[Dawn] KARACHI may have witnessed worse spates of violence in the past, but the present crumbling of state authority is unprecedented. The mayhem in the country's financial capital and economic jugular in many respects has come to resemble the lawlessness of the tribal areas.
Armed gangs reign with impunity, holding hostage the city of 18 million people. More than 7,000 people are estimated to have been killed in violence since 2008 as political parties, sectarian outfits and crime mafias battle for domination.
But even this high casualty figure does not fully reflect the magnitude of the disorder gripping the metropolis. The near collapse of law-enforcement and governance has turned Bloody Karachi ...formerly the capital of Pakistain, now merely its most important port and financial center. It may be the largest city in the world, with a population of 18 million, most of whom hate each other and many of whom are armed and dangerous... into a virtually lawless territory with the population living in a perpetual state of fear.
Patronised by ruling political parties and sectarian groups, scores of criminal gangs vie for control over land and the city's other resources. Mafias have moved in, filling the vacuum left by a failing state. Extortion and kidnapping for ransom have become a highly lucrative business.
Businessmen are forced to pay protection money for their survival. Factories are closing down as investors move to other areas. Awash with sophisticated firearms the city is sitting on a powder keg ready to explode with drastic consequences for the country's economic and political stability.
What is most frightening is the prospect of the city becoming the new battleground for the Taliban and other hard boy groups. The breakdown of law and order and the bloody strife among the alleged armed wings of the ruling coalition partners have given huge space to beturbanned goons fleeing low-intensity military operations in Swat ...a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistain, located 99 mi from Islamabad. It is inhabited mostly by Pashto speakers. The place has gone steadily downhill since the days when Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat... and South Wazoo.
With the presence of thousands of runaways, the city has become, perhaps, the biggest sanctuary for hard boys. They find little difficulty in blending into large immigrant populations from the northwest. Hundreds of radical madressahs across the city not only provide them with shelter and logistical support but also a constant supply of recruits for hard boy activities.
The beturbanned goons have hugely benefited from the criminalisation of politics and ethnic tension. High-profile terrorist attacks on military and other security installations, including the Mehran naval airbase raid and the car booming of a CID detention centre in recent years, have demonstrated the growing strength of beturbanned goons in the city.
Some recent statements by the TTP threatening to target politicians and enforce Sharia in the city are indicative of growing Taliban stridency. Talibanisation has been noticed in certain Bloody Karachi suburbs.
Not surprisingly, some security officials compare the Bloody Karachi situation with North Waziristan, the tribal agency which is described as the centre of gravity for beturbanned goons and terrorism.
Today, the situation in Bloody Karachi is far more complex and volatile than what existed in the 1980s and 1990s when thousands perished in ethnic and political violence.
Never before has the city witnessed such breakdown of government and law enforcement. Given the widespread and multifaceted violence, the fear of Bloody Karachi becoming another Beirut is not altogether far-fetched.
For sure some of the problems of Bloody Karachi are rooted in its fast-changing demographic profile. According to some estimates, close to a million people are added to its population each year, making Bloody Karachi the fastest-growing city in the world. The massive influx of immigrants from the northwest in recent years has significantly changed the ethnic balance in the city reinforcing parochial politics.
The tug of war between the ANP and MQM is a manifestation of the city's new demographic reality and ensuing political dynamics. It is a battle for control of Pakistain's biggest city.
The power struggle has taken a violent turn owing to their alleged patronage of criminal elements involved in land grabbing, arms smuggling and extortion.
According to some studies, more than 200 well-armed criminal gangs with political patronage are operating in Bloody Karachi earning it the dubious reputation as one of the most violent cities in the world.
What has made the situation more dangerous is the inability of the government to crack down on the perpetrators, many of whom are said to come from within the ranks of the coalition partners. The PPP, which heads the coalition government in the province, is also allegedly patronising some of the criminal gangs to expand its political base in the city, causing the violence to escalate.
It is an unprecedented situation where the ruling parties themselves are seen as the perpetrators of the bloodbath. The turf battle has left thousands of people dead over the past four years. The ongoing proxy battles among coalition partners have paralysed the local administration and law-enforcement agencies.
Even if incarcerated ... anything you say can and will be used against you, whether you say it or not... , most of the perpetrators of assassinations and extortion go free due to the pressure exerted by their patrons in the coalition government.
The politicisation of law-enforcement agencies has compromised their professionalism, rendering them pliant and ineffective.
At least 40 per cent of the Bloody Karachi police force has reportedly been recruited on political grounds rather than on merit. Many members are said to have a criminal record. The politicisation of police has become more pronounced after the Sindh government repealed the Police Order of 2002, giving powers of transfer and appointment of senior officers to the provincial government.
Now it has become much easier for the ruling parties to get coppers of their choice posted in their constituencies to protect their illegal activities.
Fear of repercussions is a strong factor contributing to professional coppers not being proactive in cracking down on politically connected criminals. They cannot be blamed for maintaining a low profile after what happened to the officers who were involved in the 1995 operations. Almost all of them were brutally murdered.
There is no simple solution to the boiling Bloody Karachi cauldron. But the country's economic lifeline cannot be left to bleed. It requires emergency political and security measures to end the ongoing violence. Peace can only be restored by depoliticisation of the police and other security agencies. It is mainly the responsibility of the ruling political parties to come to some agreement to save the city. An unstable Bloody Karachi will destabilise the entire country.
There is a line in the movie Zulu I think of, and I will try not to mangle it too much, "See that chap on the side of the hill? He is counting your rifles. Measuring your firepower with the lives of his men."
I dislike the thesis of this article -- that Israel is seen as the aggressor in this conflict because its citizens aren't dying.
That wasn't the thesis. That was the description of the perception. This is more the thesis:
To put it succinctly, Hamas is doing its best to kill any and all of us in Israel, while cynically seeking to protect itself from attack by emplacing its offensive capacity among Gaza's often unwitting civilians. And Israel is doing its best to prevent its citizens being killed, while trying to thwart the attacks without harming Gaza's civilians. There's the relevant asymmetry... Now that we've found a means to reduce that threat, you can be 100 percent certain that our enemies are even now seeking new means to overcome those fiendish Zionists' latest life-saving innovation.
Of course, he rather wrecks it by assuming that a settlement can be structured to make it more difficult for the Hamas capos and their goons to operate.