Outwardly, Karachi is an imposing edifice, but inwardly, a general lack of political liberty is corroding the public and private virtue of its leaders and citizens. Marked by the lack of economic prosperity and domestic tranquility, the extinction of political liberty in Karachi is a prelude to inevitable degeneration of the civic life. In Karachi, the important issue is not whether the majority of the people are poor, but whether they have to rely for their survival on the fidelity of one political party or the other, a fidelity which has as its price the surrender of all dignity and freedom.
Karachi, in fact, is sinking deep under the enervating effects of the struggle between various political pundits to acquire maximum sphere of influence, their continuous abuse of political and governmental powers, prevalence of sectarianism and terrorism (a recent addition), crime rates and last but not least, draining forces of corruption.
The seeds for the deterioration of the city were generally planted in the 1980’s and were the combination of Zia ul Haq’s policies, unrestrained migration of the Pushtuns, prevalence of crimes and a general lack of required consciousness at the governmental level. The growth of the city, propelled by the entry of the large number of migrants, firstly, in the wake of the independence after 1947 from India, and secondly from the Pashtun belt of Pakistan and Afghanistan during Afghan war and later on with the commencing of war against terrorism, served only to enlarge the size and number of ethnic fault lines, to the ruin of economic charm that the metropolis offers. The situation in Karachi progressively continues to become worse; of the consequences of which is the persistent failure of Pakistan to seize the enormous potential that the regional trade and commerce offers to its geography.
In a society, where focus is on the most prolific and the most useful class, a hard working middle-class is always considered one of the greatest strengths of that society. Although MQM claims to be the only political party that substantially streamlined middle-class into the corridor of political arena, however, its insistence cannot be attested as the sections of middle-class that come under the area of its sway do not form the most respectable part of the community.
In this utterly bleak scenario, the commencing of Karachi operation inspires, by and large, a great sense of exhilaration. Expectations are widely directed at this operation that it will rid the economic, educational, and cultural nucleus of the country from the underlined dangers.
Every sane person must consider whether the state or civilization to which he belongs to is growing stronger or weaker and if signs of decline and degeneration appear then what can be the possible steps to address the causes to reverse the decline. While undertaking regenerative actions it is essential for the governing minds to remember that decline demands to be debated. A debate is indispensible to creating a national consensus. What this assumption poses is a provocative question whether there is unanimity among the stakeholders regarding the operations. The answer is obviously ‘Yes’ with its striking expression even in Karachi as there are little traces among the Karachiites rallying out against the operation, unusual phenomenon in the metropolis.
Although Imran Khan’s PTI has largely reshaped urban politics in its own favour, however the influence of MQM in Karachi and Hyderabad, still, is ubiquitous. Therefore, MQM must not be seen as a plague infecting politics, society and economy of the metropolis and hence of the whole country. It is in its domain a political party that, although shaped along ethnic lines, has created a sense of belongingness and ownership among the Urdu-speaking community that was otherwise excluded from decision-making circles.
While examining current operation, some quarters relate it to that of the 1992. However, it would be a grievous mistake to relate the causes and consequences of the current operation with the previous one. The general state of affairs in and outside the country has substantially changed since 1992. Inside the country, media has firmly established itself as the fourth pillar of the state. People now are more aware, conscious and educated than ever before. Likewise, civil society, this time, in the country is organized at greater degree and is actively erecting fortifications where respect for constitutional rights of the people stands second to none.
While corresponding to the international scenario, Pakistan’s formidable foe and all-time aggressive neighbor, India, is now a nuclear-armed country and hence, so is Pakistan. In fact, border between Pakistan and India now serves as the most threatening nuclear flash-point in the world. Moreover at the helm of affaires in India is Modi who, dictated by the cunning instincts of human nature and because of his volatile character less fits to the challenges that beset the region. He has assumed hostile posture against Pakistan. The space and time for Pakistan to act and react is, in fact gradually shrinking.
Pakistan and US together fought a long war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Although the success of the coalition remained doubtful, yet the war virtually has come to its end. Coupled with the end of the US military operations in Afghanistan are the US concerted efforts to court India that consequently has tremendous implications to the security, economy and politics of Pakistan, South Asia and beyond. Pakistan cannot remain indifferent to this paradigm shift.
While 1992’s China was struggling hard to pursue the recovery and restoration of its economic growth and development, today’s China is a world’s fastest growing major economy and second only to US. It has emerged from the abode of peasant revolutionaries to the land of well-educated and professional-technocrats. China is the major economic partner with its neighbours, the EU, and US.
Currently, Pakistan and China have reached a consensus to construct China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that, apart from linking China through a short route with Middle East and Africa, will definitely connect economic hubs of the two countries. With this the already pivotal position of the Karachi, in Pakistan, as the most important economic node of the country is splendidly increased.
Corresponding to the importance of Karachi, as the country’s largest urban landscape in which to the fairest extremes are concentrated economic resources and actors, adding and restoring peace and stability to the volatile atmosphere of the metropolis, in fact, becomes one of the most critical steps to increase the capacity of Pakistan to survive and prosper in the furious struggles of international politics. By pursuing the animating health and vigor of this giant city, Pakistan can discover the prosperity of her peoples.
Karachi operation, by every means, is a step in right and positive direction. However, while undertaking operational necessities, vigilance is all but necessary to dispel the impression that somehow betrays as if the Rangers personnel are preoccupied with the task of political repression.
Moreover, Karachi operation should not be followed with the military gaining greater control over Karachi. Whatever its temporary effectiveness may be, over the long-run this ‘centralization of the power’ by the military will weaken the country and more specifically, it will deprive the Karachi of any possibilities of future economic or political regeneration. The political authority of the civilians must not be undermined as bringing in normal life to the city at the high price of further centralization would be a serious mistake. Political liberty must be extended towards civilians as it is this virtue that leads to the expansion of personal freedoms and eventually generates a class of vigorous, free commoners.