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Apocalypse Now

If posterity were to take events to pinpoint exactly when the clock struck midnight and Karachi ran out of time, the brutal assassination of Mohammad Salahuddin, outspoken Editor of Takbeer and the flight of renowned social worker Maulana Sattar Edhi to London, ostensibly in fear of his life, would serve as symbolic markers. Karachi is now a city filled with fear, full of apprehension of the known and the unknown. For years there has been no dearth of soothsayers predicting impending doom but they can have no satisfaction in being proved right, only contempt for those at the helm of affairs over the past decade who were so deaf and blind that it is not surprising that they acted dumb in the face of catastrophe.

Appoint an Administrator for the whole of Karachi NOW, for purposes of perception of authority let us call the person Lieutenant Governor (or some such title) and give him (or her) a sweeping mandate for an interim period of one year over all the law enforcement and civic agencies in the city, with extraordinary powers under Article 245 of the Constitution to rule over Karachi. The Lieutenant Governor will be directly responsible to the Federal Cabinet through the Governor and will effect such changes in the administrative control of the city as he thinks fit in keeping the city running, in supersession to all other Federal and Provincial entities that are working today. As a psychological stamp of authority, he must have an office in the Governor’s House where he could use the services of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), an outstanding example of citizen participation in solving urban problems.

Declare Karachi a weapons-free city immediately, with only uniformed members of the law enforcement agencies allowed to carry weapons. Karachi police should only carry weapons within the perimeters of their Police Stations or if they are going out on a joint patrol with Rangers. Static posts and installations (banks, oil terminals, offices, residential houses etc) may be permitted uniformed guards with weapons but they are not to move from the premises. Some private security companies have Cash-in-Transit services and Mobile Patrols, these have to be clearly marked and their normal beats notified. All vehicles should have their registration in BOLD letters on both sides. For a limited number of VVIPs and VIPs, uniformed guards should be provided by Rangers and the Elite Force of the Sindh Police. Anyone found carrying arms in mufti/civil dress or in violation of aforementioned should be shot on sight, it being taken for granted that since no person out of uniform is permitted to carry a weapon the offending person is a potential terrorist/criminal. The situation is so bad that the danger of innocents being targeted accidentally or in error should be regarded as acceptable casualties.

Modernize the anti-terrorism campaign by inducting high-tech measures, coupled with a combination of light spotter aircraft, helicopters and vehicles that will track perpetrators of incidence. Entire blocks should be cordoned off on the pattern of the Army’s urban encirclement operations done during the past couple of months and houses checked with census documents/voters registration lists. Wherever it is found that persons are missing and no reasonable explanation is given for their absence, that particular house should be sealed (after giving notice for their return) and the families moved into camps established on the city’s perimeters. This would be certainly much better process than that employed to counter the bloody revolt of the Sinhalese left (VHP) in Sri Lanka who targeted the families of law enforcement agencies. In the worst kind of vigilante justice the security forces assumed that whoever was absent was a terrorist and killed the head of the family, sometimes even the entire family in acts of brutal vengeance. While the situation was tragic, the net result was that the back of the insurrection was broken and the absentees turned themselves into Rehabilitation Centres starting in 1991. Fully 15,000 former militants have since been returned to normal life after processing and rehabilitation by Brig Gen Ananda Weerasekera, the Commissioner of Refugees in Sri Lanka, with only 6,000 remaining in the camps.
Hold Local Bodies Election immediately as there is no substitute for democracy, particularly at the grassroots level. One may disagree with Altaf Hussain’s policies but if we could get Mir Murtaza Bhutto (of Al Zulfiqar suspicion) back from the yonder and survive as a nation, we should be able to come to terms with the mainline MQM with whom immediate and constructive dialogue is necessary. There is a dangerous leadership vacuum in Karachi which is increasingly turning from ethnic violence to sectarian atrocities. Unless we induct leaders having credibility at the grassroots level at the lowest level of democracy and up the ladder, we can never hope to control the anarchy that has seeped into our society. Only by the devolution of powers to the smallest sub-unit level will we ever hope to achieve peace. Local Bodies Elections must be followed in short time thereafter by Provincial and National Assembly elections (and even for the Senate where necessary) in the disturbed areas so that credible leadership emerges right upto the national level. This will be conducive to a comprehensive political dialogue between the elected representatives. Without political inter-action there can be no permanent solution.

