Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MQM Guys Likely Killing People. Here's Why.

In this piece (4 Political Activists Gunned Down in Karachi) all the dead are listed as being either from, or related to someone from the PPP, the ANP or the JSQM. All three parties have a leftish bent, derive their base support from rural Pakistan, and have a not-insubstantial following in the cities as well. Plus all parties are known for a bit of an ethnic bent (in the JSQM's case it's out and out an ethnic party), with the PPP being known for having a serious Sindhi following and the ANP for representing Pashtun folk. The PPP does try its best to appeal to all of Pakistan, but faces a backlash in urban centres and suburban environs with anyone even minorly conservative.

And that backlash in Karachi is killing its workers. Who is missing from this list of the dead? What major party, known for its Karachi stronghold, doesn't seem to have its workers dying here? Obviously, the urban, centre right, "purportedly" non-ethnic MQM. I seriously doubt that ANP members are gunning for PPP people. Or that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Pakistani Taliban would waste their meagre and hunted resources in Karachi, wreaking vengeance on their old ANP foe.

The article is missing any references to the MQM. The Dawn newspaper has a policy of simply boycotting coverage of the MQM, unless another party mentions it. Ergo, we are left with only one culprit hunting down rival parties members all over Karachi.

Of course the last question is, why? Why is the MQM hunting members of opposing parties? Two old reasons and a surprising new one. Firstly there is the old segueway of political partywork connecting sometimes seamlessly into the criminal underground. There is a fight over the spoils of that. Secondly, the Musharraf dictatorship kept the city quiet by reading the MQM the riot act. The Musharraf dictatorship could use the stick of the Karachi Corps Command to whack anyone who decided to raise a ruckus in the country's major port city. But the present government either does not trust the military, is not trusted by the army, worries that if it unleashed the army, collateral damage might occur where the army goes after those it has been aching in Karachi to harm and the ensuing collateral damage would be left strewn around the civilian governments neck. The fight for black and grey resources, and deep tensions over the use of the military to suppress the killings are two reasons why these killings continue.

But a new reason may simply be, that the left(ish) parties star may be rising. That parties like the PPP, ANP and JSQM may be gaining a filip because the poor labourers who a generation ago voted for them, now have educated children who want to go up in the world, recognise these parties as a ready made vehicle to work from their own ethnic perspective and wish to use them to improve their own position. The MQM has its own children who want to rise, but whereas a generation ago it was the MQM's cadres that could boast of being "educated" (completing high school, gaining some college education, completing bachelors) a new multi-ethnic "educated" generation has come about in Karachi, one where ethnicity is not considered a great barrier to being called "educated". The desire for upward mobility is no longer the sole prerogrative of the Muhajir working and middle class. Its spread across ethnic lines to many children of Karachi, who's families could a generation ago be described as "rural" when they arrived in the city.

So the younger, more desperate have linked up with these national and nationalist parties, the fight for control over Karachi's resources has gotten more desperate, and the desire to make something of oneself manifests itself in greater, more reckless displays of political bravery. And the aging youth (pretty soon aging men) of the MQM, find themselves having to face a tide of younger and possibly hungrier kids. The children don't have martial co-ordination as good as the MQM, so they find themselves more the hunted, than the hunter in these targetted killings. And why should the ANP, PPP and JSQM have better internal co-ordination than the MQM? They've demonstrated their lack of capacity to respond effectively or demonstrably whilst in government. So the MQM can continue sending out bullet ridden messages to workers of rival parties.

And what does our government do, in a situation that can only be described as a rising tide? One in this case of human blood and not salt water
At the central police office, it sets up a "special cell", which, "has been recently set up on the chief minister`s directives to keep the exact record of targeted killings in an effort to prevent misreporting of the incidents in the print and electronic media."

Our government decides to just sit at home and count the bodies.

Which considering the past behaviour of our government, seems quite apt.


Shahzeb Najam said...

Excellent post, sir. Though I'd add that it also has much to do with the armed cadres patronised by all parties and the lucrative, shady war over prime real estate.

TLW said...

Excellent summary Shahzeb. Control of the black to grey economy in general, but control for prime real estate in particular.