April issue 2012

By | News & Politics | Published 12 years ago

Karachi was once a rocking city — bustling with life, energy and hope. A city of dreams that embraced all who entered its fold, starry-eyed, full of aspirations to make it big — or simply make it.

But now an ominous, eerie silence has descended on the city. As people step out of their homes to go about their work, there is the nagging fear that they may return home as bullet-riddled corpses.

There is the smell of death in the air. Karachi has been turned into a graveyard of sorts by those who preside over its destiny — the PPP, the MQM and the ANP. They are engaged in a shameless turf war to seize control of the country’s economic lifeline, strangling it in the process.

And caught in this bitter battle are the people of Karachi, from the top business houses who are being forced to cough up millions in the form of bhatta by extortionists of all political shades or face abduction and closures, to the poor vegetable vendors, rickshaw drivers, construction workers and daily wage earners, who are being killed on a daily basis because they belong to one or other ethnic group. Similarly shops and public transport are being set on fire to further stoke the ethnic fires.

In three days of strikes last month, 35 vehicles were torched, 40 innocent people were killed, Rs 11.5 billion were lost as industrial and trading activities remained suspended and the government was deprived of Rs 3.20 billion in tax revenues.

After the ghastly deed was done, the president and the interior minister flew into Karachi to find a quick-fix solution to a problem that is crying for a cast iron solution. This government has got to be the most impotent in recent history. Its appease one-and-all policy to stay in power has brought this city to the brink of disaster.

Not so long ago, when the Supreme Court held several hearings with the stakeholders in Karachi to bring peace to this traumatised city, the centre should have seized the opportunity to expose the trouble-makers and let the apex court sort them out once and for all. But the PPP, which has been at loggerheads with the justices, and its coalition partners were determined to protect all on board, criminals included. When the stakeholders, who should have served as trouble-shooters in times of crises, are themselves fomenting trouble, how can peace ever return to this city?

When a MQM worker is gunned down, the party brings the entire city to a grinding halt and orders its supporters to go on a killing spree, burn down buses and force closure of shops and businesses, thereby setting into motion a chain of violence and vendetta. Is this how a party of educated individuals, that is part of the coalition in Sindh and the centre, should behave?

Shouldn’t a day of mourning be conducted in private, with dignity, with restraint?

If the MQM, or any coalition partner, continues to indulge in this senseless orgy of violence after every killing, instead of taking recourse to the law, Karachi will never recover from its long night of terror.

Look out for the April issue of Newsline at newsstands across Pakistan.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.