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Karachi Bleeds Again

Karachi has been a playground for political gang-wars for decades now.

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
March 31, 2012 12:42:08 am

KARACHI BLEEDS AGAIN

Karachi has been a playground for political gang-wars for decades now. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP),the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP),the three main political parties wrestling for supremacy in Pakistan’s financial capital,have now become disreputable for instigating and perpetuating violence,all in a bid to assert themselves over the other. To make matters worse for the administration and the general public,sectarian unrest makes its unwanted contribution to the city’s already volatile peace. Shia-Sunni clashes have become commonplace for Karachi. The year 2011 witnessed a long stint of political and sectarian clashes that invariably degenerated into armed aggression,which not only disturbed the city’s peace,but also dealt a death blow to Pakistan’s commercial powerhouse. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for a country already groaning under the weight of economic doom. And,once again,Karachi’s date with violence in 2012 began this week.

The Express Tribune reported on March 27 that an MQM worker was murdered at his residence in Karachi. As the news spread,so did unrest,and the report added: “Violence hit the city immediately after the incident,as eight people were reported to have been killed and dozens were injured as a result of firing. More than 35 vehicles,including a police mobile,were also torched by unknown men in parts of the city. A clash between two groups in Qasba Colony was also reported,while a hotel in Gulberg Block 18 was also burnt down… All educational institutions were shut down and exams had been postponed.” The MQM legislators also staged a walkout from the National Assembly in protest and a scheduled provincial cabinet meeting could also not take place “in the wake of the worsening law and order situation in Karachi,” the report said. The MQM has blamed the ANP for the murder.

The very next day,an ANP worker was shot in cold blood. A Daily Times report on March 29 stated: “It was another unruly day for the people of Karachi as the killing of an ANP worker on Wednesday added fuel to the unrest that began a day earlier after the murder of an MQM activist. Three people were shot dead,at least seven vehicles set on fire while gun battles were continuing in several city areas after unidentified gunmen shot dead Zainullah Khan,in-charge of ANP’s Patel Para ward.”

Business couldn’t go on as usual due to the fear that had spread amongst the people,and also because public transport had been affected. The Express Tribune reported on March 30: “Industrial activity remained partially disturbed in the city on Thursday,which was declared a day of mourning by the ANP after the killing of its worker on Wednesday night. Leading industrial zones reported a 40 per cent to 60 per cent drop in production because of low attendance of workers who could not reach factories in [the absence of public transport.”

ISLAMABAD AND DC

US-Pakistan ties have been on the slide since last year when Osama bin Laden was found. Then came the allegedly-unprovoked firing on Pakistani territory by NATO forces from across the Durand Line. Since then,there’s been constant noise in Pakistan to redefine US-Pakistan ties. On March 26,a joint session of parliament resumed discussions in the light of recommendations by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security,which was constituted last year to look into the souring of bilateral relations.

Referring to the NATO firing,Pakistan’s foreign minister,Hina Rabbani Khar,was quoted by The News on March 26: “The incident was grave enough for an apology not to be good enough…” She added that the time had come to “reassess Islamabad’s partnership with the US”. General James Mattis,Centcom Commander,and General John Allen,commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force,arrived in Pakistan for discussions with the country’s civilian and military leadership. This was the first high-level military delegation from the US since last winter.

The Express Tribune ,in an editorial on March 29,redrew the contours of the delicate,yet tenacious relationship: “Although few details have been released about these meetings,one can read between the lines and look at it as the start of a détente. The Pakistan military realises that the US holds the advantage in this face-off. The army is almost entirely reliant on American aid to provide it weaponry and technical assistance. As such,breaking off ties with the US,no matter how wounded the military’s feelings are,is not an option. Recall,after all,that it was the military that first granted permission to the US to conduct drone strikes in the tribal areas. This meeting should,thus,be seen as the first step to a reset in relations between Pakistan and the US.”

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