Whose Karachi is it?

By: Yasmeen Aftab Ali Burning-Karachi-316x248

George Galloway, the MP for Bradford, has set up a fund to initiate “legal proceedings against the presence in the UK of Altaf Hussain and his activities co-ordinated from the UK but gravely affecting Pakistan,” according to a local newspaper report. This has come on heels of the speech of the leader of MQM, Altaf Hussain addressing his party workers and supporters via telephone at his party’s Headquarters, Nine Zero. In a speech televised across various media channels, Altaf Hussain demanded to separate Karachi from the rest of Pakistan if the public mandate of his party was not acceptable to the ‘establishment.’ Hussain’s party later clarified saying it was taken out of context. ” MQM, which once started out as a liberal political party that sought to protect the rights of the Urdu speaking people today stands accused of unlawful actions.

The face of MQM has become impossible to differentiate from that of Altaf Hussain as it often happens in political parties dominated by one leader. How long can Karachi continue to be ruled from abroad through video addresses full of histrionics?

Analyst and writer from Karachi Ali K. Chisti, disagrees that MQM can be held responsible for the lawlessness of Karachi, “The common perception that MQM is behind the violence in Karachi is not true because of the various dynamics owing to different demographic changes witnessed in the last five years. Out of the 11,000 people killed in Karachi in the last five years, only twenty two percent had any political affiliation.” He is bull’s eye pointing out the changing demographics of Karachi, now the second largest city housing people from northern areas. Fight for economic resources is a bone of contention. Controlling the city of Port Qasim is too attractive a deal.

Things have changed for MQM over time. Being in power from 2002 to 2012 it has been accused of violence and extra-legal actions. It now faces being given a taste of its own medicine. With an increasing Pashtun population in Karachi, ingress of Taliban was not unpredictable. Recent months saw them hitting hard at their sectarian and ethnic opponents. Case to point is the recent murder of MQM MPA Sajid Qureshi and his son, shot dead in North Nazimabad, Karachi. Though there is yet no proof as to who killed him, yet it will be foolish to even speculate whoever did so is not strong enough to take MQM on.  Politics of terrorism beget politics of terrorism. The chicken has indeed come home to roost!

Karachi is a melting pot of people hailing from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It boasts a population of 25 to 27 million.  “As compared to this massive population it has a police force based on 34000 as compared to 67000 for Lahore,” says Chisti. Interestingly, in its verdict on taking of suo mote notice for lawlessness in Karachi, in October 2011, the Supreme Court, in its judgment stated that some criminal groups had political backing and that they had become part of political parties. The Chief Justice also stated that he was informed by Inspector General (IG) of Police that 40% of the police officials had been recruited on political grounds. The verdict had also highlighted that in 1992 operation clean up was launched against MQM, the police had played an active role, following this, 92 police officers/officials disappeared and to date, there is no clue of their whereabouts nor is it known that by whom, and under whose patronage, such persons were abducted and/or killed.

Killings by “Na-maloom Afraad” (unknown persons) have become synonymous with Karachi murders. Karachi seems to be operated by a switch. Strikes, kidnappings, returning to “normal,” all turned on and off at the touch of that unseen switch.

Sophisticated weapons are a part of the life in Karachi. They are smuggled in from Afghanistan through Quetta and onward to destination Karachi. They’ve included 8mm and 9mm calibre pistols of the US and they’ve included weapons from Israel. People are armed and ready to kill. According to an official report compiled by the joint investigation team (JIT) of all key government agencies, “Most of the target killers belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), MQM-Haqqiqi, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Muhammad, Awami National Party (ANP) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.” (PULSE September 16, 2011)

Where does one go from here? MQM holding fort in Karachi, Altaf Hussain, comfortably ensconced in London, PTI making its debut in the city post 2013 elections, change in paradigm; the emergence of Taliban in Karachi. Then there is the presence of smaller religious and ethnic parties.  Things just couldn’t get worse. Karachi; a city where scores are settled with power of bullet. The answer has to come in form of a political settlement from within. De-weaponising Karachi is not enough. Reigning in the violent within its ranks by political parties is not enough. Not inducting police force through political pressure is not enough. The political parties and the army will have to come together on one page and agree upon a strategy to deal with the issue rearing its head like an ugly serpent, not just in Karachi but in other provincial cities as well. They will have to take some hard decisions if the issues are to be resolved; is banning other outfits, nonetheless operating clandestinely, without crackdowns and ultimately rooting them out, enough? Is allowing Karachi to become an international playground for vested interests with nefarious groups as ‘front men’ acceptable? Is supporting ‘favored proxies’ in the interest of Pakistan? Are ‘talks’ with Taliban depending upon whims of Taliban (blowing hot and cold) a good strategy? Any dialogue must be based on reducing their ability to create havoc and reduction of their ability to influence ideologically. If there is a well-grounded plan, it is certainly well protected.  In the meanwhile these attacks are expected to intensify. The terrorism inflicted upon Pakistan is not localized to one area. It has different faces and has infiltrated our system. The core issue facing Pakistan is the same; support of vested interests for various religious & ethnic parties and non-state actors in Pakistan leading to destabilization.

Who is going to make an Anti-terrorism strategy and when?

The killers are like a many headed serpent; the Hydra in Greek Mythology. The Hydra is a serpent with numerous heads, nine being the number often quoted. It was said as soon as one head was cut, it grew another. A famous quote states even Hercules’ alone could not fight Hydra. He needed help to cauterize the beheaded stumps, but one head of Hydra was immortal and had to be buried alive.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’

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  • AYAZ KHAN  On June 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm


  • Tahir Wadood  On June 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    i was born in Karachi in 1948, so as a born Pakistani it is my city! and i have the fondest of memories of the city from my two postings there in the army and subsequent many trips as a civilian!
    the last two trips were disasters, sadly, my city has changed!

  • idrees  On June 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm


  • tahir wadood malik  On June 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Tahir's Blog and commented:
    my comments are at the end of the article!

  • Humayun  On June 24, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    then come here and check the pulse of Karachites n don’t share your valuable thought from 1200 KM

  • GRK  On June 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    dear madam yasmeen.indeed your below communication is indeed thought provoking.yes in this polluted city blowing out of propotion with its population increases day by day and the city simply cannot has the necessary infrastructure to provide and facility to ever increasing population.but the fact remains that culture of gun,bhatta and kidnapping for ransom is mainly a major contribution by MQM.we had 3 military dictators who ruled?misruled the country for nearly 30 years.suprisingly a criminal gangster sitting in london recieving millions of Rupees for his king style living is enjoying this previledge for the last 30 years.since now he is a british natioal,he has no business to interfere in the matters of karachi and its poor people.grk

  • Iqbal  On June 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Par excellence analysis Yasmeen.

    Hope the Federal Government takes serious note of all your suggestions.


  • Shahmeen  On June 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    An accurate & brilliant piece!

  • Siraj  On June 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm


    A few things if I may add-on your excellent piece.

    1. Hydra was half-maiden and half-serpent (its not about the gender though, but about resilience)

    2. The story did have a happy ending, which I feel you should have emphasized. Hercules did finish off Hydra in the end. It may be another Herculean task at hand, but eliminate the Hydra of Karachi we must. Somebody has to.

    With my birth, growing up and getting educated in the roshniyon ka shehr, I tend to get over-emotional when I read the daily death report. Karachi has not gone to the dogs, but dogs have gone into Karachi and have imposed gun culture.


  • khusro  On June 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Who is going to make an Anti-terrorism strategy and when?
    This is the biggest challenge facing the new Government of Nawaz Sharif. Every one knew that the writ of Zardari stopped at the borders of Islamabad and did not expect him to be able to do anything. The Provinces, the Federal Government and the Army have to come together to develop a plan to challenge this state of lawlessness or everything else will fail. So far the statements coming out of Islamabad are those of clueless people.

