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Posts Tagged ‘PPP’

The Weekly Pah-kee-stuhn Musings

NYT/AP. Gilani: I should just Expecto Patronum all of you! All of you! Kayani: Oh God.

The problem with blogging about Pakistan is that there’s no dearth of topics and issues to write about. Turning on the television hits you with drama, intrigue, and conspiracy theories as caricatures scream in vain and to no one in particular.

And that’s just on our news channels.

Rather than be overwhelmed by the multitude of things I could write about, and hence, um, not actually write anything, I decided to spare you the excuses and just package them as a list. With a bow. And a rainbow. You’re welcome.

1. Gilani went all Jadoogar on the military. If you don’t know why Harry Potter should be jealous of Gilani Sahib, check out this past post. This week, media outlets and Twitter feeds alike were abuzz after Prime Minister Gilani fired Pakistan’s Defense Secretary [retired] General Lodhi. (Poof! He was gone. Jadoogar! Ooh!) According to media outlets, the controversy resulted from Lodhi’s statements during his Memogate investigation, claiming the Ministry of Defense (MOD) had no control over the ISI or Pakistan military.

Not surprisingly, coup rumors were abound after said news went public, as the Express Tribune reported Gilani allegedly made a “panicky” phone call to a British diplomat to support the PPP government. The British Foreign Secretary appealed for calm today, urging that all parties respect “the constitution and help ensure stability.” So military coup in the making? The jury’s still out, but I highly doubt it given the proximity (hopefully) to elections as well as the military’s own capacity to perform a coup. Al Jazeera English quoted analyst Moeed Pirzada who further iterated, “The Pakistani military is not the political player it used to be. It knows it’s not in a position to capture political power in Islamabad … not with the Supreme Court being the biggest impediment.”

But why such a high octave of rumors now? There are obviously many reasons, but one factor [purposefully?] upping the notch is…

2. The controversy known as #Memogate. Gah. I recently wrote about the first iteration of the Memogate scandal here, when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz alleged that he was asked by [now former] Amb. Haqqani to pass a memo to former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, asking for help in reigning in Pakistan’s military establishment. The military, particularly COAS Kayani & ISI chief Pasha claim there is truth to the document & urged the judiciary to investigate its origins. Gilani claimed that Kayani & Pasha were violating the Constitution by submitting statements to the Supreme Court. ISPR responded by calling Gilani’s statements false and could have “very serious ramifications.” Gilani responded by saying the Army’s statements were – wait for it – released with his consent, i.e. “Just kidding, guys! I totes let the Army make allusions to a military coup, that would hence usurp my power!” Hee! [Note: read this great piece by Mohammed Hanif on how the military uses rumors over force.]

As the three-member judiciary panel gears up to for the memo inquiry this coming Monday, “A separate bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to convene that day to hear the government’s explanation for failing to comply with earlier court orders to reopen corruption cases against Mr. Zardari,” noted the NY Times. Raza Rumi said it well when he noted, “The real threat for the government is a proactive Supreme Court which has taken a serious notice of noncompliance with its orders. The civilian government is stuck between two powerful institutions, which are no longer comfortable with business as usual.”

The ironic thing, though, is that this cacaphony still is business as usual. Politicians are not the only players who reign over politics, they are joined and often challenged by the judiciary and the military. This politicized warring, this blurring between the lines, mean we are also distracted from *real* issues like…

3. The Gas Shortage. Hello, McFly! The gas crisis in Pakistan isn’t so much a shortage as much as it’s the result of horrendous management. Or as Khurram Hussain noted in his piece for Express, it’s the result of an addiction. As CNG stations ran short on fuel and/or shut down in the country, protests broke out as people voiced their discontent. The gas shortage became visual as you would drive past rows of cars waiting at the CNG stations. But beyond the lines, beyond the protests, the crisis goes much deeper. Take away gas, and citizens are immobilized. They can’t drive their cars, they can’t take buses to get to work, they can’t cook their food. This has impacted industries, where, in Punjab, rows of factories have had to shut down. It’s affected jobs and livelihoods. In my opinion, that more than coup rumors is worrisome.

Also while you were watching Memogate

4. The Saleem Shahzad Report came out. And it was inconclusive. The Pakistani journalist was abducted, tortured and found dead outside Islamabad last year, two days after his report on connections between Al Qaeda and the Pakistan Navy was published. Although several facts pointed to an alleged connection to the ISI, the Saleem Shahzad Commission did “not hold any institution or individual responsible for his death,” instead blaming “belligerents” for the incident. Given this lack of accountability, it’s no wonder the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) once again said Pakistan was, for the second year in a row, the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist. CPJ’s Bob Dietz told AJE,

[The media in Pakistan is] free and vibrant, but let me qualify that with saying that they are under tremendous amounts of pressure from all sides. There’s been a lot of emphasis on intelligence services attacking journalists, but the fact, if you look at the journalists slain in the last few years, is that the ISI is only one of the actors that is putting pressure on journalists, threatening them and responsible for their deaths as well.

The news about Pakistan is, as always, eventful. The negative developments couched in this list are a reflection of the ground reality, but they are also a snapshot of what’s in the news. My work convinces me every day that Pakistan is a country with tremendous potential that has been horrifically managed. We are the victims of poor leadership, institutions that care more about pointing fingers outwards than looking inward, and a number of inefficiencies in our national value chain. Peel back that rotten layer, and you see the positive stories of opportunity, innovation, and energy. It may not completely overcome the bad, but it’s enough to be the silver lining. At least in my opinion.

And if you ever need further proof of change, check out this preview for Pakistan’s Next Top Model (PNTM). Because nothing says “Pakistanis, they’re just like us! Yay!” quite like reality television franchises & model wannabes smizing. What ups, #FAT (Fashion Against the Taliban).:

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Photo: Express/Shaheryar Popalzai

This past Sunday was Christmas Day, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif‘s birthday, and the 135th birth anniversary of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan.

This past Sunday was also Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (“Movement for Justice”)’s much-anticipated political rally in Karachi. For those of us not physically at the Minar-e-Quaid (Jinnah’s Mausoleum), the PTI jalsa was cause to gather at friends’ houses, tweet feverishly, and offer sideline commentary to no one in particular. Or maybe that was just me.

By this time, you have undoubtedly read a flurry of news coverage on said jalsa. But for those who haven’t, here is the rundown. PTI leader Imran Khan – the oft-labeled “cricketer-turned-politician” – has gained much political traction and popularity in the last year, after launching his political party officially in 1996. Fahad Desmukh, in his radio piece for PRI’s The World, noted,

The PTI attracted mostly urban educated professionals, but failed to get a mainstream following. In fact, in the 2002 parliamentary elections, Imran Khan was the only candidate from his party to win a seat…But now Khan has managed to mobilize enough young urban professionals to become a rising political force. In the past, this demographic shunned politics as a dishonorable activity. But young people are coming out now out of frustration with the current leadership.

Last month, PTI’s jalsa in Lahore garnered between 100,000 to 200,000 supporters – one of the largest political rallies in the country. This past Sunday, thousands of people came out on the streets of Karachi. Although PTI estimated the number at 500,000, news agencies report that the number in attendance was closer to 100,000, still making it one of the largest rallies in Karachi in recent years. Mutahir Ahmed, a professor at the University of Karachi, told Dawn, “He is riding a wave of popular politics right now. There is a lot of frustration among ordinary people, as well as political workers right now, which he is cashing on.”

In an article for the Express Tribune entitled, “Imran Khan Wins Hearts & Minds at Karachi Rally,” Shaheryar Mirza and Saad Hasan interviewed one rally attendee, who said, “I don’t know why but Imran Khan gives me hope. I want change, security and a better future for my children.”

Ah, the psychological underpinnings of hope and change. We saw it work with the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, and leveraged again by Afghanistan’s Abdullah Abdullah during his recent presidential run.  It’s the promise of something different. And though it may just be semantics, words like hope and change induce positive associations with absolute ideals of happiness, progress, and prosperity.  For a fatigued and frustrated Pakistani populace, that is a fuzzy but welcome option.

I don’t claim to be an expert on our political system (I actually don’t claim to be an expert on anything), but I have been fascinated with the perceived rise of PTI & Imran Khan in recent months. Here are a few observations both on the lead-up to the December 25th jalsa, the rally itself, and subsequent reactions post-rally.

  1. PTI Snakes on a Plane: You have to give it to Tehreek-e-Insaf. They know how to market their vision to urban masses & millennials alike. Prior to the Dec 25th jalsa, the party generated buzz by launching a telemarketing scheme akin to Snakes on a Plane (if you received a phone call from Samuel L. Jackson telling you about those mother**** snakes on the mother**** plane, then you know what I’m talkin’ about). Many Karachiites received a 30-second phone call from Imran Khan inviting them to the rally. Although the call was pre-recorded, many almost believed they were receiving a personal call from the man himself. Insert swoons here. The strategy is a reflection on the party’s overarching marketing approach – the use of choice words (hope, change & the like), leveraging social media, telemarketing all enforce a broader theme: Imran Khan & PTI offer something new, something approachable, something hip, something different from the status quo.
  2. Imran Khan Cricket Hero, Imran Khan Politican = Same, Same: I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many cricket analogies. Oh my goodness. In a BBC interview prior to the jalsa he noted, “It’s like playing a World Cup final…this could be a defining moment in Pakistan.” In the lead-up to the rally, Imran reportedly called PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif a club cricketer “flexing muscles with a Test cricketer.” The list goes on. And while I think cricket & “tsunami” references could form its own drinking (coke! hee!) game, the analogies further raise positive associations of Imran circa 1992 World Cup. Imran the politician + Imran cricket hero = Imran heroic politician.
  3. Rally like it’s a Britney Spears Concert: When the band-formerly-known-as-Junoon’s lead singer Salman Ahmed started singing Junoon songs, all I could think was, Wow he sounds just like Ali Azmat! And then I realized he was lip-synching. It was, in fact, Ali Azmat. Such a Britney move, dude. In their post on the rally, Cafe Pyala noted, “With more ‘heavyweights’ joining, PTI youth may have to live with the fact that the music has died with the Lahore jalsa.”
  4. PTI – Stragglers Welcome: Ahsan over at Five Rupees had a great post on the politicians who have crossed over from their own parties to join PTI, and what it all means: “…when the potential for success for [insert party here] ticket goes down, and PTI’s chances of success go up, we’re more likely to see politicians from [insert party here] to leave for the PTI,” though this may not be the case for MQM or Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The new additions to PTI are relative heavyweights, including Javed Hashmi from PML-N & Shah Mehmood Qureshi from PPP. Before watching the jalsa, I thought they were sure to help PTI’s clout. But then I watched SMQ talking like a wannabe Shakespeare (community) theater actor about nuclear policy during the rally, and am now grumpy and undecided.
  5. Insecurity is the Best Form of Flattery: You can tell other political parties (namely the PPP & PML-N) are beginning to feel threatened when they start resorting to petty mudslinging and banding together. PM Gilani, who reportedly also made a statement that Zardari was actually younger than Imran, also told media outlets, “Those people who are talking of revolution – are there any new people among the revolutionaries or are they mostly those who wanted to bring revolution along with Musharraf?” Curiously absent from those critiques – the MQM. Curious indeed.

(Express Image) Gilani: Bhai, your plugs may need some sprucing up. Look who we're up against. Nawaz: Curse those gorgeous locks of hair. Curses!

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been impressed with the perceived meteoric rise of Imran & his party. His speech, especially in comparison with the other speeches at the jalsa, was powerful & hit all the right notes – from wishing Pakistani Christians a Merry Christmas to addressing the Balochistan issue. And though the PTI Manifesto can and should be a better representation of how PTI aims to do much of what they promise (including, ahem, ending corruption in 90 days! Eee!), I do think Imran has steadily moved away from the days where he stood against everything and for nothing. Does that mean I still have my reservations? Hell yes. Does he really have the establishment on his side and what ramifications will that hold? What does an Islamic Welfare State mean in reality? What does all of this mean in reality?

