Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BITTER TRUTH

Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza is a loose cannon and, if rubbed the wrong way, will fire away. At the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Dr Mirza was hit by a barrage of complaints by the city’s industrialists and traders for failing to give them adequate protection. Obviously stung by the criticism, he said that “people cast votes for extortionists; they should now talk to their elected representatives for law and order”.

Dr Mirza pinned the blame for the deteriorating law and order situation mostly on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). “Dr Imran Farooq was murdered in London, but buses of Pakhtuns were torched in Karachi. Did Asfandyar Wali kill Dr Imran Farooq?” asked Dr Mirza. He went on to allege that when “they [the MQM] want to kill any Pakhtun, Sindhi, Punjabi or Baloch in Karachi, they go about executing their plan methodically”.

What Dr Mirza said is politically inappropriate given that the MQM is a coalition partner of the PPP government both at the Centre and in Sindh, but nevertheless is a well known truth. The timing may be wrong, his method of delivery may be unsuitable, but these charges against the MQM are neither new nor something that many can deny. The MQM is notorious for spreading violence in Karachi. In recent months, the security situation in the city has deteriorated and the heat is definitely on Dr Mirza since he is the province’s home minister. However, Dr Mirza did injustice to the businessmen by saying that they were complicit in this regard because they pay extortion money to such parties. If truth be told, since the government has so far failed to protect the business community from the bhatta (extortion money) mafia, they are forced to pay ‘protection money’. The victims and the terrorisers should not be lumped in the same basket. The businessmen pay the money for their survival. It is the responsibility of the Sindh government to bring the culprits to book so that the people can breathe a sigh of relief. Dr Mirza was also wrong on another count when he tried to provoke the situation by stating that “the situation in Karachi will worsen and a large number of Urdu-speaking people will lose their lives if these ethnic groups [Baloch, Pakhtun, Sindhis and Punjabis] come forward and make an alliance”.

This was not just irresponsible of the provincial home minister but could also lead to a political fallout. The PPP’s coalition partner, the JUI-F, pulled out of the coalition yesterday. The PPP is already facing a tough time getting the RGST bill through parliament and with this sort of provocation from Dr Mirza, the MQM may well threaten to pull out as well. On a number of occasions, the MQM has threatened to leave the coalition government but they always retreat from the brink, which suggests more pressure tactics than intent.

The MQM has decided that a delegation would meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after Muharram and protest at Dr Mirza’s provocative speech.Karachi’s situation is already fraught with tension. The city has many armed groups present on its soil. The MQM is the largest political party in Karachi. How the MQM wins the elections and continues to terrorise the citizens, especially the Pakhtuns, is no secret either. Given the party’s penchant for violence, the PPP will have to tread more carefully in the future.

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