It’s been almost a year and a half that the law-enforcing agencies started an operation in Karachi — with the aim to restore peace to the city. The number of target killings in the city, extortions, kidnappings and a general law and order breakdown were the order of the day when the operation first began. It went on with mixed results amid concerns about human rights violations.
Over this time, the city’s biggest political force, the MQM, was seen as gradually growing weak, with the British government having come down hard on the exiled party leader Altaf Hussain on charges of money-laundering and interrogations for the party leader Imran Farooq’s murder. Hussain’s hold on Karachi, especially the ability to shut it down on the slightest of excuses, was certainly not as strong as before.
The May 2013 election must have been the most difficult for the party so far.
If anything indicated what lay in store for the MQM, it was the leakage of a JIT report during the court hearing of the Baldia fire case, blaming the party for the fire as punishment for not furnishing the extortion money.
This was a few weeks before March 11, when the MQM headquarter at Nine Zero was actually raided by the Rangers men wearing masks and all. They claimed to have arrested many of the wanted criminals, including the murderer of journalist Wali Babar.
The sheer symbolism of the act was phenomenal. The media went berserk in claiming that the high and mighty had fallen or nearly so.
The statement of Saulat Mirza a few hours before his hanging appeared to have sealed the party’s fate.
Today, the pressure on the party is still not slackened but the whole action must be seen in the entirety of its context. The crackdown has reverberations of similar actions in the decades past and is, therefore, looked at with much skepticism. The party itself seems to have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the establishment.
But one thing is certain. The powers that be appear to have decided to curtail the party’s influence in the city of Karachi. A general sense is that the riches of Karachi cannot be left to be enjoyed by one party alone anymore. There will be multiple stakeholders sharing the bounty that Karachi offers and the wielders of real power will oversee the control of the city. To exercise this control, there shall be controlled democracy.
These are the issues that are discussed in today’s Special Report. MQM is the current target but there lies a lot in store for Karachi in the coming days.