Saturday, March 21, 2015

Daily Times Editorial March 22, 2015

Ominous signs While attention of late has been transfixed on the MQM and its travails, other forces delivered a deadly reminder in Karachi on Friday regarding the other dangers and challenges that still afflict the city. Two bomb blasts targeted the citizens of Karachi, one through a bomb planted in a motorcycle innocuously parked outside a Bohra mosque in Arambagh, the other a suicide attack on a Rangers vehicle. In the first incident, which followed the by now familiar pattern of attacks on Friday prayers congregations, two worshippers were killed and around 20 injured. In the second, two Rangers were killed, two injured, and another two passersby were also injured. The Bohra community of Karachi is one of the most peaceful, industrious people around. They have been under attack before, more recently in Bahadurabad where one shopkeeper was killed and four others injured. Such attacks have been in evidence from time to time since 2012. It should be obvious that the Bohra community is being targeted not for anything it has done to offend anyone (quite the contrary) but because of its beliefs. The sectarian factor in the spate of target attacks against them therefore cannot be ruled out, although it must be said with regret that none of the perpetrators have so far been brought to justice. The Karachi police meantime are pointing to the possibility that in the second incident on Friday, the Rangers may have been targeted by either militant or criminal groups or even both, since the operation in Karachi has extended its grip to both sets of possible suspects. In a further development, the Rangers have asked the citizens of Karachi to remove all barriers to facilitate their operations within 72 hours otherwise the Rangers would themselves remove them without discrimination. Temporary as it may be, these tragedies on Friday took the spotlight away from the MQM affair. But, as can be expected for such sensational developments, it did not take long for the matter to intrude once again into the media and public space. Rumours swirling around that the names of some top leaders of the MQM had been placed on the Exit Control List were (finally?) laid to rest by a statement from the Interior Ministry denying the speculation on the grounds that no such request had so far been received from the Sindh government and if it was, only then would the matter be considered. Make of that what you will. MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar returned with his MNAs to the National Assembly they had been boycotting since the Nine Zero raid and straight away forced the chair to suspend the rules of business to allow Sattar to harangue a largely empty house on the ‘victimisation’ of his party in Karachi. He underlined the argument that this could prove the thin edge of the wedge and other parties could find themselves on the receiving end of similar unwanted attention all too soon. The prime minister on the other hand is at pains to remind all and sundry that the Karachi operation was agreed to by all the parties, including the MQM, and that it was aimed at cleansing Karachi of criminal elements without discrimination, not to target one particular party. It is becoming more and more difficult to contest the emerging perception that the powers that be have finally decided enough is enough and that the damage to Pakistan’s industrial and commercial hub can no longer be tolerated. If that means any and all armed elements, militants, criminal mafias and the armed wings of political parties have to be taken out to achieve a satisfactory outcome, so be it. If this perception is correct, all one can say is, better late than never. And follow that with the innocent question why it has taken so long for this point to be reached when Karachi has been in increasing turmoil since 1984. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is discomfiting. There is little doubt that successive governments, civilian and military, can be held culpable for the mess Karachi has been reduced to for purely expedient political reasons, whose chickens have finally come home to roost in a manner that leaves no choice but to sweep clean with a big broom.

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