Muhammad Javed In Karachi, as a nation, we have reached a moment of reckoning; it epitomises all our national ills on a grand scale. The triangular tussle between the MQM, ANP and PPP represents their parochial and myopic interests. Their community-centric thought has clouded rational thinking and the spirit of accommodation, giving place to the most basic and tribal instincts. Numerous zones of respective ethnic concentrations have been turned into no-go areas for perceived rivals, as well as the agents of State. But elsewhere, Karachi remains a city of multilayered shared interests, socioeconomic interaction and interdependence, and cross ethnic political affiliations, since no one can live in splendid isolation and exclusion of others. It is not Beirut. We should not compare it with that once unfortunate symbol of internal conflict, which has now regained its former glory thanks to the will of its people. The correct reference should be that if Beirut could be saved why not Karachi, which does not have even a fraction of its (Beiruts) historic, religious, ethnic and socioeconomic contradictions The political parties, while aspiring to retain their national character, have let their cultural stamp, ethnic complexion and local turf considerations and interest, nullify their lofty ideals. They have become prisoners of ethnicity and vendetta. This basic contradiction and weakness now stands badly exposed. Sindh has, therefore, become the trump card, which can upset the existing political game of 'live and let live. The MOM has grown in the last decade to an all representative entity for Karachi marginalising the PPP, JI, and ANP. It must let go of the chokehold on this city. However, it cannot be wished away or totally marginalised. Any outside pressure - political or otherwise - is likely to compress it into a densely packed regressive reactive mass. Hence, it must be approached with sensitivity, empathy and gravitas. A repeat of fiery speeches, accusative references to the past with innuendos, and clichs and stereotype epithets, have degenerated into a no-holds-barred slugging contest. The situation has become too complicated to unravel by itself; it is a game run riot that needs a referee. So, the Supreme Court (SC) has been forced to intervene at this critical juncture. It is an unusual step, but these are extraordinary times also. The integrity of state is at stake. The judiciarys courage and sincerity of purpose with vast legal and moral leverage has sent the right signals and the tit-for-tat carnage/killings have significantly abated. It seems to enjoy full support of the armed forces, who have reiterated their resolve to safeguard the national integrity. The COAS has taken personal interest through on ground briefings and visits. He has an unpleasant but clear picture in front of him, which needs immediate attention. The armed forces are fully poised to perform any role assigned to them. This hopeful scenario of imposed armistice must be sustained through the prolonged judicial intervention, and an impartial, resolute and equally robust law enforcement regime. The superior courts intrinsic capacity to mobilise any state institution for implementing its decisions should be employed to architect short- as well as long-term durable peace and harmony, and equitable socioeconomic and political covenant for Karachi. It will have full support of the media, armed forces, public, and political parties and half-hearted acquiescence of the political triad; it is worth the effort. The minimum aim, apparently motivated by gross human rights violations, is to stop the wanton killings. Having obtained firsthand information, the court can nudge and encourage the security apparatus to act promptly to arrest those who have injected criminality into politics. The Sindh Rangers have remained embedded in Karachi for two decades, as impartial guarantors of peace. They, along with intelligence agencies, are fully conversant with the dynamics of this mega polis. Given the right measure of political support and non-interference, they can help to sustain peace, especially by isolating and dealing with the criminal gangs at priority. Also, their political patrons must understand the gravity of the situation. With the potential of outgrowing their mentors, this criminal cartel is detested and dreaded by the political rank and file. They will, hence, like to see them disappear, as their elimination can break the gridlock on the city. The CJs admirable decision to address this delicate issue head-on and dispense justice on site has already created enough space and liberty of action for the law enforcers to apprehend the criminals identified by various sources, who appeared before the court. Speedy justice through ATCs will create the desired effects and allow the ceasefire to hold. Through a concerted and synergised action plan the writ of the government can be re-established. The process of de-weaponisation and de-radicalisation must start. The no-go areas must be eliminated to end the localised turf wars. All of it should be done proactively within a specified period under the political umbrella. The court must simultaneously advise the government to work out a long-term plan for reconciliation and rapprochement. The All Parties Conference - mysteriously ignored and irrationally delayed - should be convened to address the basic issues. It is strange that while boasting of a parliamentary form of government, all the provinces, except Balochistan, have opted for the relatively less representative Commissionerate system. It is a huge deficit. All politics is local and UK with its county administrative model should be taken as a paradigm. Whatever the preferred system, the local governments must come into being, as they would cut the sector, town and council level party warlords to size. A strong, efficient, representative and comprehensive administrative system must be created to address issues like unemployment, transportation, civil works, healthcare, water, sanitation, education, gas, electricity and environment. Karachi is growing at a phenomenal pace with rudimentary civic support structure; it is bursting at the seams. The city, in a decade or so, has registered significant demographic changes. Great masses of Pashtuns displaced from Swat and other troubled tribal agencies have pushed their members to nearly 7-8 millions. They only have two MPAs to represent them. The PPP is equally marginalised. There is a need to redraw the constituencies to allow logical representation. Mainstreaming of these large masses will reduce their militancy and armed expression of their presence. The presence of millions of foreigners in Karachi is a sleeping volcano. There are persecuted, unwanted and rootless communities from Bangladesh, Arakan, Chechnya, North Africa, Philippines and Afghanistan. For decades, Pakistan has been a state with no barriers to illegal infiltration and assimilation. Did anyone take notice of their unobtrusive entry? Have they been counted, registered and taken on the state ledger as responsibility? It is another serious security and administrative challenge, which we have ignored so far. The MQM and ANP are moving towards a head-on collision, which must be avoided. The PPP is likely to act as a bridge between the two parties. If it fails to produce an all acceptable power sharing formula, the government will be threatened, both at the central and provincial levels. The main burden of reconciliation, therefore, remains on its shoulders. Moreover, the political forces are losing weight, stature and credibility in this multifaceted conflict. Instead of rising above petty considerations and collectively resolving the issues, they appear helpless and ineffective. The bloody skirmishing, both through gruesome killings on streets and verbal broadsides on the electronic media, have drawn enough blood. The balance of moral authority seems to be slipping away from them, which does not augur well for democracy. The PML-N, PTI and JI have been offered an opportunity to politically assert themselves in Sindh and emerge as the fourth alternative. But the question is: Are they prepared to move forward in an organised and sustained manner? At the geo-strategic level, Karachi is being used as an operational diversion; the infamous Karachi for Kashmir (K for K) design. The outside interference is insidious, united, focused and resource rich. The divisive theme has been played deftly by India and its global mentors emphasising differences, creating new social rifts/cleavages, and heightening perceptions of group sufferings, deprivations and insecurities. The response to this external threat is fractured, tentative and feebly reactive, too little and too late. We need to synergise our efforts. The media has displayed admirable sagacity, maturity and responsibility; maintaining strict neutrality, while commenting on Karachi. Nowhere has it compromised on professional, ethical and national interests. With the Supreme Court in the lead, the media, the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies, must cut through the Gordian Knot as the vanguard of change. It will save and strengthen democracy. Otherwise, our personal and collective failures, ambitions and blithe hypocrisy, will become the emblem of great national shame and catastrophe. The writer is a retired major general.