By Saeed Qureshi
The assassination of the Superintendent of Police, Chaudhry Aslam, a vanguard and fearless CID police officer fighting against terrorism and lawlessness, through a huge bomb blast, reinforces the gnawing fear that the outlaws were still organized and possess the means and network to put up a defiant combat to the law enforcement agencies including the para military core Rangers. The combined onslaught and operation of police and rangers have restored the peace albeit partially in Karachi. This confrontation between the law and order agencies and gangs of killers including the ethnic and religious mafias seems to be a long haul.
The rebellious thugs and entrenched enemies of peace have to be dealt with promptly, mercilessly and need to be completely eliminated not only in Karachi but elsewhere in Pakistan. The accomplishment of that pressing and imperative mission can be achieved only by the armed forces of Pakistan. Any delay in the deployment of army to restore order and normalcy in Karachi would entail more loss of precious lives and continuation of vandalism and violence. The army had achieved this lofty goal in Swat valley where Taliban had proclaimed a state within the state of Pakistan.
Pakistan is emerging as one of the most unsafe places for its citizens. Karachi, a port city and leading industrial metropolis has become the battleground for gang wars, target assassinations and extortions. The criminals and outlaws seem to be more daring and overpowering than the law and order outfits. There is a free-for-all mayhem devouring precious lives every day and every moment. It looks as if a mini civil war was underway that might erupt into a full-fledged war sooner than later.
In the wake of escalating lawlessness and soaring gang wars for sinister motives in Karachi, the government and its law and order agencies seem to be handicapped or crippled .The target killings before the eyes of the Karachiites, Pakistan and the entire world is surging unabated.
Karachi is divided into so called “no go areas” where merciless gangs keep their sway as local lords. They fight back if another gang wants to take over their area of control. The leaders, bureaucrats, and high government functionaries are escorted and protected by an army of bodyguards and bullet and bombproof vehicles.
However, the ordinary citizens are direly exposed to the persistent lurking threat to their lives. The people are turning paranoid or senseless about the gruesome tragedies and horrifying killing sprees going on around them. People are dying every day because the killers shoot or kill them with rare abandon or without any fear of state writ.
There is an atmosphere of dread and fear that pervades every lane and street, public place and every mind. Those who eke out their living by ordinary means on road side stalls, or kiosks or the peddlers or the laborers are also targeted by the invisible assassins whose prime motive is to destabilize and destroy the normal life and scuttle the smooth commuting of the people whether by walking or in vehicles.
There are rangers, and there are government moles and intelligence network, police and sometimes troops but all these have failed to contain or break the macabre chain of killing of innocent civilians. It is evident that the successive civilian governments both federal and Sindh provincial government have failed to halt or diminish the escalating and unremitting cycle of massacre of the people by mafias, gangsters, trigger happy killers, extortionists and enemy agents.
Under these stifling conditions, there is no harm if strife-torn and terrorism infested city of Karachi is handed over to the armed forces for a specific period of time. The incumbent government elected with the popular franchise should summon army to restore order and safe environment.
If the civilian law and order agencies have thus far failed to curb the mushrooming violence then let this city be handed over to the army that has the capability and muscle to curb fast spreading violence. The political parties and civil society institutions should support the army’s deployment in Karachi for this most urgent task of restoring order and peace.
The social and business circles have been crying hoarse for the deployment of army in the largest city of Pakistan to quell the sinews of a mini simmering civil war. The office bearers of the federal chamber of commerce and industry are imploring the government to come to their rescue against the extortionists. The business community is moving to other cities of Pakistan and gradually the shops, the business centers and even industries are closing down.
If army takes control of Karachi it should impose curfew from dusk to dawn and if necessary for parts at day time. Its first and the foremost task should be to de-weaponize Karachi. It should cordon off and lay siege of notorious localities one by one. The male members should be ordered to assemble during the curfew hours at a certain place and during that time their residences and hiding places should be reached.
The army is fully trained and capable of dealing with the emergencies. But just by way of advice, it should deploy contingents in markets, schools, hospitals, bus stops and similar other public places to ward off and if necessary haul the miscreants. The army should be given powers to hold summary trials, flush out the known criminals and bad characters and to sort out their activities.
The army should have powers to kill the trouble makers on the spot. With such drastic strategy that can be only executed by the army on war footing, that this mammoth menace and burgeoning curse of terrorism and crime can be definitively nailed.
It is extremely inevitable that all the foreign residents living in Karachi should be ordered to register themselves. Those who are illegal must be deported without fail and hesitation. Those with legal status should be checked and their activities and places of living minutely verified.
They should be asked to report their presence periodically at the local police stations. The police stations should be told to keep an eye on them. Those among the local population harboring the illegal aliens must be dealt with severely.
The war with an external enemy might be a remote possibility. But the country needs to move against the war within the country that is wreaking havoc with the social peace and economy; all the more the port city of Karachi that generates a big chunk of wealth for the country.
It is utterly indispensable to stop the sectarian violence that is overtaking Karachi with the passage of time. The ideological confrontations between the rival sects are taking a heavy toll of human life in Karachi. Without fear or favor the army should come down with a very hand on all religious militancy and curb it with full might and backing of the government and political forces.
Even if the “all parties’ conference” is convened, an iron clad remedy of this ostensibly intractable sore cannot be found out. Even if a consensus is brought about among the divergent political groups, still who is going to chase and engage in bloody combats with the dangerously armed and profusely organized goons.
There is no way that the parleys among the political parties can be effective is stamping out the escalating terrorism and violence. The reason for such a failure is that these political parties aid and abet the sectarian killers, the mafias, the gangs, the extortionists and all those elements destabilizing the country. The stalwarts of these social and political outfits receive a share of the looted money from the bounty killers, extortionists, kidnappers and other rogue elements.
The present government of PMLN that was ousted through a military coup or reaction should shed its psychological phobias and inhibitions and consent to army’s taking over Karachi for a limited time period. For inexplicable reasons the PPP provincial government in Sindh is also strongly opposing the military operation in Karachi.
One wonders if rangers and police have proven to be totally ineffective then why they want this mayhem to continue that is turning Karachi into a ghost city and killing its spirit of openness and liveliness.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat