Could we leave Karachi alone?

ByAlam Brohi

A former Ambassador of Pakistan and was associated with Foreign Service of Pakistan


January 28, 2023

Could we leave Karachi alone

Ambassador Alam Brohi talks about the agony faced by the megapolis

Could we leave Karachi alone & Some powers from the mysterious and unpredictable world of Pakistani politics become busy in political trickery when the dates of general elections draw closer. As is their wont, the chessboard is being laid and pawns readied to move at the command of the movers and shakers. The sardars and their sons and nephews from the hapless lands of Balochistan and south Punjab are being shoved into the ranks of one so called mainstream political party which was actually reduced to a regional political entity by the people in the general elections of 2013 and 2018.The footprint of these powers is also visible in the persistent efforts to bring together the remnants of Muhajir Qaumi Movement to achieve “positive results” in the elections in Karachi.

The Metropolis has had enough of the blood, misery and agony caused by ethnic conflicts. Now that Karachi has shaken out of the grip of the fear of target killings, arson, extortion, shutdowns, the ethnic politics are strangely revived, and some ethnic groups are being washed, purified, scented and cloaked in a saint’s apron to be thrust on the megacity. The city has been victim of the violent and bloody politics of MQM since its inception. It had an unending internecine war and bloody conflicts with almost all the other ethnic segments of the population living in the megacities of Karachi and Hyderabad. We lost prodigal sons of the capital city including Hakeem Saeed, Salahuddin, Shahid Hamid, Azeem Tariq and scores of police officers in target killings.

The people of the city underwent the agony of collecting the mutilated bodies of their missing youth from the forsaken places of the city tortured and killed mercilessly by unknown terrorists. We had a time when the young MQM workers riding on motor bikes took round of the busy markets firing a couple of shots in the air to shut the city on one pretext or the other. The security forces of the country had to have clean-up operations in the mid-1980s and 1990s and the last quite recently. They unearthed torture cells and heaps of lethal weapons hidden in water tanks, graveyards, and old houses. Do we afford to return to this situation to eliminate the nuisance of a political entity fallen foul with the powers that may be or banish it from the electoral contest in the city?

The unraveling of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) is no different from the demise of all king’s parties of the past including Republican Party of President Iskander Mirza, Convention Muslim League of President Ayub Khan, Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo) of Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, National People’s Party of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi formed at the behest of President Zia and PML (Q) of President Gen (R) Parvez Musharraf. The BAP had to undergo breakage sooner or later owing to the irreconcilable political differences in the political leadership clustered in it as a result of coercion. But strengthening in the troubled land of Balochistan a political party which has played havoc with its own homeland for the past 15 years is quite unfathomable.

Is this move closely or distantly connected with the forthcoming project of Reko Diq? The party seems to be basking in the new-found romance with some powerful quarters. The party has won over all the political dynasties in Sindh and made them partners in its capture of the provincial resources. The condition of the poor populace has gone from bad to worse since the past decade and half. Now Balochistan is destined to undergo malgovernance of this magnitude giving a free hand to the powers that be to micromanage the precious resources of the Baloch land particularly the mineral project of Reko Diq. The move is also aimed at cutting BNP (Mengal) leadership to size in the forthcoming elections. Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal will realise this very soon.

The three mainstream political parties including PTI, PPP and Jamaat-e- Islami are contesting for the mayorship of Karachi and Hyderabad. The Jamaat seems ahead of its rivals in Karachi in organisation, election campaign, and popularity of its candidate for mayoral office, Hafiz Naeem Ur Rehman. The PPP and PTI have not so far divulged the identity of their candidates. The PTI is concentrating on the public mobilisation and depends on the overall popularity of its chairman. The PPP being in power and having strategic positions would mainly depend on the crutches of the administration to win maximum seats.
The MQM was banking on the federal and provincial governments to accede to its demands for re-delimitation of local government constituencies; changes in electoral rolls; the appointments of officers of its trust as administrators of Hyderabad, Karachi and certain districts of the megacity as a result of the agreements signed with the PPP and PML (N) before switching over to PDM. The PPP has accepted the majority of the demands of MQM except for delimitation and postponement of elections which also involve the Election Commission of Pakistan and Sindh High Court.

The MQM has sought the support of its estranged factions for its planned protests and probable boycott of elections if its demands for delimitation and postponement of elections are not accepted. However, all the three mainstream political parties have opposed the postponement of elections on this flimsy ground. They have expressed their apprehensions that the MQM has not only planned to boycott the elections but it will try to disrupt the electoral process by creating law and order situation on polling stations. Therefore, the ECP should deploy rangers on polling stations.

The MQM is not in a position to compete with Jamaat-e- Islami in these local government elections in the city. Hafiz Naeem, the city Ameer of the Jamaat is young, energetic and popular. Over a year or so, he has been running his election campaign in a systematic way drawing substantial crowds. The city’s past mayors from Jamaat – Abdul Sattar Afghani and Advocate Naimatullah Khan – enjoyed credibility for public service, honesty and commitment to the Metropolis dwarfing, conversely, their successors from MQM including Farooq Sattar, Syed Mustafa Kamal and Waseem Akhtar. Hence, the fear of electoral humiliation ahead of general elections compels MQM to look for excuses to have the second phase of local government elections derailed.

The PPP itself would not have been keen in holding these elections had it not improved its electoral chances in Pakhtun or non-Urdu speaking areas through sustained efforts of its Karachi leaders, development works and the pliable administration already put in place. However, the Sindh High Court’s decisions constitute the main hurdle in the postponement of the elections. The PTI has chances of putting up a good show given the popularity of Imran Khan. However, the party is poorly organised and looks complacent which could be its Achilles’ heel.

Karachi is a vibrant city. It is already looking forward to having its new city rulers. We should avoid undermining its mandate by providing artificial crutches to the old ethnic based MQM when it is already sliding in the political limbo by a natural process. It has been abusing the mandate of the city since1988. The city needs peace, improved law and order, efficient municipal services and investment friendly atmosphere. We should let the people of the city decide who or which political party they want to run their local governments. TW


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