S ource: INN
The London riots were bad, but not in comparison to what has been happening in Karachi. Today Karachi, Pakistan’s financial and trade center, home to 18 million people, was silenced by a day of mourning called by the city’s main political party, the Urdu speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The day of mourning was in protest for the killing of over 100 people during this week and at least 500 people in the first half of the year by gangs linked to the main political parties, the MQM and the Pashtun Awami National Party.
Karachi, formerly the capital of Pakistan until the move to Islamabad, attained its population and sprawl as a result of successive waves of refugees who came following the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947, the secession of Bangladesh in 1971 and the Russian invasion of Pakistan.
These variegated waves of people led to ethnic tension which has led some to compare the situation in Karachi to Beirut.
While there has always been a connection between organized and petty crime and political activity in the city, the escalation of the phenomenon was the result of a divide and rule policy adopted by General Zia al Haq in the late 1970s in an attempt to weaken the Pakistan People’s Party of Zuflikar Ali Bhutto, whom he subsequently executed.
The Bhutto family’s political base was and still is the Province of Sindh, which includes Karachi. General Zia allowed the MQM to form a network of armed militants that eventually took control. The Pashtuns, who represent 25% of the population in Karachi but are grossly underrepresented in the local assembly, learned that political gangsterism is the way that the game is played. They soon formed their own paramilitary political organization.
During the 1990s there were erratic attempts by the central government to rein in the gangs, but these efforts quickly petered out.
Tthe rival gangs stake out territory and fly pennants representing their control. Members of the rival ethnic group and sometimes innocent civilians who venture into these areas have been tortured and killed and their bodies displayed as a warning to others.
The city is awash in weapons and everybody – politician, financier and of course the gang members,is armed.
The gravity of the situation has brought increased calls for the Pakistani army to step in to disarm the gangs and provide security for businesses.
This call does not come lightly. Pakistan is not the United States, where if the National Guard was called out to provide order, everybody knows that this is a temporary measure. The same applies to Britain when during the height of the riots, there were calls for the Army to supplement the overburdened police force. Nobody expected the British Army to take advantage of the situation and perpetuate its rule.
Pakistan is another story. The country has been subjected for many years to outright military rule or military rule masquerading behind a civilian facade. However, the situation has become desperate and people are willing to take a chance..
As one newscaster put it: “Right now, the top pr iority for every living soul is the end to wanton killing. People need the comforting feeling that they have a state to protect them. Pakistanis may not like the army to rule them (and they have strong reasons to feel this way), but they like getting killed even less. Some may even go as far as to say that a government that cannot protect the lives of its citizens has no democratic right to rule.”