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July 13, 2020

Criminalisation of politics

Top Story

July 13, 2020

Politics has been criminalised in the last 40 years and Karachi, once the hub of political resistance turned into hub of criminals since the first Afghan war through drugs and weapons, which in the mid 80s use to dump at Sohrab Goth at the outskirts of the city for supply in the city and smuggled abroad.

All this happened in the 11 years of Pakistan’s worst dictatorship, resulting in the rise of criminal gangs, ethnic and sectarian groups in a bid to depoliticise society. With over 50,000 people killed in this city alone politics was the ultimate loser. Karachi never returned to normalcy neither its politics.

For the past one week we are only playing politics over ‘JITs’ otherwise Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi had not kept whatever documents he got three years ago. Similarly, why the Sindh government never bothered to public JITs and waited for someone to approach Sindh High Court. Thirdly, why Rangers and law-enforcement agencies despite having powers never arrested or prosecuted those named in the confessional statements of three JITs. Since JITs have no legal value it is only being used for archives of home ministry or Intelligence agencies.

If we really want to bring back normalcy in society we not only have to separate politics from crime but also need to stop making and supporting ‘criminal gangs and groups’. There are no ‘good and bad terrorists or criminals’. It is also high time to stop forming political groups for any balancing act. It is time to end the culture of ‘political engineering’.

Corruption leads to crime and can only be checked through ‘across the board accountability’ and ‘Ehtesab for all’.

This city of nearly 30 million people had witnessed too much blood from the ‘proxy war’ in the post-Iranian and Afghan revolution and war in the presence of al-Qaeda and Taliban. So, the big question which needs to be answered is who should be blamed for all this? Those who supported the first Afghan war did not realise the damage it caused to Pakistani society, its culture and politics. Like some of my journalist colleagues I am a witness to countless bodies, murders of prominent personalities whose killers never caught or punished and how ‘pressure groups’ were formed in a bid to counter others.

Formation of MQM-Haqiqi in 1992, in a bid to counter MQM’s militancy led to the killing of hundreds of their workers and aggravated the situation. This also led to differences of opinion between the two premier agencies. One agency wanted complete clean up of criminals while other wanted a parallel group to counter its politics. All this further aggravated the law and order situation.

When former chief minister Syed Ghous Ali Shah in 1986 orders ‘operation clean-up’ in Sohrab Goth, the ‘mafia’ reacted with large scale killings and what happened in Aligarh and Qasba Colony, where around 150 people burnt alive or killed was the ultimate outcome of such criminalisation. Shah sb once told me in an interview few years back that he faced immense pressure to stop the operation. “Yes, I was told to stop the operation for reasons best known to them who asked me and it was stopped”.

The ‘militant factor’ in otherwise popular party the then Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), which later re-named as Muttahida Qaumi Movement not only damaged the party but for all practical purposes dumped after 2016. But who used it and for what purpose over the years is another story but if someone placed facts about May 12, 2007 it would not be difficult to find out how powerful quarters used ‘militant factor’ for political gain.

The story of Lyari and ‘Lyari gang war’ has its own history. The politics of Lyari prior to the rise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the PPP were in the hands of ‘Haroon family’. At that time, gangs of Dad Mohammad and Sheru Dad were well known.

In the 1970 elections, the PPP’s candidate Abdul Sattar Gabol defeated Saeed Haroon (both deceased now) by a big margin and the PPP’s Ahmad Ali Somroo also won an MPA seat. According to some of the elders of Lyari, one of the reasons why Lyari became PPP’s strongest constituency till 2013 was because Bhutto sent thousands of unemployed youth for jobs in the Middle East particularly to Muscat, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Lyari has a long list of political workers and leaders, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy. Many turned to militancy after Gen Zia hanged Bhutto and his two sons Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto formed ‘Al-Zulfikar Organisation’. However, mainstream the PPP activists kept themselves away from the AZO and prominent leaders of Lyari like Rahim Bux Baloch, late Abdul Khaliq Jumma, Waja Karim Dad, Ali Hingoro and others tried to keep the youth away from the AZO.

After the hijacking of PIA airline in February 1981, hundreds of PPP activists from Lyari faced charges which they denied. However, they were convicted by a military court, with years and lashes. Some were even sentenced to death and hanged.

Benazir Bhutto and Murtaza Bhutto had different styles of politics. In April 1986 Benazir Bhutto decided to end her exile and she went to Damascus and tried to bring Murtaza along and asked her to join mainstream politics. But he was of the view that her sister committed blunder by trusting the then establishment.

In May 1986, Benazir called a meeting of the PPP Karachi Division and told them that all those who still wanted to go with Murtaza could quit the party and she won’t tolerate any kind of militancy or any militant wing in the party.

The term ‘Lyari gang war’ was first coined by the police after the 1992 operation. The elders of Lyari blamed police for supply of ‘heroin and charas’ through their hand-picked gangs to depoliticise the area, in which they ultimately succeeded. With the passage of time the youth of Lyari either joined one gang or the other while others became part of sectarian outfits or banned groups.

The PPP committed a political blunder when in 2008 for reason best known to them they became a party in ‘gang war’ first through Abdul Rehman Baloch and then tried to use Uzair Jan Baloch, the decision which damaged the PPP politically and the result of 2018 was an eye-opener when for the first time even a ‘Bhutto’ lost. Bilawal Bhutto, grandson of ZAB and son of Benazir Bhutto lost to the former PPP worker Shakoor Shad of the PTI.

However, it is also a fact that the PTI after the 2013 elections also tried to make inroads in Lyari through Uzair after latter developed differences with the PPP leadership. But Shad blocked their negotiations as he was against Uzair and Habib Jan.

The way forward is simple ie politics and crime can’t go together and law has to take its due course with ‘criminal- free’ police force.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO