February issue 2010

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 10 years ago

Given the raging battle against terror within the country’s borders, one would’ve expected the ruling coalition to maintain unity in their ranks and set their sights on winning this war. Instead, they are engaged in fighting their own petty wars. In Karachi, for instance, the country’s three major coalition partners are busy killing each other.

From January 30 to February 1 alone, 24 people were killed in the tussle between the MQM and the ANP over wall-chalkings. Prior to that, dozens of people were killed in a running battle between MQM and PPP workers. It was triggered by the murder of an MQM worker who was allegedly having an affair with a Baloch woman from Lyari. But it could have been sparked off by any other incident, given the troubled history of PPP-MQM relations.

For several months now, temperatures of the three coalition partners have been sizzling, resulting in tit-for-tat killings. It’s all about turf — who controls what, where, and to what end. Everyone wants the biggest bite of the big apple.

This battle for Karachi has assumed dangerous proportions. Every political party harbours its own band of thugs to serve as its foot soldiers. And any attempt by the police to rein in these criminals is met with stiff resistance from their political benefactors, who’ve even been known to help them escape from prisons.

Every few weeks, the interior minister or the prime minister or the president have had to fly down to cool frayed tempers. As if they don’t have enough of their own battles to contend with.

What makes the situation so dangerous is the fact that this country is flush with arms, and the legislators are determined to dole out some more. Between the end of March 2008 and now, reportedly 38,000 licences for prohibited weapons have been issued on the directives of two office-holders. This is in addition to 100,000 licences for non-prohibited weapons. But that’s not the end of the story. Ostensibly, every MNA is entitled to issue 25 licences per year for prohibited and 20 for non-prohibited weapons — and even MPAs are allowed five licences for prohibited bores a year.

So if you’re thinking de-weaponisation or not, here’s the clincher: the Sindh home minister is reportedly recommending that the assemblies give every Pakistani citizen a licence for a gun to protect himself/herself.

That makes for 170 million men, women and children with guns. Need one say more?

The February issue of Newsline is on newsstands now.

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