  • Tariq  On June 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Bohat wadya. Kutchh likha tu. Brave effort. Your pen is your sword. Weldone.

  • Masoof  On June 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Great work.. Keep it up & make us proud of you.

  • an insider  On June 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Wish you knew the real story…
    Quoting akchishti and claiming the article to be unbiased are oxymorons.
    You really want to know who killed sajid Qureshi? 🙂

    • Yasmeen Ali  On June 25, 2013 at 2:24 am

      An interesting note. When one writes, one must take both points of view. Journalistic ethics demand that.

  • Ahmed Sirohey  On June 25, 2013 at 2:11 am

    A very balanced article.

  • Umair Javed  On June 25, 2013 at 2:20 am

    whose krachi is it? krachi is burning but if you will ask some one how it is burning they do not know?how the target killing raised in the city of lights a small kid will answer but when you will ask the higher authorities they do not know?which groups are involved in gang wars a kid will tell but you will ask the higher authorities they do not know?who is taking extortion money from shops and other sources go to any shop and ask he will give you the total figure of the money that from this area how much they are giving and to whom but higher authorities they do not know?who is ruling the areas like liyari and no go areas after for a long time in govt they do not know?due to this they do not know one thing came to my mind some one has use this rule with excellent “DIVIDE AND RULE” know what ever and who ever is doing to do any thing the out come is only one name TALIBAN.what happen on 12 may,every day killings are going on,MNA are getting killed,taxes are getting higher,many cases are pending there stay limit is already finished,artical 6 is more important but when some one say about 62b,63b we are blind co….ed…

  • farhan  On June 25, 2013 at 2:49 am

    @Madam Yasmeen u r absolutely right. Economic Resourses is the main bone of contention in Karachi. ANd Politicians just look for their Influence.

  • Khalid Rahim  On June 25, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Karachi is a British Colony ruled by their slave master Altaf Hussain. While he lives in London under Crown protection using the electronic media and digital communication services to control the mindless mob through his goons.Karachi can only return to normal conditions and into the fold of Pakistan, when Altaf Hussain is returned to stand trial in a military court, as all civil courts have lost credibility and are extremely politicized.

  • Riz  On June 25, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Excellent write up Yasmeen. Right on the money. I have said so before and again i repeat. A federal force is needed that can take the fight to the criminals in khi. This city is tearing it self apart.

  • Yasmeen Ali  On June 25, 2013 at 4:01 am

    Published: Sri Lanka Guardian

  • Admiral Sirohey  On June 25, 2013 at 7:22 am

    You might recall I expressed my views truthfully about them that you thought was rather aggressive. They have ruined the city that was so peaceful where every one of all hues and means were living. I as a junior officer could walk from Sadar to Keamari after midnight if I wished and that I did a number of times. It was known as the Paris of the East. It has been taken over by monsters. The situation has now aggravated because the loot that had gone on for long is now being encroached upon.

    The country as a whole has to be made weapon free licensed or otherwise. It has been done in the past. It can be done again but by the army. Karachi has to be de zoned to spread the population. It will cost but will kill the problem instead of killing the city and those who wish to live there in peace. Karachi is a part of Sindh so it should remain. The local population has been reduced to minority. It is unjust.


  • engineeratiq  On June 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Yasmeen what will be the solution that we get ride of such criminal peoples and live a peaceful life,such people consider us a game which playing and we remain salient,if we remain silent then no change well be come,and also to According to Almighty Allah,That Allah does not change the condition of peoples until they not change by them selves.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On June 25, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Excellent pen picture drawn of the current quagmire in Karachi,and about time the fellow was leashed and heeled.

