Some time back, I had received an email, ‘An Ode To Karachi’, from my old friend, Maqbool Rahimtoola, (MAQ), relating to the tragic situation in this, once City of Lights, now a city of blood and tears.

“The morning mist settles to the sound of wailing. The young and the old, all there in white, lifted towards their burials. A war, a plague? No, just Karachi.. To the sound of bullets. The smell of death slowly walks this city. But who cares? No one. More deaths, more sufferings. The hospital beds are full, a war, a plague? No, just Karachi. Will it ever stop? Who cares? It’s just Karachi”.

In the last several years, violence and mayhem has cast a dark shadow over this once, throbbing and vibrant city and the residents of this metropolis now feel angry, vulnerable, helpless and live in fear, as they do not know how to stop this cycle of blood-letting.  The talk shows on our TV channels beam the gruesome slaughter of innocent men, women and children into our homes and we see the same old discredited politicians, screaming in their ‘passing the pillow’ blame game, accusing each other for the carnage.

And instead of taking heed of these tragic and senseless killings, our leaders and politicians wear black armbands in sympathy, shed crocodile tears, promise cash compensations to the affected families and form meaningless committees. And to rub salt into the bleeding wounds of the effected families, the head of our LEAs, shamelessly give false statements to the media, claiming that they had reached the effected area and had assisted in the rescue operation.

All attempts to demand an end to the bloodletting have failed, as the government does not have the political will or the expertise to stop the carnage. Their response to the deteriorating law and order situation is, ‘Sub theek hai’, the situation is being exaggerated by the media and it is a conspiracy to destabilize democracy.  This is just one glaring example of our government, who fiddle, while Karachi burns and its lack of sense and sensibility. Unfortunately, even the SC has failed to stop the carnage.

A similar situation had existed in 1998, when Shia doctors were being killed on a daily basis. At that time, Jamil Yousuf, former Chief, CPLC, Shehri, HRCP and Helpline Trust had launched a ‘Gun Free Society’ campaign, through a Press Conference, followed by a seminar at the Karachi Press Club. We had circulated ‘SAY NO TO GUNS’ flyers throughout the city and expected a positive response, but unfortunately, as usual, only some doctors, a few concerned citizens, NGOs and “activists” turned up, while senior police officers and members from the administration failed to participate.

Barrister Qazi Faez Isa, who was President of Shehri at that time and now the CJ of Balochistan and IA Rehman of HRCP, had presented an eleven-point resolution, which highlighted a road map for a gun free society, which was approved by the participants.

However, speakers from our tribal areas bluntly stated that display of weapons and carrying arms was their culture and were men’s ornament and jewelry and there was no question that this tradition could be changed. That was fourteen years back.

In 1994, Helpline Trust had also organized a series of Straight Talk programs on Karachi. The first was Save Karachi and was hosted by Anwar Maqsood. This had been followed by Karachi – A Bursting City, The Citizen’s Charter and The Crisis of State & Society.  The speakers included were Justice (r) Fakharudin G Ebrahim, Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid, late Dr Eqbal Ahmad, Liaquat Merchant, Saleem Asmi, Dr Hamida Khuhro, Zia Awan and Ghazi Salahuddin.

These programmes had focused on the deteriorating law and order situation, break down of the civic agencies and the system of governance in Karachi. It had been a privilege to listen to the late Dr Eqbal Ahmed, an intellectual, eminent scholar and a brave and vocal civil rights activist.

The good doctor had stated that Karachi would become another Beirut, if civil society did not play its due role to demand Good Governance. And now, even after two decades and almost 12 governments later, we have failed to learn a lesson from our mistakes and are back to ground zero.

Some are recommending that the army should be called in and asked to control the law and order situation, while others strongly oppose this. Others suggest that all gun licenses should be canceled and reissued, through a computerized form, like a passport application.  At the same time, possession of illegal weapons and display of arms should be banned and anyone violating the law should be severely punished, without fear or favor. Obviously, not an easy task, but still doable. 

But as MAQ has asked: ‘Will it ever stop? Who cares?

And now we are told that ECP has stated that it does not have the Constitutional authority to disqualify any parliamentarian guilty of violating Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

‘The Election Commission of Pakistan has categorically stated that none of those MPs whose degrees had been found fake by HEC, would be barred from contesting the next election unless convicted by a court of law’. So it seems that the efforts initiated by CFFE, to bar corrupt and deceitful parliamentarians from participating in the coming elections, will all go to waste, unless the Supreme Court of Pakistan comes to the aid of the citizens and gives ECP the authority to take the necessary action.

Otherwise, the onus will be on the citizens, to exercise their constitutional right in the coming elections and reject the corrupt and deceitful parliamentarians and vote for only those candidates who have a proven and clean track record. If the gullible citizens continue to be puppets on a string and vote for the same old and failed leaders, then the country will be once again at the mercy of Ali Baba and his gang of thieves and it will be the Ides of March for Pakistan.

However, CFFE will still continue its efforts to sensitize the issue and have decided to file a petition in the SC of Pakistan, to intervene and ask ECP to take effective action against those parliamentarians who have violated Article 62 & 63 of the Constitution.