Every political leader in our country has set out to prove that they can undertake the ideals laid out in Jinnah’s vision. Every leader makes vague promises, tugs on our heart strings that this time, dear citizens, they will be different. The difference with Imran is that he is an option we have not tried before.

Does that merit my vote? I’m still undecided, but at least his campaign has spurred me to vote. You should too.

Other blog posts/related pieces you should read:

A Reluctant Mind – Pedaling Obscurantism (esp. on the female dress issue)

Obama Says Do More – The PTI Rally in Karachi or Democracy is Alive & Well in Pakistan But Not Really

Dawn – Cowasjee’s Open Letter to Imran Khan (from 1996)

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Photo Source: The News

So by now the madness over Veena Malik (actress, reality show breakout starlet, crazy maulvi fighter extraordinaire), her published nude cover photo, and her subsequent row with India‘s FHM Magazine is old news. I mean, that was so last week. Over it. (Here is a link to the story in case you live in a cave or away from the wonderful world of Twitter & Facebook news feeds.)

But did you know that Veena’s fake ‘ISI‘ tattoo as well as another almost-nude photo of her in camouflage were code for a MILITARY COUP?! Yes, everyone. Veena was totally in the know, using her cover shoot as an underlying message to tell us all what was really going on. With an Indian magazine no less. Oh, the irony. OMGZ, how GENIUS!

See what I just did there? I started a little rumor. Ok, it was a little far-fetched, closer to being a conspiracy theory, but the line between rumor and conspiracy is often thin, especially in Pakistan. And with rumors flying on Twitter today about whispers of a potential military coup, it is fair to ask whether we are too trigger happy when it comes to the Pakistan rumor mill.

Twitter Feed After News of Zardari's Ill Health Surfaced

These rumors were compounded even further after Foreign Policy reported that President Zardari flew to Dubai to undergo medical tests Tuesday. In the FP piece entitled, “President Zardari suddenly leaves Pakistan — is he on the way out?“, Josh Rogin wrote,

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO’s killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was “incoherent.” The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. “The noose was getting tighter — it was only a matter of time,” the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.

According to this same unnamed U.S. official, Zardari had a “minor heart attack” and may resign due to “ill health.”

Cue the speculation.

Rogin cited the Atlantic Council’s Shuja Nawaz, who noted, “This is the ‘in-house change option’ that has been talked about,” a plan in which Zardari would “step aside and be replaced by his own party, preserving the veneer of civilian rule but ultimately acceding to the military’s wishes to get rid of Zardari.” He added, “Now if [the military] stay at arm’s length and let the party take care of its business, then things may improve. If not, then this is a silent coup with [Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza] Gilani as the front man.”

While I think the FP and The Cable are credible outlets, the use of unnamed U.S. and Pakistani sources who are all speculating (for example: “the growing expectation inside the U.S. government” or “in what might be a precursor to Zardari stepping down”) show how we can be both trigger-happy in our news production and our news consumption. The title of the FP piece, “Zardari Suddenly Leaves…Is He on His Way Out?” is framed as leading question, further baiting the rumor mill. Dawn Newspaper, in its subsequent coverage of the FP piece, conveniently quoted the unnamed U.S. source as well as half of Shuja Nawaz’s hypothesizing (mentioning the ‘in-house’ change option but not the fact that the military could stay at arm’s length), exacerbating this even more. (The Express Tribune and GEO Television provided similar coverage.)

Meanwhile, as noted by Arif Rafiq over at the Pakistan Policy, Zardari’s aides have not done well in quelling the speculation. Rafiq noted, “Rather than being honest and forthcoming [about his heart condition], Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, did what most Pakistani government officials do to their people: obscure the truth. He said Zardari is in Dubai for a routine medical checkup,” which is obviously not true. The Khaleej Times also quoted Babar who said earlier,

…said that contrary to media reports the President did not visit any hospital today for tests or treatment. Instead the President held separate meetings today in Presidency with Prime Minister, Chairman Senate and Interior Minister to review overall situation, security arrangements for Ashura and legislative business in Senate before leaving for Dubai…

So essentially on one side we have the overactive rumor mill, and on the other the “let’s-pretend-everything-is-just-dandy-camp.” Great. Because nothing makes people more suspicious than obviously playing down a situation, even if it may be in response to potential sensationalism. (This is when I realize my Masters degree in Conflict Resolution could have come to great use! Sad Kalsoom.)

As for the potential military coup? Rafiq has the most rational dose of speculation I’ve seen so far:

It would be difficult to hide the fact that Zardari was being pushed (illegally) out of office by the army. The army would then be condemned by a wide set of actors… Zardari in exile would then play the role of political martyr, stirring up his currently disenchanted party base and possibly even do really well in the next elections. Kayani is not one to act brashly. He wouldn’t push Zardari out right now.

Here’s what I hope: For once, I want the military to not be the one holding the government in power accountable. Let the regime go out, but not like this.

Here’s what I think: Aside from a few unnamed sources and cloak-and-dagger like whispers, we really don’t know anything. So stop churning the rumor mill even more (and God knows, I’m guilty of it too. Damn you Retweet!). And for those of you ‘excited’ about Zardari’s illness, shame on you. You should be better than that.

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Leaked & MemoGated

Zardari: Ah, crap. (Source: 3QuarksDaily)

This piece first appeared today in Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, which you can see here.

This morning Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, resigned his post over the scandal known as “memogate,” whereby Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz alleged that he was asked by Amb. Haqqani to pass a memo to former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, asking for help in reigning in Pakistan’s military establishment. But while Haqqani’s resignation may signal an end to this episode, the prior evolution of events was nothing short of a witch hunt.

The ‘witch’ in question varies depending on whom you speak to. If you’re a member of Pakistan’s opposition parties, Haqqani’s actions were an act of treason, and his resignation is only a further admission of guilt. How dare he, they demand to know, ask for foreign (American) help to control Pakistan’s military? How dare he be secretive about said actions?

If you’re one of those in the ruling party, Mansoor Ijaz is a lying conspirator, a man not to be trusted. The revelation of the memo, they claimed, was really just an excuse to target democracy, to vilify the PPP government. Haqqani’s resignation was not an admission of guilt, but a sacrifice in honor of said democracy.

