November issue 2010

By | News & Politics | People | Q & A | Published 10 years ago

“For the sake of their own community,
the MQM should stop the killing”
– Zulfiqar Mirza

Q: Who do you think is responsible for the trouble in Karachi ?

A: It takes a certain confidence and comfort level with your surroundings to be a troublemaker. Who do you think are the people most well-ensconced politically and otherwise in Karachi for the last 20 years or so? Think about this and you will find the answer.

Q: As interior minister of the province, you should not be seen as partisan. Yet, the MQM contends that in cross-party meetings to discuss Karachi ’s volatile situation you refuse to even look at, leave alone address MQM delegates. How can this augur well for peace?

A: You seem to be somewhat predisposed about my status. If someone says something about me, it should not form the basis of your opinion. I expect someone like you should carry out your own analysis before giving words to your thoughts.

Q: I’m certainly not predisposed towards anyone. But Karachi is at war with itself, and the main stakeholders — the MQM, ANP, and the PPP, ostensibly coalition partners — are levelling serious charges against each other. Surely someone has to be accountable…

A: These are not the only stakeholders in the city. The Jamaat-i-Islami has a big political stake in the city. So do the Sunni Tehreek and MQM Haqiqi. Why are you only focusing on the current killings?

The point is, I call a spade a spade, and I also do that in meetings. I talk to the MQM; I address them and they address me. They are my cabinet colleagues. How can I attend meetings at the Governor’s House in the presence of the governor, and not talk to them? That’s ridiculous.

But to be very frank, I am tired of talking. I have spoken at every level; I have spoken at the cabinet level and I have done this very openly. I am not a Pathan or ANP advocate, nor am I an advocate of Sindhi nationalists. I am a minister for the whole of Sindh and it is my duty to protect innocent life and call a criminal a criminal. I have a book full of interrogations. But no one will believe it although there is testimony in it from military representatives, the IB, ISI, the Special Branch and the police — they have conducted joint interrogations. If you read this you will be amazed. You will realise on whose orders the killings in Karachi were conducted — and it’s not just the MQM. The majority [of the perpetrators] are MQM-affiliated people, but there are people from Islamic parties too. The report tells us who is involved in arms smuggling, who the buyers are … I could write a thesis on the subject.

Q: Some analysts have said that the latest proposal for a crackdown in Karachi favours the ANP and targets the MQM. Please respond.

A: This charge is completely unfounded. In fact, it is the other way round in some localities, and we have the documentary evidence to prove it. These are the areas we are targeting: Rabia City Apartments, Block 18, Gulshan to Gulistan-i-Johar, Karachi, comprising predominantly ANP workers and supporters. Total number of flats, 2,400. Noman Grand City, Block 17, Gulistan-i-Johar, Karachi, dominated by the MQM-Altaf. Total number of flats, 823. So is this crackdown against the ANP or the MQM?

Q: There are reports that you have made widespread recruitments to the Sindh police based on cronyism to co-opt the force to fall in with your own agenda. Furthermore, there are charges that you actually share space on posters in the city with notorious thugs like Rehman Dakait — demonstrating quite graphically how involved you are in the criminal mafia network. Would you comment?

A: I have recruited 10,000 people in Sindh’s police force. My accusers say I have recruited 5,000 people from Lyari alone. Actually I have recruited a total of 2,500 from all of Karachi and of these 500 or so are from Lyari.

All recruitments have been made according to a laid-down criterion, which is fairly transparent. The point is, do Lyari residents not have a right to employment? Lyariites are the original Karachiites. Surely they too have the right to earn a living. Lyari is an area most prone to unemployment and the menace of drugs. And why is that? Because it’s a vicious cycle. Lyariites have always been pro-PPP, but for 30 years we have not taken care of them. Now, as interior minister, it is my responsibility to do this and I am working very hard to this end. We have to break the cycle by giving them employment, bringing them into the mainstream. So I have done that. If that’s a sin, I will commit it over and over again.

