With virtually no let up in violence in Karachi, calls are being made for the army to clean up the city. MQM is all for it, which is surprising but also natural. The party was fiercely against the armed forces operation in 1992 when its MPs resigned from the assemblies and has ever since stuck by the principle. It is making the demand at a time when the PPP is running the provincial government but regardless of the fact that there is any political angling involved or not, what is now necessary and to which there should be a consensus of all the parties is that the mess should be straightened out.
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has meanwhile called a special meeting of the federal Cabinet next week in order to devise a strategy to get to grips with the menace. This is good where it shows that the leadership is worried, even though some would say it could have been done much earlier.
But sadly we have been constantly hearing words such as ‘stakeholders’ who we told are involved in Karachi’s violence. There is no ‘stakeholder’ bigger than the bleeding city whose length and breadth are infested with gangsters, Taliban, ethnic and sectarian outfits, extortionists and a whole plethora of bandits and criminals. If the city is to be saved from its present fate, a crushing blow on all of them should be inflicted.
Opinion is divided against calling the army because first, its previous takeover, where it temporarily quelled the violence, left its scars nonetheless. The central as well as the provincial government must search for all options but preferably one that serves the main purpose of restoring Karachi its normal life. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar stated in a press conference on Wednesday that Rangers should go about the job of what he called a targeted rather than a large-scale operation, indicating that calling in the army without the consent of the provincial government is inadvisable, which he maintained the army would itself not like. He assured that the culprits would be put to justice without fear or favour.
The option of a targeted operation is not new; but if it is to deliver any result, it would have to be totally free of all kinds of meddling political as well as bureaucratic, all the more so since it will be carried out by the police and rangers. Influential personalities ringing up police stations and throwing their weight to get their goons off the hook is quite commonplace. And like the police, Rangers is also not immune from this culture, a reason why the law and order has gone to such proportions. For the any offensive to succeed, and also for the army option to be brushed aside, the targeted operation should be carried out but exactly in the spirit promised by the Interior Minister.