In the serial drama also known as Pakistani politics, all the key elements have been in place – intrigue, cloak-and-dagger conspiracy, treason, and secrecy. From the outset, it plays out much like an episode of Game of Thrones, where in their thirst for power, the main actors all simultaneously destroy each other (or themselves). Except this is real life, and we’ve seen this episode numerous times before. Politicians are intent on leveraging “memogate” for their own party ambitions in anticipation of the upcoming elections, while the military sits pretty on the sideline, their hands clean of the public mudslinging. As is often the case, dangling a threat to sovereignty or to Pakistan’s security is enough to stir a feeding frenzy.

For those of us who read the memo in question, who perused through the BlackBerry messages exchanged between Haqqani and Ijaz, and who have read every imaginable op-ed and interview on the controversy, one thing is abundantly clear: even with Haqqani’s resignation, we still are not entirely sure what happened. It is possible that we may never know. We should concern ourselves not with asking hypothetical questions, but asking the right questions. What constitutes treason within the Pakistani narrative? And why are many challenges to the current civil-military status quo met with such accusations?

In the case of this incident, Haqqani’s alleged actions were called treasonous and unpatriotic because he is said to have attempted to challenge the security establishment, to hand over Pakistan’s sovereignty to America. As Fasi Zaka noted in his op-ed for the Express Tribune the memo sought to allow “another state a unilateral deal of internal policy actions without any legal authority [that] bypasses all codes of conduct.” Extra negative points if that foreign hand happens to be American.

But shouldn’t we then place other purported back door dealings under similar scrutiny? Why do we continue to be incensed by the alleged attempts by a civilian politician to undermine the security establishment but fail to express similar outrage if the same security establishment undermines a civilian government, whether it be through military coups, backchannel talks with militants to retain strategic depth in Pakistan, or even purported deals permitting a U.S. operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil?

The civil-military imbalance, as also noted by Mosharraf Zaidi for Foreign Policy, is the primary reason behind this disconnect. Pakistan’s military, despite its flaws, has historically projected a stronger and more resolute image than any civilian regime. The national sentiment has long bought into this perception. The charge of treason against former Ambassador Haqqani is, therefore, subjective, laced with emotion, and used conveniently in the semantics of political pot shots to desperately curry favor among the masses. Treason makes for a good sound bite. But in throwing around such accusations, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Haqqani’s resignation today will be viewed as an admission of guilt to some and a sacrifice to others. But the bigger issue has been left untouched. In terms of Pakistan’s broader civil-military relations, the sign is clear — cross the military, and you will get burned. And as the mudslinging continued, it became increasingly clear that the only players getting dirty and tainted were the politicians. Long live democracy.

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Via AfPak/FP

For those of us on the outside looking in, Karachi’s violence seems exceedingly complex. I’m often left perpetually confused. But last October, journalist Huma Yusuf told me that the mechanics of the conflict are often the same – ethnically driven conflict over turf and power in the city. As we continue to delve into the underlying causes of each upsurge in violence, we observe this same pattern in different iterations. In a modest effort to break down the most recent conflict, in which more than 700 have been killed so far, 200 in the last month alone, I give you Karachi Violence FAQs Part III (Click here to see Part I, and here to see Part II).

FAQ: Who are the main parties in this conflict and how did it escalate out of control?

In Karachi Violence 101, which I wrote back in January 2010 [Note: this is by no means a comprehensive treatment of the violence over the past year, just a summary of what we've covered on CHUP], the main players in the conflict were workers or gang members associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the political party which controls Karachi, and the Pakistan People’s Party, (PPP), who were then vying for control over land. Violence at the time was concentrated in Lyari Town in Karachi.

In October 2010, (see Karachi Violence 102) – tensions between the MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP) had spilled over in part because of the assassination of MQM’s Raza Haider and the subsequent by-election to replace his then-vacant seat. Violence and tensions were then concentrated in Orangi Town, one of Karachi’s largest and poorest slums, where the MQM had held the provincial seat since 1988 but where it was also considered the “tensest district divided between Mohajirs and Pathans,” noted Yusuf. So, again. Turf/Power = Violence [simplistic version].

In the most recent conflict, violence erupted after the murder of an ANP activist triggered an all-out war between the party and the MQM, noted Shaheryar Mirza in Caravan Magazine‘s “Karachi’s Turf Wars” (a must-read). The killings were once again first concentrated in Orangi, and became so escalated that media outlets called July, “the deadliest month in almost two decades.” (Although some sources claim the number was more than 200 killed, other outlets say it was upwards of 300.) On Tuesday, news agencies reported that in 24 hours, 26 people were killed, of which 18 were victims of targeted killings.

FAQ: So the violence this time around is between the MQM and the ANP, but where does the PPP stand in the conflict?

As with many of Karachi’s past escalations in violence, all three parties in the PPP-MQM-ANP trifecta appear to have some role in each iteration of the cycle. Last month, Sindh Minster and PPP member Zulfiqar Mirza caused an uproar after he made provocative remarks against the MQM’s Altaf Hussain, calling the leader of a breakaway MQM [MQM(H)], “the true leader of the Muhajirs” while accusing the main MQM of trying to divide Sindh. He further stated, “I call upon the people of Karachi and Hyderabad to get rid of these lowlifes.” The Express Tribune reported, “Mirza’s rant sparked an almost instant outburst of violent protests throughout Karachi, with aerial gunfire heard in nearly every part of the city.”

But wait. There’s more on the PPP dynamic in this conflict.

During a brief period between June and July, Sindh’s “longest-serving” Governor Ishratul Ibad resigned from office, after the MQM pulled out of the ruling coalition in protest over the postponement of elections of two Karachi seats in the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly.  In the Friday Times, Ali K. Chishti wrote,

During the brief period in which the Sindh governor was away, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) undid the Local Governments Ordinance of 2001 and revived the 1979 Local Bodies Ordinance, restoring the magistrate system to manage the districts through commissioners and deputy commissioners.

