Time for Karachiites to Bring Change - By Mr. Sheikh Zakir Elahi
Time for Karachiites to Bring Change
By Mr. Sheikh Zakir Elahi
Unrest and perpetual violence in Karachi is a major threat not only to the political stability but to economic stability of Pakistan. Out of 13 largest cities in the world, Karachi is considered most dangerous, holding serious security implications for all. Karachi, with a population of nearly 18 million is both the commercial capital and the largest city of Pakistan. Karachi alone accounts for 25% of Pakistan’s GDP, 54 % of the central government tax revenue, 70% of national tax revenue and 30% of the national industrial output.
Karachi is home to many ethical groups: Sindhi, Mohajirs, Punjabis, Pusthuns, Balochis. Memon. Bohars. Ismali and Kashmiris. Unfortunately, other than the Pakistan Tehreek-eInsaf party which has diversified ethnical membership, ethnicity plays an important role in Karachi politics. Karachi has become a major battle ground for political parties, namely MQM, PPP and ANP. These parties are constantly competing with one another for power and resources. These parities have armed wings which control numerous armed gangs. These gangs further control and operate land mafias, drug and arm smuggling cartels. Even the Supreme Court in its October 16, 2012 verdict identified these political parties as the main perpetrator of urban violence, killings and extortion. Even though violence in Karachi is rooted in the Ethno-Political division, other factors such as sectarian polarization, activities of criminal element and militancy come into play as result of mayhem caused by these so called political forces .
Demographic-change plays a vital in ethnic based politics. The Pashtuan population has grown from 10% to 22% in the last 10 years and ANP has consolidated its political base, for first time gaining 2 seats from Karachi. PPP has a strong base among the Baloch and Sindhi populations. However, even though they received 25 % of votes they could only secure 6 seats. PPP is trying to adjust districts to get maximum benefits furthermore due to floods there is major population shift from interior Sind to Karachi. MQM, which claims representation of Urdu speaking population (48% of Karachi’s population), won 34 seats during the last election. They do want to maintain that position at any cost.
Besides political power, territories and land, theses parties also compete over the funds generated through extortion. Small business owners, traders, shopkeepers, factory owners, transporters, market and plaza owners are all victims of widespread extortion in the city. In addition, land-mafia, under the umbrella of these political parties are constantly encroaching land and there are no limits for this. They achieve their goals through violence, intimidation, forgery, bribery and arson. These land grabbers create ethnic zones and even no-go zones. Some of these land grabs are also the reason behind ethnic clashes.
There is also a fight amongst political parties over the local government system. The PPP is in favour of the Local Government Ordinance of 1979 which empowered provincial governments and divided Karachi into 5 districts. The MQM on the other hand favours Local Government Ordinance Act of 2001 which unites Karachi as one unit and gives most of the control to local governments. There have been 2-3 changes between the two of these ordinances but one thing is quite evident: that violence was used as tool for negotiation and to get concession from other side
Most homicide cases happen in the city’s central and south zones. These areas are the battleground of political parties because of the population shift. As per the report from Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) most notably dangerous districts are Orangi Town (116 homicide), Baldia Town (103), Sohrab Goth (93), Pirabad (140), Layari(53), Kalokot (66) and Gulistan e Jauhar (62). Just to give you an idea about the gravity of the situation, the total homicide in other major cities of world are Bombay (202), London (125), New York (209). As per the same report, the majority of victims are people without any political affiliation but out of the dead, with political affiliation 20 % belong to ANP, 31 % MQM, 4% MQMH, 19 % PPP, 3 % Jamat E Islami, and 6 % Sunni Tehreek .
There is also a big surge in sectarian violence particularly between extremist Sunni and extremist Shia outfits, lack of law and order is giving opportunity to these elements to implement their nefarious design there is also nexus between political forces and banned sectarian group and that is further destabilizing the city. These groups are also constantly fighting over the control of mosques, land and charitable funds.
Due to the lack of law enforcement, different militants have also developed their bases in the city. Due to on-going operation in Fata area many militants had to flee their area and they have find safe heaven in Karachi and have joined hands with sectarian elements. The incident of PNS Mehran attack on Navy buses, the attack at the home of head of anti-terror units are a few of example of extremist activities. In several cases, Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was quick to claim responsibility for their actions.
Target killings, tit-for-tat assassinations, torture, abduction, kidnapping and corps dumping are the norm of everyday life in Karachi. More than 1,000 people were killed in year 2010, the number increased to 1,800 in year 2011 and this year so far more than 2,020 people have lost their lives. The lack of law enforcement is a major problem in the city. Police structure is poorly organized, resources are scant, corruption, and lack of training are a common issue. But above all, police force is totally politicized. The existing strength of the Karachi police comprises police force largely recruited on political basis. Appointment letters are sent to headquarters of different political parties for approval. It is estimated as much as 45% appointments are based on political affiliation. The situation became even worse when provincial governments repealed the police order in 2002. All positions above Deputy Superintend must be appointed and transferred with the permission of provincial government. A police force that is beholder to political party cannot bring order. In fact, they give protection to criminals belonging to their party and facilitate their criminal activities.
