Contradictions and unanswered questions in Karachi
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Contradictions and unanswered questions in Karachi

Over the last few days, I’ve become very depressed about the state of Karachi and the paucity of obvious “solutions” to the killings in my home city. It really does seem that no one has any viable or practical ideas of how to stem the momentum of violence. I think this is in part due to the fact that no one has any real idea of what the proximate causes of violence in Karachi are. If you don’t know where the water is flowing from, it’s mighty difficult to turn off the tap.

We have violence in Karachi when political parties are attacking each other, and we have violence in Karachi when they’ve — outwardly at least — kissed and made up. We have violence in Karachi when the government seeks to find diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and we have violence in Karachi when they send in Rangers and the FC. We have violence in Karachi before Ramazan and during Ramzan. We have violence under the Commissionerate system and we had violence before the Commissionerate system.


How rioters celebrate onset of Ramazan in Karachi. Photo: AP.

All this is to suggest that I am increasingly confused about the state of affairs in Karachi. Some things make absolutely no sense to me. It’s a sea of contradictions and unanswered questions.

For instance, how can a party like the MQM, which suffered at the hands of state agencies to the extent that they did, turn around and call for military action in the city? How can their representatives give long impassioned speeches in the National Assembly detailing all the real and perceived crimes against them by the military and Rangers, and then have their leader call for an operation by the exact same actors?

Moreover, if we conceive the ANP/MQM-Pashtun/Mohajir divide as a zero-sum game, how can they both call for the same thing? That makes no sense.

How can Altaf Hussain at once proclaim the sacrifices of Mohajirs as the main constituent unit of Pakistan and Pakistaniat (“Pakistan came into being because of Mohajirs”) and raise the idea of returning to India as a rhetorical bargaining chip, thus opening his party to accusations of treachery (“What should the Mohajirs do now? Should they go back? If the 1992-like operation is started again, will the Indian leaders provide accommodation to five crore Mohajirs of Pakistan?”)?

How can the MQM (justifiably) make such a hue and cry over Zulfiqar Mirza’s intemperate and provocative remarks about “bhookey nangey” (hungry and without clothes) Mohajirs, and then stand by as their leader says that Karachi residents should store rations for a month, thereby implying a threat of mass violence?

Has anyone considered the possibility that rather than Pashtun-Mohajir, the most violent cleavage in Karachi politics is actually MQM (A)-MQM (H)? Have we already forgotten the lessons of the mid-1990s, when that was most certainly the case?

Most importantly, does anyone out there have the slightest idea of how to stop the violence? Anyone at all? Haven’t we, at this point, tried everything there is to try? Ministries have been re-filled, talks have been held, Rangers have been brought in, high-level meetings and sit-downs at the President House have occurred. What, exactly, are our (realistic and viable) options here? Anyone?

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