Chishti added, “The PPP, which represents rural Sindh, wants to consolidate its position in the cities against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which represents urban Sindh.” Fellow blogger Umair Javed, on the tense MQM-PPP dynamic, wrote, “Those of you who’ve been following PPP-MQM relations over the last few years would know that agreeing on a time line for local government elections has remained a major thorn for the coalition,” [read the rest of his post to learn more].

So, incendiary remarks by a PPP member (though other party members distanced themselves immediately), and tensions surrounding the local government issue – both factors that make the conflict all the more exacerbated and intense. In regard to the current violence, the ruling party – the PPP – have  been watching from the sidelines this increasing breakdown of law and order. Bilal Baloch wrote last month for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel,

The dilemma is thus: How should the government respond effectively and objectively to the violence when it is the very political actors tasked with governing and solving Karachi’s problems that are themselves protagonists of the quagmire? When the workers and supporters of the MQM and ANP… are slaughtering one another, who should the ruling partner PPP, crack down on? They could move against the ANP, but this would effectively lead their government to collapse. Perhaps the government could use their iron fists against the MQM, but battering this powerful party, long the overlords of Karachi, traditionally results in political suicide.

Just this past week, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters, “We will take every possible action to restore peace in Karachi,” adding that results of the government’s action will be visible soon. In the meantime, calls for peace by the government and political parties have so far fallen on deaf ears. Finally, on Tuesday, the Pakistani government “authorized paramilitary forces to conduct raids in some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods to try to restore order,” reported the NY Times.

FAQ: Calling in the [paramilitary] troops? What does that mean, exactly?

This is not the first time the government has called in the Rangers to curb the violence, nor is it the first time that the political parties involved in the conflict have asked for these forces to be deployed, [Ahsan from Five Rupees questions how the MQM could even do that in this post]. Back in January 2010, a journalist source told me, “The rangers that have been sent in with the police won’t make much of a difference, particularly since the police is politicized and doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the city government. Dawn‘s Huma Yusuf noted last year, “…the MQM’s request for the Rangers, the army and intelligence agencies to maintain law and order in the city is akin to slapping a band-aid on a deep, infected wound.”

Interesting how history repeats itself, don’t you think? Or how I can cite analysis and statements made a year and a half ago during a different iteration of the violence and it still holds true today?

In terms of the role of the police in the situation, Baloch wrote in another AfPak piece this week, “Yet it is not the police themselves who are entirely to blame for the breakdown of law and order, but rather a system whereby politicians are able to use the police according to their whims…A revolution in police affairs needs to take place with regards to the relationship between the police and the province’s politicians.”

All of this further emphasizes how violence continues to be used as a political tool for intimidation and power. Mirza noted in the aforementioned Caravan piece how both parties take advantage of this, but the MQM tends to have the upper hand, particularly since they are more media savvy than their counterparts and can therefore demonize the other side more aptly.

FAQ: Amid the escalating violence, is there a potential solution?

So far, we have seen temporary solutions to a very endemic problem, a problem that is far too complex to be linear, far too brutal to be easily forgotten. The call for the Army and Rangers may quell the violence temporarily, but it is only a matter of time before Karachi erupts once again. A truce among the parties may also soon occur, but this also appears to be a short-term concession rather than a long-term solution.

On Monday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urged in a statement, “While gangs of land-grabbers and mafias have tried to exploit the breakdown of law and order…they do not appear to be the main directors of the horrible game of death and destruction; that distinction belongs to more powerful political groups, and it is they who hold the key to peace.”

As Karachi continues to burn, Shaheryar Mirza noted poignantly, “Land is priceless in this growing metropolis, but lives have become increasingly worthless.”

Here’s praying for you, Karachi. 

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(Source: ETrib) #BBZ4Prez #ThatSoundsLikeaRapSong #HisCampaignShouldbeinTwitterHashtags #LOLZ

Disclaimer: For the PPP jiyalas who get supremely offended by all posts barely criticizing their political party, the Bhuttos, and related offspring, take a deep, deep, deeeeeeeep breath…

Last week, the Chairman of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joined Twitter! This was apparently quite newsworthy, so much so that the Express Tribune reported, “The first tweet by Bilawal, whose handle is @BBhuttoZardari, read: @AseefaBZ how do i fix my profile picture so our faces aren’t cut off?

Yes, this was news! BBZ is on Twitter! He’s just like us! Tweeting about inane things like profile photos and reading the newspaper! And like other political counterparts, he can now connect to…0.01% of Pakistan’s masses! Party of the people, I tell ya.

Are you still breathing deeply, PPP supporters? I’m just being facetious! Ha, ha! (Please don’t come at me with virtual pitch forks! Ah! Dementors!)

Twitter can be quite useful, particularly when news agencies report that the heir to the Bhutto throne (just kidding, jiyalas! I meant the Chosen One! Stupefy! Hee!) will be contesting the general elections from the PPP’s stronghold of Lyari, in Karachi. Bilawal’s father, President Zardari made the announcement Monday while speaking to former party activists and MNAs, stating, “Bilawal is your future MNA and despite being away he is keenly monitoring developments in Lyari.” Dawn reported,

According to sources, President Zardari asked National Database and Registration Authority officials to devise a programme for Bilawal Bhutto for his interaction with the people of Lyari so that he could track events and developments in the area from London. The president said that PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto was keen to see Lyari become a thriving and vibrant place, free from acrimony and criminals, the sources added.

Does the programme involve Skype? Google + hangout sessions with Lyari’s best & brightest gangsters? According to the Nation, “Bilawal would come to Pakistan in September this year and thereafter will remain in contact with the people and elected representatives of Lyari by holding regular meetings. He would also oversee the development projects and other matters related to the neighborhood.”

But despite news agencies’ claims that BBZ would contest the upcoming elections (in 2013), he, via Twitter, clarified, “Took my first breath in Lyari. special place in my heart for Lyari. want so much more 4 Lyari. Still not running in next election.” (TGFT – Thank God For Twitter.)

