In the Martin Scorsese blockbuster ‘Gangs of New York’, set in mid nineteenth century New York, a territorial fight is taking place between two rivals – led by the local US born Bill “the Butcher” Cutting versus Amsterdam Vallon an immigrant Irishman. In this fight to the end, both gangs use any number of ways to ensure their success from violent intimidation, cutting throats in streets, to coercive voter fraud to put their man in office. Ultimately, in Scorsese’s resurrection of 19th century New York, the Union soldiers barge in, to bring peace to the city as riots and gang warfare gets completely out of hand. Does it sound familiar to our own ‘City of Fear’, 21st century Karachi ? Umair Siddiqui and 90 other thugs recently arrested by the Rangers, from MQM Headquarters - Nine Zero, confessed to the targeted killing of 120 people, buying weapons for the MQM, named accomplices involved in the deliberate burning of the Baldia Town factory where over 250 people died and testified to coercing presiding officers in the 2013 elections; all done to keep the MQM stranglehold on the city.

South Asians culturally are diffident or perhaps hypocrites when it comes to ‘walk the talk.’ We promise many things because it is difficult to say no – and then we find it difficult or inconvenient to carry them out. So with all parties’ consensus, the National Action Plan promised to take on terrorists, sectarian groups, those spreading fear and causing the deaths of innocent people. Apart from Imran Khan and Chaudhury Nisar, politicians seem to have gone mum on the Rangers action in Nine Zero and the arrest of many hardened and indicted criminals. The most surprising was our ex-president, the biggest stakeholder of Sindh, Mr Zardari, expressing regrets over the Rangers’ action, saying that everyone should respect the sanctity of political party offices. He does not say: respect the sanctity of law and order or respect the sanctity of life, peace and security of the people of Karachi. No, it seems the “sanctity” of the political party offices and the people who operate from these are to be held above the law. Yes, the sanctity of all legal and above board offices, irrespective of political affiliation, should be respected – but not if they are being used to stash large amounts of weapons’ armaments or criminals inside whether this be Nine Zero or Aman committees in Lyari or Bilawal house in Clifton.

It is like a kick in the stomach when we hear such hollow sounding statements coming from self-serving politicians dragging democracy into every argument, yet doing nothing to deepen its roots; witness the lack of local governments and how much the likes of Mr. Zardari have done to destroy the system in place since 2001. How can political parties operating within a democratic system with representatives elected as MPA’s and MNA’s, running provincial governments, justify using militant wings for extortion, bribery, corruption, target killings and vote rigging. The MQM no doubt had rightful grievances in the 1980’s: that the urdu speakers were being discriminated against in getting jobs in the bureaucracy or in the army, but after playing kingmaker or being part of governments for over 20 years, it can no longer justify the use of its militant wing. The MQM cannot have it both ways – they either work to achieve their ends through political power or they create violent mayhem in the streets. They have to actively denounce and delink themselves from their terrorizing militant sector commanders.

We hear talk over dinners and on twitter, about why the focus is on MQM and not on Ahle Sunnat wal Jamat with its links to Lashkar e Jhangvi. With the attempted move by the ASWJ into electioneering politics and the possibility of acting as a right wing political party, it is even more important that the militant wings of existing major political parties are taken out so that the message goes out clearly to all. The aspirations of the people have to be represented through parliament and violence will not be allowed as part of the political process. Any party using violent means to justify its demands will not be accepted as a player in this Game of Thrones.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb is weakening the Taliban and its control over Karachi and the current Rangers operation in Sindh for the past eighteen months, has started to clear the city of its criminal gangs – gangs that had made life impossible for the common man in Karachi. They took on the Aman committee sitting in Lyari as well as the ANP goons as well as the MQM militants now. To be fair to the PPP and the ANP, they did not use political power beyond a certain extent to safeguard those involved realizing the tide had turned. However, the MQM in a mode of de-realization or perhaps backed by powerful players inside and outside the country, felt the rules did not apply to them.

The media along with political players, are important to ensure that the clean out operation of criminal gangs from Karachi is successful and sustained. Yet, we all know that the media barons who are powerful enough to take on state institutions cower when it comes to talking freely about crime and the political party involved; afraid about what will happen to their assets, both human and physical. Valuable airtime that costs lakhs of rupees for the advertiser is freely given to many hours of boring speeches by a leader who is barely audible never mind impassioned enough to raise our serotonin levels. His jiyalas sit on the floor and listen, nodding their heads, afraid in case they are made examples of; told to play chicken in front of the gathering or to disappear for a day or two. We need to take Karachi back and we need to spread the tentacles of democracy. The MQM is an essential part of this equation; it needs to represent its electorate through the ballot box and not the gun. Politicians are the ones that need to come out guns blazing metaphorically so that we do not need the Pak force soldiers to come in to end this gang warfare.