Resolving Conflict in Karachi?
Asia Society, August 23, 2011
“Karachi, Pakistan's port city which generates 70 percent of the country's revenue, is in the grip of a serious multidimensional crisis,” says Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Hassan Abbas, of the violent unrest that has gripped the city. “More than 100 people have been killed -- many of them tortured to death -- in the last week or so. Tragically, this has become a recurrent phenomenon. Criminal gangs, armed thugs associated with leading political factions, and to a limited extent religious extremists are all playing a role in this mayhem. The government's writ has almost vanished in the face of this serious situation, and the police and paramilitary Rangers are nothing more than silent spectators. A role for the military is increasingly being discussed in Pakistani media, but history has shown that military operations have not solved any crisis in the country. Rather, its involvement has almost always led to further complications. Demographic changes, increases in crime rates due to poor law enforcement, and -- most important -- ethnic tussles for depleting city resources are the issues at the heart of the problem. There are no quick and ready-made solutions for such a complex issue.”
Deweaponise and Depoliticise: Fixing the Cycle of Violence in Karachi By Farieha Aziz, Newsline, August 2011
From hand grenades to Kalashinkovs to Uzis to rocket launchers – you name it, and this city stocks it. From political party workers to their affiliates, from mafias to petty thieves to ordinary citizens – everybody is in possession of weapons and most do not hesitate to use them. The proliferation of weapons has taken violence to another level in Karachi.
In a poll run by Newsline on its website asking citizens to share their views on how to put an end to Karachi’s violence and bloodshed, this is what one commentator felt needed to be done: “The ‘capacity’ of criminal elements in Karachi to wreak havoc, kill innocent people and hold a city of 20 million people hostage, must be diminished. Militant/armed wings in political parties need to be disbanded, and there is only one way that can happen: the ‘willingness’ of the State to protect its citizens.” Fahad continues: “If the government knows there are people in this city who can kill innocent people and destroy property at a moment’s notice, they have an obligation to dismantle such groups. The problem is that the government has a vested interest – medium and long-term political gains – in not completely restoring durable peace in Karachi. At the end of the day, it’s a question of willingness and not ability, to protect innocent citizens.”
Says another commentator, Abu Awama, “I think that the best way to avoid violence in a city as volatile as Karachi is to deweaponise it. The easiest way to deweaponise Karachi is to establish search pickets along the main roads. Anyone carrying a gun should be punished summarily, and the firearm should be confiscated. It is not essential that the sentences should be long because it’s the certainty of punishment which is a bigger deterrent compared to the severity of punishment.”
While some believe that deweaponising Karachi may be the need of the hour, they are not optimistic about the government tackling this problem effectively as they see a clear lack of will on its part. Some also view the government as being partisan and incapable of conducting an across-the-board clamp down; it’ll ensure that its own party and affiliates are exempt from the exercise. Government aside, citizens do not have any faith that political parties will take the lead either by putting their own house in order first. The consensus is that all parties need to be “made to do it,” forcibly. Despite all the flak the khakis have received of late, “call in the army” for a crackdown against criminals, to deweaponise the city and to restore peace is still a common refrain heard in Karachi whenever the law-and-order situation deteriorates, since the army is viewed as a neutral force. However, history is testament to the fact that even the army has supported and given precedence to one political group over another.
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Chaos in Karachi - Editorial Daily Times
Violent intentions: Karachi killings are politically motivated, agree experts - The Express Tribune
Will Army Take Over Karachi's Control? - The News
Karachi seeting under violence and terror - CRSS Research Paper
Reforming Karachi's Police - AfPak Channel, Foreign Policy
Urban Conflict in Pakistan - By Claude Rakisitis