Back in April, Saba Imtiaz cited PPP leaders in an article for the Express Tribune, who said Bilawal “will not be jumping headfirst into politics and will first learn the workings of the party inside-out.” And although BBZ will take on some “political responsibility” in September [see above], MNA Farahnaz Ispahani told Imtiaz that PPP’s General Secretary Jahangir Badar “will take Bilawal under his wing and he will be working with senior provincial leaders, such as current Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.” She added,

Bilawal has specifically expressed interest in the party’s youth wing, which was very dear to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. He will be looking into modernizing the Peoples Youth Organisation, and bringing in new ideas, media technology etc. through intellectual and practical exercises.

Imtiaz in her piece, projected, “By working with the youth wing, Bilawal could possibly galvanize young voters and Bhutto family loyalists.” This move could also allow BBZ to build up momentum, earn credibility, and “learn the ropes” of the political world before he contests the elections in Lyari, not because the party ultimately fears losing the area – which has been a PPP stronghold since 1967 – but potentially because they want to show that Bilawal earned his political power.

And herein lies the irony. Can you truly earn what was already entitled to you? Don’t get me wrong – in many ways, I appreciate that Bilawal isn’t contesting the elections in 2013 just because he can. He’s not just being thrust into power prematurely. However, much of this still sits uncomfortably within the parameters of dynastic politics. This is therefore still a symptom of a much larger problem with politics and leadership in Pakistan, which is and has historically been personality-based. But given that this is our current reality – do we accept this as a given and appreciate efforts by the PPP to groom a leader rather than usher a child into the political ring? At what point will we feel that BBZ earned his political badge?

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NYT/AP: Raymond Davis

Where to even begin with the Raymond Davis case?

In the last few weeks, tensions have escalated between the U.S. and Pakistan. The media has dubbed it “a diplomatic row,”  but even that phrase is a gross oversimplification of the situation, which is now a convoluted, complex mess. The center of the controversy is an American allegedly named Raymond Davis who, on January 27, killed two brothers in Lahore, who he claimed were trying to rob him at gunpoint.

But two things have come increasingly into question since the incident: (1) Davis’ self-defense plea and (2) Davis’ status in Pakistan.

Although Davis claimed he shot the men in self-defense – a statement supported by the State Department – a Pakistani police report said otherwise, concluding he was “guilty of murder.” According to the Washington Post, the five-page report cited investigators’ findings that Davis “shot each victim five times, including in their backs, and lied to police about how he arrived at the scene.”

Davis’ status in Pakistan, though, has become the central issue in this diplomatic storm. Although the United States insists Raymond Davis is an American diplomat, making his arrest a clear violation of diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention, the details surrounding this status appear convoluted at best, fueling cries that he is in fact a private security contractor.

Soon after the shooting, Pakistani news channels broadcast what it says were images of Davis’ passport, seemingly absent of a diplomatic visa. Dunya News later televised a mobile phone video of his alleged interrogation by Punjab police, in which Davis told authorities that he was a “consultant” for the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. In the most recent and overblown claim, the Nation reported that Davis flew “into a fury” in jail upon hearing the azaan, the Muslim call to prayer. According to the article,

The inmates facing murder charges invariably display quite caution. American killer Raymond Davis, however, is a different species. Undeterred by the implications of his case, he lives in the jail the way he wants to…“Seeing four prisoners offering Asr prayers in the corridor of their barrack, Davis started grumbling in a derogatory way,” said Shah.

While Raymond Davis could very well be a private security contractor who was operating in Pakistan, (in fact, there is a lot of evidence suggesting he is, in fact, one), media coverage that further serves to demonize him is not productive. In fact, it has ultimately made Davis a caricature, a larger-than-life character who exacerbates the emotionalism that lies at the very root of this society. And, as the diplomatic tug-of-war has continued between the U.S. and Pakistan at the top, it has stoked anti-American sentiment and tensions at the local level. The Raymond Davis case has ultimately become so enormous that there is no painless conclusion.

However, here are a few observations:

  1. The Raymond Davis case highlights the tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. This is a pretty obvious statement, but the threat by U.S. lawmakers that they would halt aid to Pakistan, as well as the recent statements by  PPP’s Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab (specifically that, Davis “enjoyed diplomatic immunity” and, “Why we are risking our overall good reputation before the rest of the world…America is the largest market for Pakistan, with whom we earn four billion dollars.”) further emphasize just how transactional that relationship truly is. As Raza Rumi noted, “We hate America but not American aid or arms.” Let’s face facts. We are not equal partners in our relationship with the United States. We have an American sugar daddy. And though money will certainly not buy you love (especially in Pakistan), it will definitely buy you a lot of dependency. Not a good thing.
  2. The case showcases the confusion and tenuous relations within and between political parties in Pakistan. Last week, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was dropped during the cabinet reshuffle reportedly “over his divergent opinion on the Raymond Davis issue,” when he said that Washington had pressured him for Davis’ release “but he had refused to comply on the basis that Davis is not a diplomat.” His statement led Wahab to question Qureshi’s loyalty and call for disciplinary action for humiliating party leadership. Another PPP official, in reaction to Wahab’s claim that Davis “enjoyed diplomatic immunity,” stated it was her “personal opinion,” not reflective of “party policy” or “government policy.” This series of statements highlight the confusion and lack of agreement that exists within parties. Moreover, the Davis case as a whole has and will lead to opposition parties attempting to win brownie points among the public to  gain political leverage and ultimately undermine the current government. Cue further instability.

Since this debacle started a few weeks ago, increasingly more prominent figures have stepped in, from President Obama calling Davis a diplomat and urging Pakistan to abide by the Vienna Convention, to Senator John Kerry making a last-minute trip to Pakistan to appeal for the American’s release. On the other side, Pakistani politicians are bickering while public cries for justice are growing louder by the day. You have to wonder – is there a seamless way out of this diplomatic clusterf****?

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RIP Salman Taseer

AP/NYT: Outside Kohsar Market

Pakistan lost a brave man today.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer died after he was shot nine times by his bodyguard outside of Kohsar Market in Islamabad Tuesday, reported news sources. According to the Guardian, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the gunman, Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, told police he had killed Taseer for “criticizing the country’s blasphemy legislation,” calling them kaala qanoon (“black laws.”)

