Monday, May 11, 2009

Tense Conditions in Karachi

On ethnic tensions in Karachi in the context of political developments on the national level, see previous IS posts: here and here

The dynamics of May 12 and the politics of Karachi
By Hussain Dada, The News, May 12, 2009

Steps taken to maintain law and order on May 12
Dawn, May 12, 2009

Karachi getting out of hand?
DailyTimes Editorial, May 12, 2009

All the three secular parties ruling Sindh have fallen apart. The MQM and the ANP have inclined to ethnic politics, the latter only recently showing inclination to represent all the 4 million Karachi Pashtuns floundering without political leadership because the JUI is almost non-existent there and the Deobandi madrassas are under pressure. The Pashtun is also pushed into a corner by the rise of the Barelvi clergy, which is increasingly militant and shows an anti-Pashtun ethnic bias like the MQM. While opposed to the Taliban in the rest of Pakistan, it is not oblivious of the prospect of a grand weaning of the radicalised Pashtun back under the ethnic banner.

The PPP has memories too, which obstruct a fair assessment of the situation. It has clashed with both the ethnic parties in the past and is sceptical of their modus operandi vis-à-vis the communities they claim to represent. There is no doubt that it has reports from the police about the infiltration of “Taliban-type” Pashtuns into the city. There have been encounters in the Pashtun-dominated areas where such elements have been arrested too. But, based on their perception of the role of the MQM, the Sindh government is not willing to take the kind of action that the MQM wants it to take. Pashtun and Muhajir ethnic gangs are clashing in the night in Karachi, leaving a lot of people dead.

More confusion is going to follow when Imran Khan is finished with Karachi and the Jama’at-e Islami chief Syed Munawwar Hassan turns his attention to the divided city. He and Mr Khan are in unison against the military operation in Swat, saying the army is killing its own people at America’s behest. The two have the capacity to attract Pashtuns, especially on the basis of their pro-Taliban slogan. Mr Hassan, while talking to Jama’at processionists in Lahore the other day, asked them to “make preparations” because an “announcement for jihad may be made during the coming days”. Karachi may therefore become a “suitable” place for this jihad because the ruling triad is in disarray there.

The Muhajir-Sindhi divide has slid into the background and a Muhajir-Pashtun divide has come to the fore, in no small measure helped by the FATA diaspora into Karachi because of the civil war-like conditions there. As the army goes after the Taliban in the Malakand region more Pashtuns will trickle down to Karachi. The instinct of the ANP as an ethnic party is to give them a political safety net, only at the cost of sharpening its contradiction with the MQM whose electoral strength in Karachi is overwhelming — a fact that both ANP and PPP must pay proper heed to.

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