For those not familiar with what or where Karachi is,it is Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub of the country. Its a seaport city and often referred to as the “Mini-Pakistan” because people from all over the country come to Karachi in search of work and business.
But Karachi is burning!!!
Ever since the civil and democratically government has taken over the country over four years ago,there is daily count of 10-20 people being killed in a systematic and most brutal manner. The dead bodies are usually found abandoned in sewer drains or isolated roads sides. Most of the victims have torture marks on their bodies like holes drilled in their knees,genitals cut off or burnt etc. hands and feet are tied. Finally the victims are killed either by bullet in the head or slit throat or a spray of bullets all over the body. Media and government call it “Target Killing”.
Who are these victims and who is killing them and why?
Karachi used to be once called the “the city of lights” because it was so safe there that the shops and restaurants used to never close there during the night. Tourists and people would spend entire nights on the beach or going from one restaurant to another.This was not too long ago either. Till mid to late eighties things were pretty okay in Karachi. Although with millions of Afghan refugees wandering free in Pakistan,Karachi also saw thousands of these Afghans settling down in this great metropolitan city. Many businesses were taken over by these rich and armed Afghans. Though the natives of Karachi were quite accommodating to the new settlers but they also felt threatened by them. Majority of the Afghans were uneducated and lacked skills to work in a big city. Most of them ended up working as private guards or waiters at small restaurants or bus conductors. Surprisingly none of these refugees were ever seen begging on the roads. A new culture was emerging and evolving in this giant city. A culture of insecurity!
Afghans are notorious for their use and trade of prohibited and contraband products. From early eighties till early nineties,USA sent food,clothes,electronics and many other products to Afghanistan as aid packages. Afghans were never used to such products that they received in these US aid packages and found little use of these for themselves. Most of these products ended up being sold by roadside Afghan vendors in the major cities of Pakistan like Islamabad,Lahore,Quetta and Karachi. Youngsters in Pakistan really fancied US military jackets and other military hardware left behind by the defeated Soviet Army. A whole new smuggling mafia involving Afghans and local law enforcement agencies developed and it became a multi-million dollar illegal industry. In a very short span of time many Afghan settlers became very rich and influential people in Pakistan (though still mostly uneducated). They used bribes,ammunition and force to takeover businesses and even managed to purchase land and big transport businesses.
Being Pashtoons they were easily able to merge into the local Pashtoon population. Karachi had changed forever! A strong rift developed between the local Mohajir and the new Pashtoon settlers (aka Afghans+local Pashtoons). Though initially confrontations were not too violent but gradually things started getting bad. Infact by mid-nineties things got so bad that the daily body count of targetted killings crossed 100-150. Mohajirs had setup their own killing squads. These squads had proper torture camps where the abducted victims were tortured in the most violent manner ever and eventually killed. Mohajirs also started forcing local business people in Karachi to pay “protection money” to them or else be ready for the worst. Those who refused were kidnapped for ransom. Often the kidnapped victims were killed. Mohajirs setup a political party called MQM and eventually successfully created a separate identity for themselves. They called themselves Indian citizens who had opted to immigrate to Pakistan (Well most of the people in Pakistan were once Indians and many of us did immigrate from India so how the Mohajirs were any different from rest of the Pakistanis is still a mystery…it’s a case of fake identity). Karachi became a hub of drug trade,drugs smuggling,human trafficking and gang wars. Many political influentials became part of this because of the money and power involved. Land mafia’s backed by politicians became stronger and stronger.
In mid-nineties,Pakistan Army launched a massive operation to clean up Karachi and several hundred MQM terrorists were arrested and killed and their torture camps were exposed to the public. This was a huge setback for the MQM and their leader Altaf Hussain escaped to UK where he still resides as a British citizen and controls his MQM terrorist party from there. While the MQM was weak and its top leadership in hiding,the Pashtoons became quite strong. They further took over businesses and properties and strengthened their private and secret armies. More weapons flowed into the city but because of the absence of any real rival,things remained calm for few years.
Today,MQM has once again surfaced. They got their support from Gen. Musharraf and later from President Zardari. Pashtoons are the other force in Karachi with their own political party called ANP. Both MQM and ANP are at it again! Killing each other’s workers and fighting for territory. It seems that this time both MQM and ANP are stronger than the city’s law enforcement units like the civil police and at times even stronger than the Rangers. Additionally many top politicians are backing either MQM or ANP for their own vested interests. Despite the fact that the Interior Minister,President and the Prime Minister have several times announced cleanup operations in Karachi,no progress has been made. Things are only getting worse as there is no sincerity or political will in giving such orders. Police and other Law Enforcement agencies know that they will not get any political support if they actually go after the real culprits. In fact if they do touch the “untouchables” they or their family members might end up on some roadside as victims of Target Killing!
Is Karachi once again heading towards a military operation? If so how will the military launch such an operation while the “democratically elected” civilian government is in control? Can Pakistan Army even afford to get involved in another conflict at this time? Or should people of Pakistan (especially Karachi) hope for a miracle in the coming elections? Is there any political solution to the Karachi violence? These are the questions being asked by the people but so far no one from the country’s leadership has dared or bothered to answer! The responsibility to restore law and order is that of the political government and they are the one who should know and most probably do know what is going on in Karachi. The people are fed up of dacoities,robberies,street crime,extortion,random killings and kidnappings.
By Inaam Chandio
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