Taseer became increasingly vocal against the blasphemy laws after Aasia Bibi became the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death, allying “with rights activists, critics and several government officials in urging the government to repeal or revise” the legislation. His courage to stand up against the religious intolerance in the country was met with protests, and the NY Times reported that effigies of the Punjab Governor were burned in protests last Friday.

But Taseer would not back down, encouraging others to take to the streets against the laws [to learn more about this upcoming protest in Karachi on January 15th, see Five Rupees]. Just last week, he tweeted to his followers, “I was under huge pressure… 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”

His words, though chilling, should remind us all of Salman Taseer’s bravery, his conviction, and his determination to stand up against the intolerance and discrimination that has long crippled this country.

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy, but I am also disgusted by those who continue to hide their own blasphemous faces behind the blasphemy laws, who use violence to mask their own cowardice. I am disgusted that Salman Taseer was one of only a few brave enough to stand up to the religiously bigoted, while others stood silent.  And finally, I am disgusted by those who would rather speak ill of the dead and defile Taseer. Put aside your pettiness and have some respect.

Salman Taseer died a martyr today, and our condolences and prayers go out to his family. His death is a tremendous loss for Pakistan and for the fight to amend the blasphemy laws, but it is one that should mobilize us all to take a stand. Or else we all will have blood on our hands.

 

RIP Governor Taseer.

For a profile on Salman Taseer, see here. For great posts written by others in the Pakistani blogosphere, see Huma Imtiaz, Shahid Saeed, Five Rupees, and Tazeen.

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The Wikileaks Burn Book

Hey, Assange, the Lord of the Rings Elven King called. He wants his ishtyle back.

Reading the news yesterday, I swear I could hear the faint but haunting sound of Julian Assange cackling gleefully while swimming the backstroke in an enormous pile of cable papers.

Wikileaks, Assange’s whistleblower website, began the release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais on Sunday. According to Foreign Policy, “Wikileaks published 226 cables on its website, and plans a phased release of the rest of the documents, with each new release focusing on a new country or topic.” The NYT reported that the dump, “provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.”

Some of the countries implicated in the Wikileaks fiasco this time around? Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea and (drum roll please) Pakistan.

In a recent interview, Assange said Wikileaks is performing a “public service,” noting,

The cables show the U.S. spying on its allies in the UN, turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse. If citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

I am all for transparency, but the Wikileaks fiasco seems to take that notion to a whole new level. First, many of the revelations weren’t as earth-shattering as they claimed to be, not even reports of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah advising the U.S. to take action against Iran, telling them in 2008 “to cut off the head of the snake.”

Anyone interested in Middle East politics knows this is not all together surprising. Arab countries have been threatened by the power of Iran and its proxies in the region for some time, and the strategic chess game that has ensued mostly plays out behind the scenes, for the sake of diplomacy. The statement has therefore become significant because it was made public, not because of what was actually said.

King Abdullah also had some words about our very own President Zardari, calling him the greatest obstacle to progress last year. According to the cable, “When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body.”

Ouch. Not to be outdone, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said last year that Zardari was “dirty but not dangerous,” while PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was “dangerous but not dirty,” and could not be trusted to honor his promises.

Other less than diplomatic comments? Dmitry Medvedev: “Robin to Putin’s Batman.” Kim Jong-Il: “Flabby old chap.” Silvio Berlusconi: “Penchant for partying hard means he does not get sufficient rest.” [Berlusconi defended himself today, saying he doesn't attend "wild parties" but hosts "dignified and elegant dinner parties." Er yeah.]

Cat fight!

The cattiness is eerily reminiscent of Mean Girls, when Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan wrote horrible things about other girls in high school in a Burn Book. When the contents of said book were revealed, all hell broke loose. (And yes, I just compared foreign dignitaries to high school mean girls.)

But the Wiki-Burn-Book won’t necessarily result in more transparency in the future, if this is indeed Assange’s objective. So far, most U.S. officials haven’t responded to the leak with promises of future transparency, they’ve replied with calls to make sure such a breach doesn’t happen again in the future. According to Al Jazeera English, “The White House also directed government agencies to tighten procedures for handling classified information after the mass leak.”

Ambassador Munter, the new U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, emphasized in The News yesterday, “For our part, the U.S. government is committed to maintaining the security of our diplomatic communications and is taking steps to make sure they are kept in confidence. We are moving aggressively to make sure this kind of breach does not happen again.” He also noted,

An act intended to provoke the powerful may instead imperil the powerless. We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate.

The revelation that the U.S. has secretly been pushing to help Pakistan remove highly enriched uranium from nuclear reactors since 2007, “fearing it could be diverted for illicit purposes,” is likely to have such consequences. Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser to the U.S. Institute of Peace told me today,

Many casual readers in Pakistan may conclude from the leaks that the U.S. has been trying to manipulate Pakistani authorities – that is the last thing Washington wants at this point. Specifically on the nuclear program, what has been revealed is not earth shattering but that is not how it will be presented to the man on the street in Pakistan. This will likely fuel even more conspiracy theories in the country.

So, Wikileaks, a force for the greater good? That’s for you to discuss.

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Violence in Karachi 102

 

NYT: AFP/Getty Image

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled, “Violence in Karachi 101,” in which I attempted to break down the players in the  then-conflict, the root causes, and potential solutions, thanks mainly to interviews with journalists covering the issue on the ground. In Karachi, violence and political tensions have erupted time and time again, cloaking the city in bloodshed and garnering momentary headlines.

Huma Imtiaz wrote in the NY Times yesterday, “Targeted killings of various ethnic groups and political parties’ workers have left more than 300 people dead since 2008.” In recent months, noted Dawn Newspaper, Karachi has suffered “the worst such violence in years with 85 people killed after a lawmaker was shot dead in August.” Since Saturday alone, more than 70 people have died in the city as the result of such killings. Imtiaz reported,

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), representing the city’s Muhajirs, and Awami National Party, (ANP), with a dominant Pathan support base, have had tense relations. The MQM has accused the ANP of supporting organized crime and the ANP charges that its opponent is a terrorist organization that is responsible for the killings of Pathan residents. Both parties are coalition partners with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh.

