Friday, March 20, 2015

Daily Times Editorial March 21, 2015

Operation Karachi How things have changed in the country’s biggest metropolis, commercial and industrial hub and the stronghold of the MQM. Starting with the Rangers raid on Nine Zero, the powers that be seem to be gathering force and strength to cut the MQM down to size. But unlike the operations against the party in the 1990s, this time the orchestrated strategy seems more subtle, defendable and far more effective. Basically, through the exposure of Nine Zero as a safe haven for criminals and wanted elements and a reservoir of illegal weapons, and the ‘confessions’ of Saulat Mirza, the MQM has been put badly on the defensive, struggling to hold its head above water, and probably desperately seeking remedies and damage control. Hit man Saulat Mirza’s allegations in particular have wounded MQM and its leadership to the quick. The MQM’s legal eagles have attempted to discredit Saulat Mirza’s confession as ‘a mockery of justice’ (given that it emerged hours before his execution and long after his appeals process had been exhausted) and inadmissible as evidence. That may be so, but there is no indication that the authorities seek to use his confession in a court of law. It is possible that their purpose is entirely different: to so sully the reputation of the MQM and its leadership that the party is laid open to further actions against it without the defence of ‘victimisation’ to hide behind. The events of the past few days have certainly put the cat among the pigeons as far as the clouds gathering over Karachi’s shoreline are concerned. The ground appears to have been cut from under the feet of the MQM, leaving it vulnerable and unable to deploy its usual ‘weapon’ of bringing Karachi to a shuddering halt. Of course the risk in this conjuncture is that the party, or its militant wing, may seek to ‘defend’ itself by force of arms. If any elements in the MQM are thinking along these lines, they would be advised not to contemplate going down what may be a disastrous path for the future of the party. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is the soul of reticence in his public statements (including on the floor of the National Assembly) regarding the whole affair. He hints at giving the British High Commissioner proofs in the Imran Farooq murder case but discreetly refrains from indicating what those proofs are or what they show. It cannot be a mere coincidence that the High Commissioner, Philip Barton, has chosen to travel to London for consultations soon after his lengthy meeting with Chaudhry Nisar. At the same time, the minister is careful to make clear that no formal request regarding action against Altaf Hussain in London has been made. Perhaps this is wise because of the perception that the British authorities may not readily agree to any extraordinary measures against British citizen Altaf Hussain that go against the grain of British laws and traditions. Meanwhile reports say the government is contemplating reopening investigations into the murder of KESC MD Shahid Hamid after Saulat Mirza’s pointing the finger of accusation at no les than Altaf Hussain and Babar Ghauri. Saulat Mirza’s family house in Karachi has been ‘protected’ by police security soon after his video saw the light of day. And the exact circumstances, place and time the video was recorded has itself become a mystery after Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti said the video was not recorded in Macch Jail where Saulat Mirza is on death row. MQM Governor Sindh Ishratul Ibad has been at pains to deny the swirling rumours that he may resign (or be removed?). The MQM is boycotting the National Assembly and in a sulk while licking its wounds. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and COAS General Raheel Sharif’s meeting on Thursday is tied to events in Karachi, as is being speculated, it spells on the one hand the determination of the authorities to finally grasp firmly the nettle of the MQM’s hold on Karachi, and on the other arguably the gravest crisis in the party’s colourful history.

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