VIEW POINT: Unnecessary squabbling
It is now the MQM's turn to play the victimhood card. First, it took strong exception to a proposal of deweaponisation of Karachi, expressing reservations at the passage of a resolution by Senate last month, iterating that not only Karachi but the entire country should be deweaponised.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
After the recent SC directive for the delimitation of Karachi constituencies, the party chief, Altaf Hussain, delivered a fiery tirade in his telephonic address to a public meeting, saying people of the city would never allow any such 'conspiracy' to succeed.
The party's basic argument is that violence is galore in the other provinces too, why pick on Karachi? Why should it be treated any different? The law and order situation in Punjab is a lot less than satisfactory, but all of its major cities are relatively much more peaceful than Karachi. True, extremists and insurgents have been wreaking havoc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It is also true that while militants are fighting the state in KP, the state is after them. And the security forces have been using excessive, often brutal, force against disgruntled Baloch nationalists/insurgents which, in fact, is producing more turmoil than resolution of the old issues.
The case of Karachi is different. The news from the city is consistently dominated by reports of targeted killings, extortion and abduction for ransom. All of such bad news is an outcome of turf wars among three ruling coalition partners: the PPP, the MQM and the ANP. These parties' armed wings and criminal elements operating under their patronage are responsible for destroying the peace and security of those living and working in the nation's commercial capital. That fact has been fully established by a Supreme Court bench in its last year's judgement on Karachi law and order situation.
Maula Baksh Chandio, a senior PPP leader from Sindh, reflected both anguish and helplessness when discussing Karachi in a TV talk show, he lamented that the city had become a subject of 'noha gari'. What Karachi faces, he said, is "not a problem, it is a crisis". Yet exigencies of power have paralysed his party's government in Sindh, which is obvious from Chandio's thinking about a solution. According to him, the situation would resolve by itself. Clearly, the assumption is that peace will return when the three main contestants settle their turf battles through the power of the gun.
The MQM may not want to acknowledge it, but the sad reality is that guns play a significant part in the main political players' influence gaining strategies. Former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza has publicly stated on more occasions than one that he had issued some 300,000 arms licences among the Sindhis. Those arms, he explained, were not meant for celebratory gunfire at weddings. As for the ANP, it has been reminding anyone interested that gun is a Pashtun's ornament. Little surprise then that Karachi is bristling with all sorts of arms, which their proud owners have been freely using every day to settle scores with one another. Since the issue is specific to Karachi, there is ample justification for a Karachi-specific deweaponisation campaign.
The MQM has also taken umbrage to a SC directive to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies in Karachi, especially to a SC bench member's observation that delimitation work should be done in such a manner that no one party gets area monopoly, which the MQM chief said was in contravention of law and the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974. "What is the objective of carrying out delimitation only in Karachi without having a census?" he asked. Indeed, it is for the people only to decide who they choose as their representatives. If that results in any one party's monopoly in certain areas no one should have any quarrel with it. The trouble, however, is that the three key political players, including the relatively new entrant ANP, have created their respective strongholds along ethnic divisions. Distortions in constituency demarcations, therefore, can give block vote advantage to one or the other party, tilting the balance in its favour. Fresh delimitations consistent with the provisions of the relevant law should fashion an even-playing field for all players.
As for the question why delimitations in Karachi without a new census, the fact of the matter is that the court took up the issue because it was approached by petitioners. And as per law, the ECP can carry out fresh delimitations without a new census if the stakeholders so desire. General Musharraf's regime did that in Karachi as well as other parts of the country for the 2002 elections.
In fact, opponents of MQM that he carried out the exercise with the intention of crafting favourable conditions for the MQM. General Musharraf's constituency engineering operation had messed up things in some other parts of the country as well, especially in Balochistan's Pashtun-dominated areas. It was on his watch also that in a post-election hearing of the PPP and PTI petitions regarding fake votes, it turned out that the voter's lists contained as many as 20.75 million fake votes.
In any case, what was acceptable then should be acceptable now without fresh census. The requests for it, though, should have gone directly to the ECP rather than the SC - all the more so because for the first time ever, we have a truly independent Election Commission.
Some others, like the federal minister Khurshid Shah, have been raising objections, too, to delimitation of constituencies, requesting the SC to review its verdict, saying doing so only in Karachi would be unjust. All objectors pushing the 'do it all over the country' position make the untenable argument that even though problems are there, these should be left unaddressed as delimitation work cannot be accomplished in time for the upcoming elections scheduled about four months down the line.
There is no demand or need to redo delimitation all over the country. Even so, ECP Additional Secretary Mohammad Afzal Khan said in Quetta the other day that the Commission will implement the SC order regarding delimitation of constituencies in Karachi in letter and in spirit.
If that can be done in the mega city Karachi, it should not be difficult for provincial EC authorities to do the same in similar situations in Sindh or other provinces. The overriding consideration has to be keeping the upcoming elections as fair and impartial as possible. All stakeholders in Karachi need to cooperate to have the job done to their mutual email@example.com