But what are the nuances of this conflict? Are the players involved the same as previous spates of violence and are they motivated by the same root causes? For those of us not from or currently living in Karachi, the nuances of the conflict seem daunting to comprehend. Below, two journalists – Huma Yusuf from Dawn (currently the Pakistan fellow at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and Shaheryar Mirza, a Karachi-based reporter for Express 24/7, provide insight and help answer some FAQ’s related to Karachi’s most recent outbreak of violence:

Q: News agencies report that unrest first broke out in Karachi on Saturday, a day before a by-election was slated to be held for a provincial assembly seat left vacant after Raza Haider from the MQM was assassinated in August. Was the by-election the cause of this recent outbreak of violence or was it merely a catalyst following months of escalating tensions?

According to Yusuf, the mechanics of the conflict are the same as always – ethnically driven conflict over turf and power in Karachi. Although the by-election can be seen as the “catalyst” for the recent violence, political/religious/ethnic tensions are always simmering in the city. Orangi Town, the site of the by-elections, is the “tensest district in Karachi that is divided between the Mohajirs and the Pathans,” and the assassination of Raza Haider led this to be a very emotionally-charged election among MQM’s constituents.

Mirza added, the MQM has held the provincial (MPA) seat in Orangi Town since 1988. Although mostly Urdu-speaking communities live in Orangi, “it borders many different areas which have absorbed the large influx of Pashtun immigrants. Therefore, the two communities, as they expand, run into each other and begin to overlap.” As a result, he added, “some votes are won and lost in the new overlap,” leading to competition for power or “turf.”  Competing groups subsequently use violence and extortion to rule certain areas. “It is a lot like the way gangs exert their influence in other countries except that in Karachi, political parties are behind it.”

However, noted Mirza, this “political turf war” is only one aspect of Karachi’s violence. The drug mafias, criminal organizations, militant groups, student organizations, and ethnic violence “all overlap and link with each other through politics, ethnicity, and religion,” creating a complex web of unrest and tensions.

Q: This is obviously not the first time tensions in Karachi resulted in violence – is this spate of killings part of the larger trend from the past or is it different? (Are the killings less targeted and more indiscriminate?)

According to Yusuf, this recent outbreak of violence appear to be more brutal, mass killings, inclusive of people other than party workers (like the assassination of shopkeepers near Shershah).  She noted, “This could indicate two things; (1) Since the MQM has been worrying about shifting demographics in Karachi (in favor of a growing Pashtun voting block) the stakes of this round of violence are higher, and the parties are trying to give each other sterner/more violent messages than before. And (2) the involvement of other criminal groups and gangs (i.e. the Lyari gangsters that MQM has complained of). This is not a new phenomenon, but indicates a worsening level of security, law and order control.”

Mirza also noted the conspiracy theories surrounding the killings. “Amongst people who have been reporting on crime in the city for a long time, it is a common assertion that intelligence agencies also play a part in the violence – whether it is to raise tensions and pit certain groups against each other or for small-time political assassinations.” Another conspiracy theory, he added, “is that a certain political party will assassinate members of their own party (if they want to get rid of them in any case for instance) to basically show that their leaders are getting killed and trigger an ‘operation’ in an enemy area.”

He also noted another important aspect of these killings – the resulting perception amongst people within the community.

I was in Orangi town during the elections and a man came up to me and asked me where I was from. I told him I’m Urdu-speaking. He became comfortable and said, “First it was the Sindhis that were killing us, then the Punjabis and now the Balochis.” He was not affiliated with the MQM but was Urdu-speaking. This is important because this is felt by many who are directly affected by the killings. Political parties have ethnic foundations in Pakistan despite what they may proclaim. But when these killings take place, people will forget about the turf war and think simply that it is a matter of ‘wiping out’ their ethnic communities or oppressing them. The parties play on these emotions and the people support their parties as a result of this.

Q: What role do politicians from these parties play versus the supposed political agents that are perpetrating these killings? How does this impact the political sphere?

According to Mirza, “It is hard to say exactly how much role the politicians play in the actual ‘ordering’ of killings and the like.” Much of the violence is perpetrated on a more local level through local actors and agents from political parties, with “some resulting from personal enmities within rival parties in an area.”

He added, “The PPP has a greater disconnect from its lower cadres than the MQM. In Karachi, it is said the MQM is so well disciplined and organized that it would be unheard of that any action is taken without the direct consent of its supreme leader.” However, Mirza added, “I find this hard to believe and the rapid spiralling nature of violence contradicts the fact that every killing can be ordered from such a high place.” The political sphere is impacted a lot through the blame game. “The MQM has specifically identified politicians and political agents it thinks are responsible, bringing them into the public sphere. The politicians seem to be immune from a lot of the personal attacks, except for how they are viewed within their rival’s minds.”

Q: Much like before, Army rangers were deployed in the city to restore order. Is this productive in breaking the cycle of violence in Karachi?

According to Yusuf,

The Rangers’ presence historically has succeeded in reducing incidents of violence. The problem, though, is that deploying the Rangers is not a long-term, systemic solution to the deep-rooted problems of Karachi violence. It’s just a temporary band-aid, one that loses effectiveness once the elite forces step away from tense areas. In some ways, reliance on the Rangers over the years has worsened the problem, because that means the police have remained largely inept and corruptible in the face of Karachi’s complicated ethnic and turf wars.

While it is good that the federal government and politicians have been taking increasing note of Karachi’s violence, added Yusuf, “the truth is that this is a local problem, with well entrenched powerful local actors. The solution will have to come from within Karachi, not from Islamabad.”

Q: As a journalist reporting on this issue on the ground in Karachi, what are some obstacles or frustrations you face in your coverage?

As is common with most types of war/conflict reporting, noted Mirza, the people who get killed become a statistic in the news process. He added, “We aren’t given the space to pursue the families and give the victims a face or their families a voice. The reporting is very simplistic when it comes to targeted killings.” Moreover, he noted, a lot of killings that take place during a long spate of targeted killings “get falsely reported and lumped into the overall death toll.” This exacerbates the situation, making it seem worse than it is, and panicking the public even more.”

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