Initiate pragmatic socio-economic initiatives meant to kick-start the economy and provide employment opportunities. The maximum residential development in Karachi can take place in the North-East and the South but it can only happen if there is enough water and electricity. Because of the state of transmission lines, power maintenance and water distribution system, the North-South and East-West axis of transmission and distribution are either in disrepair or overloaded. Government of Pakistan (GoP) has been very pragmatic in getting FAST TRACK Energy projects on a priority basis thanks to the Shahid Hassan Khan-Salman Faruqi combo and the extraordinary backing given to them by the PM Ms Benazir. One of the 100 MW power barges could be parked next to Phase 8 of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and a 6-10 MGD water desalination plant put up alongside on a priority basis. This will (1) allow 100 MW power and at least 6-10 MGD water available to cater for development of approximately 10,000-15,000 housing units in the south of Karachi and (2) at least double that capacity in the North East due to the freeing of the load of electricity and water made available as a result. The renewed house building will create economic activity throughout the city as a force-multiplier effect for employment opportunities.

Discourage immigration to Karachi, both internal and external by using all the means at the disposal of the State, so that Karachi’s population does not increase any further. As much as the business community is now sending telegrams all over because of the deteriorating law and order, the fault is directly on some of the industrialists who have employed illegal immigrants as cheap labour since they cannot resort to union activity. An entire illegal immigration industry complete with sophisticated money remittance facilities and nationality papers has come up as a result. While it would be almost impossible to send back the illegal immigrants to their homelands, a back-breaking tax disincentive must be put immediately into place in the form of taxes amounting to at least 30% of the minimum wages allowed by law per person, to be paid by the industrialist/homeowner employers into the city’s treasury and used for financing socio-economic facilities. It should be incumbent upon the employer to register his/her employee with a Central City Registration (with District/Sub-Division offices) who shall issue a WORK PERMIT/ID CARD. Every person in Karachi city should have a WORK PERMIT cum ID Card. Anyone, whether industrialist or home-owner employing an alien or even an up-country immigrant without registration should be given exemplary punishment and fines extending to confiscation of property.

Stop use of loudspeakers from mosques for any other purpose except the Azaan as mosques are being used to disseminate VICIOUS propaganda without any sanctity for religious toleration. Sectarian war is the biggest time-bomb that is ticking in this city, unless we can enforce religious moderation by the toughest means at our disposal whatever solutions we arrive at politically will become meaningless. Religious parties should be free to project their own virtues but should not be allowed to attack the others by any means, whether word of mouth, in print or physically. From time immemorial, religious propaganda has had a fatal effect on Muslim and national unity. While Attaturk methods may not be possible in this day and age, it is extremely tempting in the circumstances.

Strictly monitor the working of the intelligence agencies, who should all keep the Lieutenant Governor informed as to their findings as well as their actions on a daily basis. While all of Karachi’s problems cannot be put at their doorstep, the fact remains that they have gone spectacularly wrong in collecting and collating the information, analysing the facts and acting upon it. They cannot remain a State within a State and must act within the parameters of law, exceeding the boundaries only when extraordinary circumstances require them to do so. While criticising them or their excesses one must also take note of their many successes, they have done outstanding work under adverse conditions against unrelenting foes. With good leadership which does not have personal motivation they have been and are an asset to the nation. One cautionary note are some of the senior retired personnel who never seem to forget that they have gone back to the pavilion after playing the great game. Nine times out of ten, Edhi made a run for London not out of fear for his life but from what these honourable gentlemen wanted him to be, a figurehead in their grand designs for the country.

Many more things that need to be done should be left to the discretion of the appointed Lieutenant Governor, particularly in rooting out nepotism and corruption throughout the civic and other agencies of the State. However one point of concern is the readiness of the political parties to gain political capital out of the present circumstances. The PML (N) may disagree with Ms Benazir on any number of issues, in the matter of Karachi it must follow the lead of Mian Nawaz Sharif in holding out the hands of compromise. Not only is Ms Benazir the elected PM, she is the leader of PPP whose main political power-base is rural Sindh. It is in the vital interest of the nation that she comes to terms with the MQM for the good of Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general. To that end, we must stand behind the PM without exception to take pragmatic steps to solve Karachi’s problems. People seem to believe that the solution to Karachi lies in Altaf Hussain’s hands but it is Ms Benazir who has the potential and the means to provide for a comprehensive solution. As the head of the Federal Government, she has a vast national constituency to which she has a responsibility (as much as it is her duty) to solve Sindh’s problems. One is quite confident that given sincerity and purpose the PM is capable of turning Karachi around and save it from the apocalypse which is upon us here and now.

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