  • Sayyedain  On June 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Yasmeen the questions should be Whose Pakistan is it? or For what Pakistan was created? After 65 years of its creation only number of unending questions are left. Instead of most favorite question that Who is going to make Anti Terrorism Strategy and When it should be about making Anti Pakistan and its Awwam Strategy and Who is going to do so ? How and When? Do you know what is the greatest Ulmia ( irony of fate ) of this Nation is, that Pakistani Arbab e Hukumat after the death of Liaqat Ali Khan became Munafiqs and Greedy for Power and Money and that is now well entered into the blood of the entire hierarchy – Establishment, Govt, Politicians , Media, businessmen – since the sincerity to the very Maqdsad of its creation has turned into selfish motives than nothing works out except questions and blame games. I call Diplomacy and Politics as Munafiqat and Munafiqat leads to become Traitor . ” Jaafer uz Daccan Sadiq uz Bengal; Nangey Deen nangey Watan Nangey Asmaan” The real Hydra is Munafiqat and complete deviation from actual purpose for which Pakistan was created. The ultimate Questions would be What is left of it? and Who will handle it? or take over.

  • Najma  On June 25, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Chisti is talking through his hat. True, MQM is no longer the only group responsible for indiscriminate killings, but it certainly was for most of the past 30 years. Furthermore, their style of imposing control catalyzed a similar response or copycatting from other ethnic or ideological groups. They further corrupted local government and their extortionist and protection-money racket remains intact. They still punish Karachi with ‘mourning’ — a hypocritical term that forces all establishments to close down, daily-wagers to lose a day’s wages, and countless migrant-workers unaccompanied by families, to go hungry because they can’t even buy food from anywhere. Nothing will change until Altaf and his key criminals are taken out.

    • idrees  On June 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      So correct Najma sahiba. Unless and until we really subject ourselves to honest scrutiny, we shall not find the answer. And MQM is patently dishonest in its assessment by thinking the fault lies elsewhere. They are the prime source of all unrest in Karachi and Sindh. The peace of Sindh has been shattered by them since early eighties. Altaf is a shallow man, a hollow man, who has goebbled his adherents into believing that he is their well wisher. He is a fitna and those following fitna are themselves greater fitna. Unless one admits a fault, how can that be self corrected? It has to be removed through forceable surgical operation. Let’s hope the noose now tightens and the man is deservingly sent to the gallows and to hell which he richly deserves.


  • Nasim  On June 25, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Thank you BUT who is responsible . ? Its not possible for criminals to voluntarily withdraw from this . It suits them & they are all having a good time . Establishment is responsible . They are playing a dirty game . Its the political parties who are not wise enough to take cognisance of it OR they dont want to .Whar are political parties composed of ? corrupt , ignorant & shameless individuals with no vision . People with vision & love for the country hot to come out of this shell of status quo .with conviction . Armed forces & judiciary is not performing as the Nation expected . If they had we would not have been in this mess . Its the turn of the people to do what is left before there is nothing to go on . Outside support is the worst scenario . KHUDI is the Slogan of today . Best wishes Nasim

  • Ahsan  On June 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Agreed that too many violent groups operating in Karachi

    MQM may be the biggest one

  • Freda  On June 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    You have stated the truth. Thank you.

  • Shomu Bhatacharya  On June 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    This is indeed very sad.Karachi a major port which was once and maybe it still is the financial capital of Pakistan, but it cannot be allowed to become a wild west country and one that is guided by cowboys like Altaf Hussein and such like others who are living in comfort abroad. And being a very cosmopolitan city, the people, the armed forces, the para-military forces, the police and all patriotic minded political parties must join hands to get rid of this deadly serpent. Even today some of those who during partition migrated to India from Karachi are feeling rather sad about the killings in Karachi and the destruction of that great city which was once home to them.The city which was once the capital of Pakistan at no cost can be separated and those who propagate such crazy ideas must also remember that the city does not belong to one individual, one quam or to one single party–it belongs to all patriotic Pakistanis.

  • Malik Bilawal  On June 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    There was only mqm in khi, then all other parties were uncomfortable, they decided to make there wings to.
    The present situation is all outta control bcoz the militant wings of all of them realised any party in khi without them is like DEAD

    • Umair Javed  On June 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      so true in the race of power few people reach to a Laval where returning seems to be impossible if some one say that people mind has set for these parties is not true facts proof that present situation of krachi is non other then giving free hand to such parties just to be in power ….in sha allah


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