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A political paradigm shift

It is needless to emphasise that the Rangers operation in Karachi – notwithstanding the tactics employed by the MQM and PPP to thwart it – has been instrumental in restoring peace and order to a great extent.

According to a recent survey, 80 percent of the people of Karachi and an overwhelming majority of people all over the country are in favour of the operation’s continuation without any let up or discrimination. The failure of the recent MQM call for a shutter-down strike to show solidarity and protest against the killing of three of its workers in an encounter with the Rangers near Sorab Goth amply testifies to the fact that the people of Karachi are gradually coming out of the fear syndrome created by the militant wings and target killers belonging to these parties. This response also indicates the growing confidence of the citizens of Karachi in the ability and outreach of the Rangers to protect them against criminals.

There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that the MQM and the PPP are mainly responsible for whatever has being happening in Karachi in the past – for the sporadic incidents of target killing and terrorism that are still taking place. When the targeted operation was launched in September 2013 it was very much expected that both these parties would ultimately try to sabotage the operation for obvious reasons.

The MQM was the first to protest against the operation by the Rangers, alleging that it was actually a witch-hunt against the party. Altaf Hussain spoke harshly against the Rangers and the security establishment, and the Rabita Committee also used strike calls, protests at the local level as well as in the assemblies to put pressure on the government. As a last resort it also resigned from legislatures to put pressure on the government, an issue which is still to be decided.

The PPP is also now furious about the arrests made by the Rangers in connection with terror-related corruption; the arrests include that of Dr Asim Hussain. The conviction of Sindh MPA Syed Ali Nawaz Shah by an accountability court has also been harshly criticised by Asif Ali Zardari, who has termed it political victimisation. The Sindh government is also unhappy about the raids conducted by NAB and FIA to apprehend corrupt elements. This the Sindh government considers interference in provincial affairs and an encroachment on the authority of the provincial government.

Though the PPP has decided not to resign from the assemblies, it has adopted a confrontational policy against the PML-N government whom it accuses of relapsing into the politics of the 1990s, characterised by political vendetta. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, on the instructions of the party high command, also protested against the operations conducted by NAB and FIA in the recently held meeting of the federal apex committee.

There are however credible portents to suggest that the federal government and the security establishment who are decidedly on the same page regarding the Karachi operation and the implementation of NAP, are determined to stay on course rising above the political expediencies. In the high-level meeting chaired by the prime minister on September 1 and the federal apex committee meeting, the message that was given unequivocally was that the Karachi operation would go on come what may.

The prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over some provinces not doing enough on the implementation of NAP. The committee decided to expedite action against militants in Balochistan, and crush elements challenging the writ of the state. Not only the government but the judiciary has also taken action against the machinations of the MQM. A full bench of the Lahore High Court has imposed a complete ban on the speeches of Altaf Hussain as well as his pictures.

In view of the foregoing developments and the support of the masses to the steps being taken by the Rangers in Karachi, and the unstinted resolve of the federal government and the security establishment to eliminate terrorism and militancy at all costs, the MQM and PPP have no choice other than bringing a paradigm shift in their outlook by dissociating themselves from target killers, militants and land mafias. Their hey days are over and sooner they realise this, the better. The political future of both these parties hinges on the required paradigm shift in their style of politics.

Public perception about the MQM and the provincial chapter of the PPP is not so enviable. Most people perceive them as patrons of target killers, extortionists and the land mafia. It would really be difficult for both of them to re-establish their credentials as political parties dedicated and committed to pursuing political objectives through political and legitimate means and the entities gravitating to promote public welfare.

It is said that perceptions are more important than anything else when it comes to winning public franchise. The MQM undoubtedly has a strong political base and the support of the majority of the Mohajir community in Karachi and Hyderabad. That support and energy needs to be employed to more productive channels instead of confrontation with the establishment and the federal government. The odds are heavily against the MQM and, therefore, it needs serious rethinking. Old tricks and antics are not going to work anymore. That is clearly written on the wall.

The same goes for the PPP, which has lost its status as the biggest national political entity and is now confined only to Sindh. That is indeed a very sad development but the party has only itself to blame for that. Its inability to deliver during its five years in power under Zardari, and the perception about unprecedented corruption indulged by the party big-wigs including two former prime ministers, are beyond any iota of doubt responsible for its complete rout in Punjab.

To be able to re-emerge as a potent political force at the national level, which Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is trying to do at the moment, will to a great extent depend on the party being able to resurrect its image through a genuine and honest effort geared towards discarding politics of graft and entitlement and taking a detour from traditional politics which has almost become redundant in the changed political environment.

Pakistan is faced with a now or never situation as far as terrorism, militancy and terror-related corruption and patronage are concerned. Therefore, political forces like the MQM and PPP need to extend unqualified support for the efforts to eliminate these scourges from the country. The security, integrity and survival of the country take precedence over all other considerations.

The federal government and security forces must accomplish the task without any hiccups, making sure that the Rangers operation in Karachi remains indiscriminate and transparent to the possible extent. Similarly the implementation of NAP must be ensured with utmost urgency. The provincial governments about whom the prime minister complained in the meeting of the federal apex committee meeting also need to pull up their socks and become willing partners in this national effort.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: ashpak10@gmail.com

Malik Muhammad Ashraf, "A political paradigm shift," The News. 2015-09-21.
Keywords: Political science , National security , Political parties , Terrorism prevention , Ranger operation-Karachi , Asif Ali Zardari , Dr. Asim Hussain , Altaf Hussain Bilawal , Qaim Ali Shah , Karachi , Sorab Goth , MQM , PPP , NAB , FIA , PML-N