KARACHI, THEY CALL IT CITY OF LIGHTS
Located on the coast of Arabian Sea, north-west of the Indus River Delta, Karachi is the capital of Sindh and the largest city in Pakistan At the end of World War II, Karachi’s population was around four hundred thousand. Today Karachi is a metropolis of over 20 million, spread over 3,530 square kilometers. Largest in Pakistan, 10th biggest in the world and in terms of population, bigger than 100 countries. Karachi is a strategic port city. It is the shipping and maritime hub for Pakistan It is also the commercial and financial hub with major share in gross domestic product and generating over 60% of revenues for Pakistan.
In last six decades, Karachi has seen various bouts of violence and the law and order failures. However, latest trend of ethno-political, sectarian, militant and criminal mix of violence has brought the city to stand still many a times in last decade. The current state of insecurity in Karachi originates from a combination of political, social and financial factors; an intricate conflict between ethnic, sectarian, militant and organized criminals over the control of city and its fortunes. The insecurity has played havoc with lives of people and has caused major break down of law and order in the metropolis. Karachi’s situation clearly reflects incompetence of Provincial Government and indifference of Federal Government, raising it as a major threat to the internal security of Pakistan.
Ethno-political violence in Karachi, which has witnessed an alarming rise in the last few years, is more complex in nature as many criminal and sectarian tendencies merge with it as well. The nature of threats is as much a problem for law enforcement as it is of a political solution. Pakistan has two major patterns of violence, sectarian and ethno-political. Both emerged and are flourishing in Karachi. There is a need to develop a comprehensive security policy for Karachi, through a coordinated inter-agency cooperation coupled with effective policing and backed by the desired political will. All with the support of a dynamic civil society and under due authority of suitable legislation.
In recent years, ethno political, sectarian, militant, and criminal violence have claimed thousands of lives and repeatedly paralyzed the city’s economic activities. By one estimate, politically motivated violence in Karachi alone accounted for 9.6% of all violent deaths in Pakistan in 2011
The ongoing killings, violence and lawlessness is multidirectional, largely, it is of a political, ethnic or sectarian nature and then in some cases personal scores are settled. The challenge, however, remains how to ensure short-term service delivery, while supporting the long-term goal of peace, security and economic viability through functioning and sustainable governance and justice system.
The challenge is to find creative solutions to pressing issues such as violence and law & order in order to pave the way for a progressive society. Effective governance is what makes the difference between successful states or struggling ones. Improving the quality of governance is therefore central to the effort to move Pakistan beyond the ‘crisis state’.
The government and political parties call on the paramilitary Rangers to restore law and order when the security situation in Karachi spirals out of control. The government is however reluctant to give outright authority to Rangers on the plea that such a move would go against the constitution. On the other hand, the government reserved the right to award Rangers special powers for ninety-day stretches, whenever needed. Nonetheless, extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures; such is the situation in Karachi; therefore, may warrant special powers for effective Rangers employment
De-weaponization campaigns have been largely cosmetic, missing the desired will and a comprehensive strategy. The political indifference is further displayed when on the plea of personal security, selected individuals and party affiliates were issued 16,631 arms licences in Karachi within a short period from July 2011 to January 2012. Therefore, a strict de-weaponization law is required to be implemented with impunity, across the board to yield tangible results.
In order to depoliticize Police, its recruitment procedures need major revamping based on a system of merit and independence from political influence. There is also a requirement to enhance the budget allocations for increasing the strength of the force, adequate to police this large metropolis.
Strong political will alongwith a determined executive is desired to ban all subversive groups, whether, political, ethnic, sectarian or religious. However, in addition to banning subversive groups, a sustained effort has to be made to dismantle the group’s infrastructure, prosecute its activists, or cut off its sources of funding.
Economic implication of the population problems can hardly be over-estimated. The size and composition of population is intimately related to the standard of living of the people. The larger the population, the greater is the demand for food, clothing and other necessities. Population growth rate is Karachi is one of the highest in the world. Therefore, population control will conserve the natural resources, increase per capita income and standard of living.
At provincial level, political and financial interests have blinded the governments to even accept the severity of situation. At federal or national level, insensitivities have largely over shadowed their half-hearted concerns and efforts. Since it is an established fact that main perpetrators of violence are the militant wings of MQM, PPP and ANP, there is a need to have a fresh look for a political strategy with due pressure and support of the public, the major stake holders. Options like shared political administration, city province and a depoliticized administration may be considered for a long term political strategy.