In my article titled, ‘Time to clean up Karachi’ published in The Nation on February 13, 2015, I had stated that the current situation in Karachi is unacceptable to the nation and cannot be allowed to continue in its present state. I had also stated that it is time for the federal government to take the required actions to dismantle terror networks and the infrastructure of different political parties/ banned groups by force if these elements do not cooperate or do so voluntarily.

The intelligence based pre-dawn operation by the Rangers on MQM’s Nine Zero Headquarters came as no surprise. Gen. Raheel Sharif had clearly warned during apex committee proceedings in Karachi last month that the state would go to any extent to restore peace in this mega city dubbed mini Pakistan and the country’s economic lifeline.

This raid that was declared legal by Federal Interior minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan, is in line with the government’s commitment and resolve reflected in point 3 of the National Action Plan (NAP) that no armed militias will be allowed to function in the country as well as point 16 of NAP according to which the ongoing operation in Karachi will be taken to its logical conclusion.

The Nine Zero raid which led to the recovery of a cache of arms/ ammunition and the arrest of high value wanted criminals/killers including a convicted murderer of a television reporter, is a severe blow to MQM’s democratic credentials and its top leadership’s image in Karachi and London.

This operation could have serious ramifications for Altaf Hussain, who already faces multiple investigations by UK authorities related to money laundering, hate speech and Imran Farooq’s murder. Furthermore, with Nine Zero under Rangers/ police control, how would MQM react if sensitive documents of any kind are recovered during the search operation?

The meeting between the UK High Commissioner and Interior Minister on the day of the Nine Zero raid may not have been a coincidence, for there are also reports of official/ back channel contacts between the two countries on the issue of handing over the two suspects in Imran Farooq’s case to the UK authorities.

The MQM Chief Altaf Hussain’s admission that criminals unnecessarily put Nine Zero in trouble by seeking refuge in party’s headquarters, contradicts MQM’s repeated stance that it does not patronize or harbor a criminal mafia. This raid may prove to be the turning point in our efforts to defeat militancy in Karachi.

Altaf’s allegation that Rangers brought weapons wrapped in blankets to plant the same in Nine Zero is least convincing for it would require not just a few blankets but perhaps a full logistic exercise to transport these weapons and other seized equipment and then transfer the same in MQM’s premises under the watchful eye of its party workers or few accompanying media elements.

It is quite possible that MQM may be in possession of valid licenses to hold some of the Pakistani made single/double barrel guns that were shown to the media. But how does the party justify the presence of the many sophisticated NATO origin weapons with telescopic sights and muzzle silencers that were recovered from this raid.

This also adds credibility to intelligence agencies/ media reports about NATO’s weapon containers going missing from Karachi en route to Afghanistan during the PPP’s five year rule. Pakistanis believe that Karachi was flooded with these weapons by hostile foreign agencies to arm militant groups of political parties as well as banned terrorist organizations to destabilize the metropolis.

If we want a militancy free Karachi then a massive de-weaponization operation is the urgent need of the hour. Piecemeal efforts like the one at Nine Zero will not deliver desired results. If Nine Zero had a stockpile of weapons, it can be expected with a degree of certainty that MQM’s field organizations would also be equipped with piles of illegal weapons.

Same should be the case with other political/ religious parties which patronize criminal mafias. So, will law enforcing agencies also crack down on other political centers of militancy in Karachi? Will those three lakh plus arms/ licenses that PPP’s Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza openly admitted issuing to his supporters in Lyari as Sindh’s interior minister be recovered and the licenses revoked? Who will hold him accountable for adding fuel to Karachi’s instability? Why only dismantle the No Go network around Nine Zero? What about Bilawal House or its Lyari stronghold?

After the Prime minister and Army chief’s reportedly tough stance in Karachi’s apex committee meeting on grave issues like the Baldia factory tragedy, NAP’s poor implementation as well as the Sindh administration’s misgovernance and corruption in land grabbing, procurement of armored personnel carriers from Serbia and de politicization of Sindh police, the PPP may not be whole heartedly supporting the Karachi operation.

It therefore came as no surprise when Asif Zardari reportedly expressed concerns on the Rangers raid with Altaf Hussain. One can easily observe the delaying tactics being undertaken in Dubai to stall the extradition of Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch whose linkages with PPP’s top leadership and their relations with the UAE leadership are no secret. Thus if PPP is a deliberate obstacle to Karachi’s peace, should its incompetent government in Sindh be tolerated for the sake of democracy?

That the state meant business and is determined to restore its writ and eliminate militancy and terrorism is evident from the government’s recent announcement to lift the moratorium from all death penalty cases, which marks an extension of its earlier decision to send only hard core ‘jet black’ death row terrorists to the gallows.

MQM’s Saulat Mirza was awarded the death sentence for murdering MD KESC in 1997. His hanging is reportedly scheduled on March 19. This is yet another stern message to all criminals irrespective of their party/ group affiliations, that the state will not be cowed down and will strike against terrorists/ killers with an iron hand.

I reiterate that Pakistanis want to see a reformed, purely democratic and demilitarized MQM with roots in other provinces as well. Its pro middle class, anti feudal and anti status quo philosophy is appealing, but to gain countrywide acceptability the party must demonstrate its commitment towards peace in Karachi by disowning militancy and purging its ranks of any criminal elements. After the Nine Zero debacle, Altaf Hussain should seriously consider handing over the party to the next generation of leadership.

All political parties in Karachi must support NAP’s implementation in letter and spirit and disregard any vested political interests. Failure to do so would lead to further instability in the city and country. If political parties rallied together to sign the Charter of Democracy, what stops these parties from signing the Charter of Peace for the sake of Karachi?