The bloodbath in Karachi last week came when accompanied by the MQMs exit from the Sindh government for the first time, after its departure from the federal government for the second time. While the MQM denied any complicity, its opponents noted that its departures from the government were accompanied by terrorist killings in Karachi, which is a stronghold. At the same time, it should be noted that Karachi, while one of several MQM strongholds, was also like Mumbai, with which it shared the link of being a port city. Because a port and also a large city, Karachi was probably an inevitable place to be criminalised. That criminalisation is what the MQM blames the present and previous sprees of target killings on, claiming that the criminal gangs were backed by the PPP and the ANP. These two parties claimed that the MQM was behind the gangs. While it denied these claims, it also claimed that these two parties were backing the criminals. While other ports in the world share Mumbais characteristics, not just Karachi, only Karachi has followed the criminalisation of its politics. However, while Mumbai has collected economic migrants, it never became the magnet for one community, as Karachi became for Muhajirs after the partition. It is worth noting that Mumbai gave up a significant portion of its Muslim population to Karachi then, though it retained a significant portion. Karachi also gained Gujarati-speaking Memons from all over Gujarat as well as Mumbai, where they added a stream to what was to become the MQM. However, the bulk of the Muhajir community hailed from what is now Uttar Pradesh, but were supplemented by migrants from Bihar, many of whom had migrated twice: Once in 1947 to East Pakistan and then to the West in 1971. But instead of a pacification, there was a break, followed by unrest in Karachi over the strong remarks by Sindh Housing Minister Zulfikar Mirza, removed from the Home portfolio, against the MQM. More were left dead, and the city was again paralysed as shopkeepers and transport both went on strike. Karachi is indeed a national issue, for even though many entrepreneurs have moved their businesses upcountry because of the decades of disturbance, it still remains the countrys financial and industrial capital, not to mention it is the only port. It is also populated by people from all over the country, though the Muhajir majority is sufficient to ensure that the MQM has a monopoly on its national seats as well as on most of its provincial. This has meant that any further migration, which perforce has to come from non-Urdu or Gujarati-speaking provinces, will be resisted by the MQM as upsetting the ethnic balance. While Punjabis seem to have acquiesced in this, Pakhtuns have not. As Pakhtuns know that Karachi is the worlds largest Pakhtun city outstripping, in terms of the Pakhtuns living there, any city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Afghanistan. The Baloch are represented in Lyari, which is a safe PPP seat. The migrants from Kashmir are acknowledged by the AJK Legislative Assembly seat allocated to them from Karachi, the postponement of which prompted the present departure from the government. It should be remembered that Karachi is the provincial capital of Sindh, but is not a Sindhi city. That is a parallel with Mumbai, which is, as a port, Indias main contact with the outside world, but not a Marathi city, even though situated in the province of Maharashtra, which has its capital at Pune. This is paralleled by the proposal that Sindhs capital be Hyderabad, not Karachi. However, while Hyderabad is a Sindhi city, it too is dominated by the MQM, which controls its municipality. Dr Mirzas latest remarks seem directed at the migration of Muhajirs to Sindh. But it seems to neglect the fact that after 1971, provincial identity became of great importance within the Pakistani identity. While the migrants from East Punjab assimilated to the West Punjab they had migrated to, the Muhajirs of Sindh searched for a similar identity. The language riots showed they were not ready to be absorbed into Sindh. Their absorption into the Punjab was because they were not in that large a number, and were not discriminated against. Certainly, there was no categorisation of the all-important domicile, as in Sindh, into rural and urban, which put the Muhajirs in a separate category. The Muhajir problem may be very difficult to handle, but the present government has found a novel way of handling it: Rollback the Musharraf local body reforms. One consequence of those reforms was that the MQM felt empowered by the new system, which gave them control over the local government in Karachi, along with administrative powers for the nazim of Karachi, who was an MQM nominee. The MQM was opposed to the reversion to the old system the PPP wanted, and this was one of the reasons why local body elections are not being held. The fact that the President has a deep interest in his native Sindh has not helped the MQM, but has made the reversion to the old system more likely. The old system was designed to maintain state control; the new to imitate the USA, and thus when the political forces returned to government, they tried their best to return to a system that gave them control over the local administration and the police. The flipside was that such a conversion would disempower the MQM. Provincial governments dislike sharing power with local bodies, even if they belong to the same party, let alone the situation in Sindh, where the MQM was set to win control of the most prized local bodies. With the MQM out of the government, one possible step would be to so manage results that the PPP won control of the local bodies. The links between Karachi and Mumbai are not very mystic, just those between two ports. But it should be remembered that Karachi was a sort of subsidiary of Bombay when it was converted from a fishing village named Kulachi (also the name of Baloch tribe) to a port. It was part of the Bombay Presidency, and only obtained separate provincial status in the 1936. As another big city, Karachi was going to go down the Mumbai path. Especially after independence, when it became a port in its own right, and not an adjunct to the Mumbai that was developed during World War II as a port for North India, which was the launching pad for the British reconquest of Burma. The crisis in Karachi also saw blasts in Mumbai, which killed 21. Still, that is much less than the death toll in Karachi, which has crossed 100, and is set to rise. The entire region does not seem in a fit state to receive shipping. Karachi has also not seen the sort of police encounters, which Mumbai did when the police took on the Company. If Karachis criminalisation has proceeded apace, the criminalisation of the Marathi-chauvinist Shiv Sena (which is also Hindu chauvinist by virtue of being part of the Sangh Parivar) took place in Mumbai, for the same reasons as parties in Karachi are supposed to have been criminalised: Crooks need protection. The only real solution to the immediate problems of Karachi would appear to be swift punishment for the criminals engaged in the sort of killing in Karachi that became the norm in Mumbai, but by the police there. A few examples would end the violence, because one reason for it is the sheer impunity the criminals enjoy. n The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as Executive Editor of The Nation. Email: