, what had happened on March 11 at the MQM headquarters was perhaps not a targeted operation against the MQM but was in fact a follow- through action of the Zarb-i-Azb campaign with the Muttahida getting caught in the cross-fire.
And now that the Muttahida’s militant wing having seemingly effectively disrupted, the party should thank their stars and start pursuing their legitimate political activities in right earnest.
Very few sane Pakistanis would disagree with the liberal, secular and emphatically middle class politics of the MQM. It is only their ideological emphasis on the so-called mohajir ethnicity and their linguistic exclusivity that sets them apart from the country’s teeming downtrodden limiting their political appeal to a minuscule minority in the national context.
However, in the context of urban Sindh, especially in Karachi’s context the MQM is assured of maximum political appeal because most among Karachi’s population claim Urdu to be their mother tongue and most also trace their immediate roots (fathers and grandfathers) to India.
But Karachi is a cosmopolitan city. It is in a way mini-Pakistan. Being so, its societal plank has always been fundamentally pluralistic. This makes the city open to all kinds of ideologies and political thought competing for space with the MQM.And the MQM having limited its political appeal to mohajirs and Urdu speaking – population of the city seemingly was left with no other option but to employ the instrument of fear through its militant wing to ward off the competition from the moreenlightened and universally more appealing political ideologies. Any attempt by any other political thought to enter its political fiefdom was met with all the fire-power at its command. Similarly any attempt by any of its voters inspired by pluralism to venture out of the fiefdom was also met with equal force. That is why the slogan: Jo Quaid and Ghaddar Hai wo Maut ka Haqdar hai.
Both the MQM and the PPP have consistently refused to recognize the mini-Pakistan status of the port city. MQM insists that it is a city of ‘Mohajirs’ or/and of those people whose mother tongue is Urdu. The PPP leadership disagrees vehemently with this notion and recognizes it as a leading urban city of Sindh province and since the party owns the province politically it believes it to be only its right to claim the ownership of the city as well. So, the need to set up a militant wing of its own to fight for the city’s turf and wrench it from the MQM. Karachi being the largest Pushtun city in the world, the ANP too needed a militant wing of its own to look after the socio-commercial interests of the city’s Pushtuns. Soon it was free for all as landgrabbers, armed criminal gangs and extremist groups started fighting for a share in the Karachi booty.
The PML-N, rightly or wrongly, has an image of being a Punjabi party and therefore it has consistently failed to take a political foothold in the city. The PTI which has over the last few years developed an image of being a party of the educated middle class but carrying no ethnic or linguistic baggage is perhaps the answer for the problems of the city of Karachi unless of course the MQM reads the writing on the wall well in time and corrects its political course.