Sunday, November 14, 2010


Not sure of the leanings of his inquisitors, the Irishman decided to play it safe, “I am an atheist!” he declared. “Ah, yes,” came the reply, “but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?”Over the past decade, and ever-increasing all over the country, what has come to be known as (particularly in Karachi) targeted killings have come in all hues, shapes and sizes. The violence has not been senseless (as we observe), indiscriminate or impulsive, but very deliberate, meticulously planned and clearly directed. It has taken the form of suicide bombings, mass shootings or single or group murders.
Reasons have included religious bigotry, fanaticism and brain-washing in the case of the suicide bombers and mass shootings; ethnic hatred, lust for land, economic jealousy and mafia politics, etc.
The victims have been members of political parties, or of different religions or sects: men, women, children, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Muslims, Punjabis, Baloch, Pathans, Mohajirs, Sindhis, Sunnis, Shias, businessmen, doctors, government servants, social activists, anti-drug advocates — you name it.
Somehow, groups sponsoring targeted killings believe that the elimination of some or most of their targets is likely to solve their problems. This has evolved into a `tit-for-tat` response from the targeted group. Since the present `democracy is the best revenge` government took over, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that the average killing rate in Karachi has escalated from 104 per month (2008), to 147 per month (2009), to 172 per month (2010).
Targeted killing scores can proliferate only in a society where the writ of law has evaporated. Law and order have never been part and parcel of government in Pakistan apart from a relatively short while when the country came into being and to a certain extent up to the end of the 1960s.
Founder-maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah`s exhortation to his constituent assembly, prior to the birth of Pakistan, that the first duty of any government is to impose and maintain law and order has for decades fallen upon deaf ears and today has been trashed by the false heirs of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto presiding over a population imbued with Ziaul Haq`s tormented brand of religion to which morals, right and wrong, have no place in life.
The mathematical balance so far has been in favour of the perpetrators. More innocents have been exterminated than vicious killers caught, tried and punished. If Pakistan is to overcome this the root causes of the disaffection must be addressed. Needed: economic justice, educational reforms, population control and, above all, the banishment of bigotry and the coming of a spirit of tolerance.
One year ago today, Nisar Baloch, a social activist from the Trans-Lyari area of Karachi and a member of Shehri, the environmental NGO, was gunned down. For 16 years, Nisar had tried to protect the remaining 430 acres of the original 1,000 of Gutter Baghicha amenity land from various mafias bent on establishing housing colonies, industrial/commercial units and water hydrants in the sewage farm.
He battled the bad guys on the streets, in the government offices and in the superior courts — but was unable to convince the powers-that-be to follow the law and preserve the park space.
In May 2008 the president announced that Rs400m would be given, as part of the Green Karachi Project, to the 163-acre `National Park` being established in Gutter Baghicha. A large section of this under-construction park had not been developed and was left vacant by the city government (CDGK), apparently to facilitate its illegal occupation by a political group. This invasion of the park started in mid-June 2009, and although, after prolonged area protests, an FIR was registered against the land-grabbers, the government did nothing to evict them.
Six weeks after the invasion, the city council passed a resolution on July 29, 2009, sanctioning plots in Gutter Baghicha to alleged “old inhabitants” of the adjacent Hasrat Mohani Colony who had been displaced 27 years earlier (!) when the katchi abadi was regularised. To support this scam, CDGK officials even submitted in court a revised plan of the `National Park` with some 50 acres sliced off.
Of course, no KMC records and maps were presented to confirm that these “old inhabitants” actually lived in Hasrat Mohani Colony. No one knew where they had been for the past two-and-a-half decades, nor why they were allowed to build under armed protection in such haste without KBCA-approved plans, nor how their lease formalities and utility (KESC, KWSB, SSGC) connections were executed virtually overnight.
The Sindh government and Karachi administration know exactly what is going on (the land-grabbing at Gutter Baghicha increases daily) and who is responsible for the targeted killing of Nisar Baloch. The chief minister continues to wax eloquent about recovering public land from mafias in the province, and sets up committees to do so. The federal interior and Sindh home ministers splutter and fume about no one being above the law. Who believes one of them?
The reason many of us are still here today cannot be ascribed to Jinnah`s 1947 vision of the primacy of “law and order”. It just doesn`t exist. If one of us were to be killed tomorrow, as is happening on a daily basis all over the land, there will be no arrests, no punishment meted out.
The probable explanation for our still being alive is that our number has not yet come — or if we are in Karachi the correct size of gunny bag is not available.

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