Total Pageviews

Monday, May 14, 2007

Karachi bleeds, Nation weeps

Daily Times, May 13, 2007
Yesterday Karachi saw the worst political violence in Pakistan in many years; over thirty people were confirmed killed and scores injured in clashes and gunfights between pro-government and opposition groups. Was this unexpected? No. The arrival in Karachi of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was not taken lightly by President General Pervez Musharraf after the great show of force of the anti-Musharraf forces in Lahore. Until that point the government was only uncomfortable with the CJP’s outings to Rawalpindi and the NWFP. But the Lahore show was unique. It indicated that the movement against General Musharraf was gathering momentum. The reaction of the PMLQ government in Punjab was low-profile, possibly because the Punjab chief minister wanted to avoid a confrontation. Not so, however, with the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) which decided to show its muscle and announced counter rallies against the chief justice. Some factors are easily discernible and they should inform us of where responsibility for the tragedy lies in Karachi. Reports were already circulating that General Musharraf was girding up to take on the CJP. This was confirmed when the MQM announced its rally on the same day and near the CJP’s venue before the Karachi bar. Up in Islamabad also the government announced to take out a “mammoth rally”. It was clear that the government was trying to counter the movement that has taken hold of the country following the action against the CJP on March 9. The fear of the government was that all the opposition parties would flock to the occasion and make it look like a massive no-confidence vote of the people against the president. The measure of its paranoia could be had from the fact that all approaches to the Sindh High Court were blocked with large containers, a red rag to the charged-up supporters of the CJP. But General Musharraf’s ally, the MQM, had other plans too. The commitment the MQM made to General Musharraf in his “hour of need” can be gauged from the fact that the MQM rally was to be addressed by Mr Altaf Hussain after its climax at Tibet Centre....None of this bodes well for the country. In Islamabad, even as people were dying in Karachi, the government’s rally was being convened through a lot of fanfare and folk dances. As former premier Nawaz Sharif noted from exile correctly: the conflict is being given an ethnic colouring and that is poisonous for the solidarity of the country. It is ironic that the rally in Karachi was titled “In Defence of the Integrity and Honour of the Judiciary” and the one up in Islamabad was called “Istehkam-e Pakistan” rally. Both were in fact indicative of the vertical fault-line that now separates Pakistan and divides it between anti- and pro-Musharraf forces.Where does General Musharraf go from here? One thing is clear. General Musharraf must realise that his own fortune is linked intrinsically with the solidarity of the country he rules. It would be naïve to think that he could personally survive while the country slides into perdition. There are more cracks and fissures in it today than when he took power in 1999. *Also See:Sunday Telegraph: Pakistan on the Brink of Disaster as Karachi BurnsLawyers blame MQM for Karachi killings* PBC to observe a full day strike on MondayStaff Report: Daily Times, May 13, 2007LAHORE: The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Saturday denounced the MQM for the Karachi killings.Addressing a press conference LHCBA vice president Firdous Butt and secretary Sarfraz Cheema termed it barbaric. Cheema said the government had wanted to hinder the CJP and it deputed the MQM to worsen law and order in Karachi. He said Gen Musharraf had given free hand to the MQM gangsters backed by the law-enforcing agencies including rangers and police.

No comments: