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Oh my Karachi, I have to cry for you

The root cause of recent mayhem and carnage in Karachi is still being overlooked.

I cannot help but cry over the unchecked and unending murders and mayhem we have to suffer virtually everyday in Karachi. The pain is only exacerbated by memories of Karachi at its prime ‘clean, safe, peaceful, free from violence, drugs, ethnic or sectarian clashes. Karachi was hub for virtually all international airlines. Foreign investment and tourism was booming without fear of any kind of insecurity. As recent as 1980, we were so civilized and peaceful that the ratio of the population of the police force/police stations in Karachi was lower than any other mega city of the world, including New York, London, Calcutta and Bombay. It was a matter of pride that the entire city including our academic institutions was free from violence, Kalashnikov or heroin culture. Mafias were unheard of in our cities. There were no security company or security checks or gunman at our gates. The boundary walls between neighbours were used to merely demarcate, not protect. We had hundreds of thousands or lakhs of people from all five provinces, (including East Pakistan) as well as huge number of foreigners from all neighbouring countries including Iran, Afghanistan, UAE, Burma, Sri Lanka, Philippine etc, but we feared none.

Then what really went wrong that we are in such a pathetic anarchic state with no law or security to protect us? We cannot cure any disease without the right diagnosis. It all happened with the curse of the worst martial law of General Zia. Divide, depoliticise and rule the masses, were his nefarious designs, from day one of his unconstitutional barbaric and dictatorial rule. Under a well-conceived strategy, he had initially promoted and patronised sectarian prejudices and violence. When he realized that this violence might seep into his own constituency, ranks and files, he introduced and spread ethnic violence and prejudices. He created, patronised, armed and trained various ethnic groups may it be Jaye Sindh, MQM or PPI. The whole province of Sindh and Karachi in particularly suffered the worst genocides starting from the tragic death of Bushra Zaidi in a road accident, on or about 13th April 1985, which was followed by repeated ethnic warfare in Sohrab Goth, Aligarh Colony, Orangi etc in Karachi and repeatedly in Hyderabad and other parts of interior Sindh. So much so, that in 1988 elections in Sindh were held under night curfew and controlled by the army. In an attempt to pacify the public opinion, at least five judicial commissions headed by a judge of the Sindh High Court, investigated the major incidents of massacre of the people, during the illegitimate rule of Gen Zia. Strangely, neither the findings of any of the judicial commission were made public nor their recommendations were implemented in any manner. Was it not a deliberate attempt to hide the causes, forces and the factors responsible for such genocides?

General Zia’s brainchild, the strategy of confiding the terrorists, was also followed by his political inheritors. When the then elected Prime Minister, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, established most powerful judicial commission, headed by the then chief justice of the Supreme Court and comprised of chief justices of the four provincial high courts, to investigate the tragic incident of Pakka Qilla in Hyderabad on 25th May 1990, and to fix the responsibility and expose the role of General Aslam Baig, her government was dismissed on 7th August, 1990 by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. His action was fully supported by General Aslam Baig. A caretaker government was formed under the premiership of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and provincial government of Sindh was headed by Jam Sadiq Ali. MQM was their equal partner in both the governments.

It was shocking that all those political leaders and parties who were endlessly condemning, blaming and wrongly holding PPP government responsible for the tragic incident of Pakka Qilla Hyderabad, decided to dissolve the said most powerful and unprecedented independent judicial commission, with the obvious motives to prevent exposures of the real terrorists responsible for this tragedy and unconstitutional deployment of the army by General Aslam Baig in Hyderabad on the said unfortunate day of May 25, 1990.

Fresh elections were held in October 1990, which were massively rigged and governments of IJI and MQM were installed. This change in the government did not bring any relief to the people or peace in the province of Sindh. The murder and mayhem continued in Karachi and Sindh, so much so, that even the IJI Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to order cleanup operation in the entire Sindh on June 19, 1992 by deployment of the army, which was headed by the then Chief of Army Staff Gen Asif Nawaz, a most competent patriotic soldier, whose credentials were beyond any doubt. Before he could complete the cleanup operation in Sindh, most unfortunately he suddenly died on 8th January 1993 that is within a short period of about six months from the start of the cleanup operation in Sindh. Many speculations appeared in the media about the cause of his death, which was a great loss to the country.

After the elections of 1993, Mohtarma became the prime minister once again on 19th October, 1993. Like Gen Asif Nawaz, Mohtarma also had zero tolerance for all kinds of extremists and terrorists; they may be ethnic, religious or sectarian. Soon after assuming the Office, Mohtarma Bhutto very wisely decided to withdraw the army from Sindh, to save it from its involvement in the duties in aid of civilian authorities, for an undesirably long period. Instead of the army, Mohtarma Bhutto created an effective civilian force to continue with the cleanup operation for eradication of the terrorists from the soil of Pakistan. Before Mohtarma could conclude this cleanup operation against the terrorists, her second government was also dismissed illegally and unconstitutionally on 5th November, 1996.

The hallmark, character and priorities of General Pervez Musharraf regime were also in support and patronage of the most militant sectarian, religious as well as ethnic parties and allowed them free access to the most lethal weapons. One of the worst sins of Musharraf was the appeasement of terrorists, by granting them license to kill those bold and competent police officers and members of their families, who had participated in the cleanup operation against the terrorists during the second government of Mohtarma Bhutto. This is one of the main reasons that today the police force of Karachi is least motivated in confronting any terrorist for the fear of meeting the same fate later on. Like General Zia, if at all any judicial commission was constituted by General Musharraf, it was not allowed to complete its investigations, nor even its preliminary findings were made public. Even the worst terrorist incidents of Nashtar Park Karachi on the most sacred occasion 12th Rabi ul Awwal in 2006; another most tragic incident of terrorism in Karachi on 12 May, 2007 during the lawyers movement on arrival of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and leaders of the Bar, which resulted into death of 80 innocent citizens of Karachi; in the same year the public rally of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on her arrival at Karachi on 18th October 2007, was attacked with explosions causing death of about 200 innocent citizens; and the worst of all, was the Shahadat of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto along with more then two dozen party workers. None of these incidents of worst terrorism were allowed to be investigated by General Musharraf nor were the killers or the terrorists allowed to be arrested by him. Consequently, the incidents of terrorism, murders and mayhem are a daily feature of Karachi, where even our hospitals, their doctors and staff are not safe, as they have been repeatedly attacked with impunity by the workers of the parties in the Sindh government.

If Karachi or the country is dear, then the government and the establishment has no option but to publish findings of the judicial commission established from 1985 till to date and implement their recommendations without any favour or fear. The government must also abandon their patronage and support of the terrorists may they be religious sectarian or ethnic or may they be part of the government or opposition. They have to be eliminated to save our people, our Karachi and our country.

By: Iqbal Haider Senator (retd)

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