Weapon-free Karachi?

Weapon-free KarachiPosted by Faheem Belharvi

This is with the reference to a press report that says “At least 45 people have been killed and more than 145 others sustained injuries after two consecutive blasts ripped through a thickly populated area near Abbas Town on Sunday. The blasts took place at a residential area outside a mosque near Abbas Town on Abul Hassan Ispahani Road. Police said the first bomb, attached with a motorbike, went off inside a residential building”.

According to media reports 3,000-35,00 people fell victim to violence in Karachi in 2012 – February 2013. Ironically, the same year in September UN member states adopted a treaty pledging to rid the world of the scourge brought upon it by the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms, bombs and light weapons, and their excessive accumulation in many parts of the world.

They also committed to mobilizing the necessary political will and resources to implement this programme. By not working for the deweaponisation of Karachi, Pakistan is moving in the opposite direction. Have we resigned ourselves to living on the edge with bullets and bombs explosions around us?The scale of violence is stunning.

But what is more astounding is that the killings continue to take place in brazen disgraced of the concern expressed by the Supreme Court which had taken suo motu notice of the crisis in Sep – Oct 2011. Declaring the violence to be “not ethnic alone” but “a turf war between different groups having economic, socio politico interests to strengthen their position/aggrandizement, based on the support or endorsement of the political parties”, the court had specified some measures to end the violence in the city.

The October 2011 order had “directed that a committee be constituted by the provincial government… to supervise and ensure that law enforcement agencies take action indiscriminately, across the board against the perpetrators involved in causing disturbances in Karachi, the Chief Justice (of Sindh) shall convene the meeting at least once in a month to review the implementation of this judgment and copy of the proceedings shall be transmitted to the registrar of this court.”

We are told that these reports were filed, but the intensity of the killings just grew and grew. In constitution of the 2011 hearings, last October the Chief Justice constituted an expanded bench with five honourable judges to hear the Karachi unrest case. Their interim order, issued on November 3, was very explicit and clearly identified people responsible for the violence.

Strangely, the interim order has moved no one. Statements by judges have fallen on deaf ears, as when one of them observed “no one among the senior officers of the police seems to have shown concern”.

We know that the political parties which have armed wings are all involved in the violence that has engulfed the city. Since the interim order was issued 15 weeks ago, 633 people have been killed in the city. The parties in the ruling coalition bear a greater responsibility since it is the administration’s duty to provide security to the citizens. Take the case of the 35 under trail and convicted prisoners who were unlawfully released on parole. They are said to be hardened criminals and must have used their freedom to kill several more people. We do not know yet if they have been picked up again as directed by the court.

Other criminal elements are taking advantages of the breakdown of law and order to promote their own nefarious interests. They may be the land mafia, the tanker mafia, the drug smugglers, or petty street criminals who want to make hay while the sun shines. Those suffering are common people whose only interests lies in law and order.

In this ghastly scenario, can one hope for any form of deweaponsitation of Karachi which is the basic need of the hour? The SC had observed in October 2011 that “Karachi is full of arms and ammunition of prohibited and non – prohibited bores, bombs and including license and illicit, therefore, Karachi has to be cleansed from all kinds of weapons by adhering to the laws available on the subject”.

It had suggested that new laws be enacted if the need is felt. It has also sought an end to “unnecessary display(of arms) at ceremonies or elsewhere for aerial firing”.
Although it has been argued that generally, unlicensed arms are used to commit crime, it does not justify the huge presence of licensed arms in the city. The SC was informed in 2011 that the Sindh Home Department had issued 180,956 licenses of non – prohibited bore and 46,114 licenses of prohibited bore in five years.
The interior ministry in Islamabad had issued 1,202,470 licenses of non – prohibited bore.

It is now clear that without deweaponsation exercise there is absolutely no way of ending the violence in the metropolis.There are many peace activitists who would want to push for ending the killings in Karachi but they cannot do much when they face criminal armed to hilt.

(Sher Muhammad Khan)

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