In regard to my connection with the Lyari Amn Committee, please examine these photos. The man with a garland is an MQM minister. The garlanded woman is also from the MQM. So they went to the launch of the Amn Committee office and gave speeches.I have never been to their office. If anyone can prove that I’ve been to the house or office of any Amn Committee member, I will leave politics. I will resign and go away. The fact is that if the Amn Committee allies with the MQM, then it is acceptable. If they refuse and disagree with the party’s politics, they are bad.

As for Rehman Dakait, I have never seen him in my life. I am not here to patronise criminals. I am here to destroy them. The credit goes to Zulfiqar Mirza and the PPP that Rehman Dakait died during our governance. When the MQM had their government  and their home minister, Rehman Dakait was caught, handed over to the police, and then allowed to escape through bribing the relevant people. So who patronises whom?

Q: Why is it that in your presence as Sindh interior minister, federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has to fly down to Karachi every time the city erupts? Can you not handle the situation?

A: We here are the ones who always handle the situation. Rehman Mallik’s assistance is, however, welcome because he enjoys a good rapport with our coalition partners and does a good job at political management.

Q: You say Rehman Mallik comes here because he enjoys a good rapport with the PPP’s coalition partners. As Sindh home minister, shouldn’t you work towards improving relations with all of Karachi’s stakeholders, given the fragility of the city’s state?

A: I have tried my level best, but I cannot do what they [the MQM] want. They want a repetition of May 12 — the day Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry came to Karachi. I cannot allow that. They have been engaged in violence and I am trying to stop them. Ninety Pathans died in one day. Who killed them? You might have CPLC figures, but I will give you the real ones. Conversely, five Urdu-speaking people die daily. Don’t those who claim 90% of Karachi’s vote bank know who is dying on their streets?

They should realise that if they kill, there will be retaliation — tit for tat — the Pathan will react, the Baloch will react, the Sindhi will react. And in the settling of scores many more Urdu-speaking will die, because there will be blind shooting and there are many more of them to kill. So for the sake of their own community, they should stop the killing.

Q: Given the IDP situation in the country and the changing demographics in Karachi, has any work been done towards devising a workable, sustainable scheme to bring peace to the city?

A: More than 75% of the IDPs have already returned to their homes, and the rest are on their way. So notions of a changing demography are naïve. Nonetheless, everyone has a right to settle in Karachi — and I’m not just talking about Sindhis, but people from all over. People fled Swat during the operation and came here, and subsequently 100% of them returned. When they were here we made them comfortable, when they were ready to go home, we saw them off. Then too there were noises made. The same way, when the flood affectees came, it was our duty to look after them, but from day one it was government policy that no one would be allowed to grab any land. Some Sindhi nationalists tried, but we took action against them. When they resisted, there was police action and those who refused to evacuate the grabbed land were killed and the property was returned to the original owner.

As for solutions, well I have suggested a crackdown. I think in the long run, deweaponisation is perhaps an inevitable option.We will need to do that along with a more restrictive and punitive legal regime for arms control. Unfortunately, the MQM has opposed this, even in the cabinet. Why? If it can spare lives, why wouldn’t they want to do this? I have also proposed a witness protection programme for those people who have seen crimes being committed but are too frightened to give evidence lest they and their families are targeted. We will hopefully get this programme in place.

Q: Will the proposed crackdown be conducted by the police and Rangers or will you enlist the help of the army as well?

A: We could do it with the former two, but it is my constitutional right to call in the army if I feel I can’t handle it. So if I feel the need to do so, I will. If we can call the army into Swat, why not Karachi ? Karachi is more important. When Karachi gets disturbed, the whole economy gets disturbed.

Q: Do you think there can be sustainable peace in Karachi, with the communities in harmony with each other?

A: They have lived in peace in the past and there is no reason why they should not be able to live in peace even in the future. Communities must respect each other’s mutual rights and treat each other as human beings.

This interview accompanied the November 2010 cover story, Karachi’s Mean Streets.