The monster of terrorism that stalks the streets of Karachi has many faces – he may be a target killer, hired assassin, street-mugger, life-threatening extortionist, sectarian fanatic or simply a foreign-funded saboteur. But whatever be the motive behind his action the end result is disruption of life in the mega-city that feeds insecurity and negatively impacts the city’s socio-political and economic tempo and in cases of sectarian violence invites more violence. How the city acquired this unenviable distinction there is a history to it, and fingers can be pointed in many directions. But what gets the maximum finger-pointing is the city police force, both as a law-enforcement agency and as a prosecution wing of the judicial system. That the special public prosecutor in the Baldia Town factory fire, Shazia Hanjra, has resigned protesting non-co-operative attitude of the concerned police officer is a sardonic comment on the dubious role of the city police in maintaining law and order. The sad coda is that barring a few officials the Karachi police is deeply politicised. Even if one may not be greatly impressed by the findings of the joint investigation team in the Baldia tragedy it is difficult to accept that two years on the trial of the accused is neither here nor there. But for this curse being endemic among the Karachi police, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif would not have remarked that “political expediency could not generate apolitical response”. However, things are on the move in Karachi – the Rangers have made significant gains against the criminals, of all colours and creeds and its anti-terrorism operation will remain in force till complete restoration of peace and normality, and for this to happen the army chief said the army would “go to any extent”.
If our history is any guide, it would be sensible on the part of the political leaders to wake up to General Sharif’s warning that the Karachi operation would continue “without any discrimination, against all criminals irrespective of their ethnic, political, religious and sectarian affiliations”. It’s good to know that underworld mafias and criminal gangs are on the run and political parties appear amenable to jettisoning their foot soldiers. However, the otherwise proscribed religious and sectarian extremist outfits that now operate under changed names remain defiant. With only a few exceptions, most of the violence and carnage in towns and cities is the product of these religious groups and parties. And, no less ironically, their leaders are free to go around, unchecked by the authorities, and incite violence, justify their cause, wrongly, as glorification of Islam. One may or may not agree with their declarations but what one finds absolutely unacceptable is violence and mayhem that they commit in the name of Islam. The fact is that of some 58 Muslim countries Pakistan is the sole exception where such sectarian-based parties and groups operate, unchecked because they ‘preach’ Islam or have ‘freedom of expression’ under the constitution. Is it that our sectarian shamans understand Islam better than their counterparts in other Muslim countries? What an irony that those very religious parties and groups who opposed creation of Pakistan tooth and nail now claim to be sole defenders of its ideology. Of course, it is not for the armed forces to produce a profound counter-argument; they have been tasked to restore normality by snuffing out armed resistance and they are acquitting well. But the civilian leadership doesn’t seem to be marching in lockstep accordingly. Not only has it found itself inadequate to justify the need to amend constitution in order to set up military courts – because, for whatever reasons the normal courts had not been able to punish those who challenged the writ of the state – it has also failed to secure co-operation of religious parties in streamlining the seminaries. Good two months have passed and of the 20-point National Action Plan only two points have been implemented. Is it that the civilian set-up is forfeiting its right to govern? In this war, time is the essence.