To make the matters worse, there is a huge shortage of police staff in the city too. The current strength of Karachi Police is approximately 32,000. Out of that, 10,000 personnel are on special duty, out of which 6,000 are deputed to provide security to VIPS. The remaining 22,000 police force is divided into operational and investigational groups. Approximately 17,000 are operational and around 5,000 are tasked with investigation. The 17,000 operational force works in two shifts: 10,000 for day shift and 7,000 work in night shift. That translates into 1 police man for population of 2,000. The norm for large cities like Karachi is 2.5 policemen for population of 1,000. Moreover, the quality of the police force is bigger a concern than the quantity. The police force in charge of investigation has little or no training. They are responsible for the poor and weak prosecution. Most of the criminals get off because of faulty evidence, flawed FIR, improper recording of witnesses, compromised medical reports, etc. Low morale and lack of will is also a problem. Police is also reluctant to do their job because of fear of repercussion. Out of the police officers who took part in the 1992 operation clean up, 192 have been killed in revenge. It seems that the police that is supposed to protect others is unable to protect itself.
The current Anti-Terrorism law is highly flawed and does not address terrorist related offenses and furthermore has no provision for modern investigative techniques. Plus there is no witness protection program in the city. Our judicial system seems to be in disarray. There is a backlog of cases. There is a huge shortage of judicial officers. Just like police most of the prosecutors are hired on political basis to guarantee acquittal. As much as 75% of criminals are acquitted in court and the main reason is that it defects registration of cases and most of the cases accused are not nominated in FIR and if named, that is without description, in absence of witness protection program, no witness is willing to risk his life. It is a travesty that even high profile criminal who are involved in major crimes walk free.
Rangers are often called to restore law and order in the city. These Rangers come under the control of the federal government. There is a lack of political will to take any decisive action by political government. Rangers hand over all the criminals to police as they are not allowed to take them into custody. Police again fail to prosecute and these criminal elements return to the streets to continue their activities. According to DG Rangers, they arrested 8,000 criminals but not even a single one was convicted. As per DG Rangers even “criminal being caught red handed are released without punishment”. This has demoralized the Rangers. Unless Rangers are empowered we cannot get any result.
The economic stability of Karachi is vital for Pakistan’s stability .Why is there no effort to bring in law and order to the city which is the financial hub of Pakistan and responsible for 70% of tax revenue? Losses because of business closure due to violence are in excess of 10 billion per day. Root cause of problems in Karachi is that there is no serious political will to change the situation. All three major parties whose militant wings are fighting over resources and power in Karachi are part of the coalition government in the central government. Political forces that should be responsible for enforcing laws and stability are major destabilizing force.
The solution to problems of Karachi lay mostly with the people of Karachi. They need to realize that these parties do not represent their ethnicity or their interests. It is time to reject all the parties with militant wings. It is time to reject the politics based on ethnic affiliations. It is time to realize these parties are the main cause of problem. All these criminal gangs, land mafia, Qabza groups, Bhatta Mafia are offspring of these political parties. Only a by electing a national party which believes in rule of law and has the will to empower and reform police, one who is willing to modernize police and provide them resources, one that will act against all criminals without any political pressure, one that will de-weaponize the city, one that will introduce new laws without hesitation, one that will empower judiciary, one that has will to stand up to all these criminal, only with the mandate and support of people Karachi, can get rid of these criminals and restore law and order. We need to prosecute all criminals regardless of their political, ethnic or religious affiliations.
We should learn from the example of Indian State of Bihar. Once a land of gang lords, home to dacoits and where most flourishing industry was kidnapping, there is a major turnaround under the Chief Minister Mr.Nitish Kumar. There has been a sharp decline in the number of abductions and other crimes including murder, robbery, bank dacoits and road hold-ups, etc. As per Kumar there are two main reasons for this turnaround. In his words "the guilty would not be spared" and “courts were set up to conduct speedy trials”. He also passed the Right to Public Service Act, which ensured the time-bound delivery of services like the issuing of certificates. Any delay in providing services results in disciplinary action against officials," In last 7 years more than 70,000 criminals including corrupt politicians, police officers, government servants and even judges were prosecuted.
Tehreek-E-Insaf can bring not only Karachi but whole country to the path of prosperity. All we need is sincere party with a will to change the system. The bottom line is, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Things will change for the better in Karachi and its positive effect will spread to the whole country if there is a political will and sincere leadership to change things.
Mr. Sheikh Zakir Elahi