Targeted operation in Karachi

By Mohammad Jamil       

Life was paralysed in Karachi on Wednesday amid gunfire and arson attacks after police arrested Nadim Hashmi, a former MPA of the MQM, on murder and terror charges over the killing of two cops. At least four vehicles were torched, and schools, shops and petrol stations were closed. Since the targeted operation started in Karachi, scores of activists belonging to religious outfits, political activists and Lyari gang criminals have been arrested, but nobody reacted the way the MQM leadership has reacted. In his address to the coordination committee members and senior leaders, MQM chief Altaf Hussain warned his workers to prepare mentally and physically to face 1992-like situation and confront state oppression with fortitude. The Sindh government has declared that it owned the target operation against killers, criminals and extortionists in the city and dismissed the MQM’s perception that MQM or any political entity was being targeted.  

In the cabinet meeting held in Karachi on last Wednesday, the government decided to launch operation in Karachi. Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had consultations for two days with all the stakeholders including political parties, media, business community and members of civil society. There was consensus on targeted action against terrorists‚ target killers‚ kidnappers for ransom and extortionists. Briefing the newsmen, Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan said that rangers would lead the targeted action and police will have a supporting role. In the Supreme Court verdict on Karachi in 2011, the court quoting intelligence agencies had stated that MQM, PPP and ANP have their militant wings in Karachi, which must be disbanded and criminal elements brought to book. The court said that “banned outfits including Sunni Tehreek are involved in extortion, while there are allegations of the same offence against parties such as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP) and MQM”.

 The news was shocking that Attorney General of Pakistan submitted before the Supreme Court a government report the other day that Muhajir Republic Army was also operating in the city. MQM not only denied the allegation but also termed it ridiculous. The MQM lately demanded military action in Karachi, while others demanded of the government to launch a targeted operation against criminal gangs using Police and Rangers. MQM’s demand to hand over the city to Army was rather intriguing. Some analysts saw an international plot and a game plan behind this move, as they linked Karachi operation with US intervention in Syria, observing that it was used as a diversion to engage Pakistan internally while international community invaded Syria. Since no major party supported the demand for military action in Karachi, MQM chief Altaf Hussain had no choice but to support the cabinet decision with regard to targeted action in Karachi. 

All and sundry must support the government decision, and media may also be allowed only filtered information regarding the progress in the operation. Federal and Provincial governments and LEAs must proceed with firm resolve on single point agenda to maintain order and restore the rule of law. Criminal elements must be targeted irrespective of their political affiliations. And courts, media, general masses, civil society, intellectuals and political parties must lend an unflinching support to the government action in Karachi. It has to be mentioned that the MQM had supported the decision for launching operation against criminals, mafias and extortionists, but never expected action against criminals in the MQM. However, the question is why the MQM has been opposing military action in the past, and why it deemed it appropriate to demand military action in Karachi at this point in time when military was already fighting the menace of terrorism in FATA and settled areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa?

 The reasons abound. Firstly, the MQM leadership seems to have lost control over its militants, as they now operate independently and do not want to share the booty with the party. Secondly, investigation is being carried out against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain by London Metropolitan Police on charges of money laundering and provocation to torture and life threats to his opponents. Earlier in June, as part of their investigation into the Imran Farooq murder case Scotland Yard had raided Altaf Hussain’s house in London. British government is very sensitive on money-laundering after 9/11 events, which is a very serious offence in Britain. The UK police are investigating the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq case on multiple lines including the one that Dr. Farooq was in discussions with his colleagues and members of the public to start his own independent political career.

 The way the New Scotland Yard is moving this time, Altaf Hussain seems to be in real soup. To add to his embarrassment, UK High Commissioner to Pakistan had said: “Under British laws promoting hatred and violence is liable to punishment and Altaf Hussain’s statements must be taken seriously.” Finally, despite MQM having won its traditional seats, the decline in votes is reflective of the fact that it is losing popularity in Sindh. Anyhow, the MQM has been part of almost every government after 1988, be it elected government or military dictatorship. Of course, after a military rule, it is always a change of dress from the khaki to civilian robes, but the power dispensation stays elitist, privileged and autocratic, with a few hangers-on getting into this exclusive club by hanging on to coat-tails of the dynasts and their henchmen. The people remain denied and deprived; however the MQM continued to get its share of the cake. This time round, MQM leadership’s shenanigans would not work, as the PML-N being the single largest party does not need MQM’s support.

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