• Sunday, October 20, 2019

Deweaponising Karachi: excellent article by Ikram Sehgal

Discussion in 'Pakistani Siasat' started by W.11, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. W.11

    W.11 ELITE MEMBER

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    The Rangers-led ‘targeted operation’ to restore peace to the city under the direction of the Sindh government commenced on a low-key level – a number of ‘suspects’ taken into custody and some arms and ammunition seized. It remains to be seen whether putting the operation into high gear will make an improvement since the lawlessness continues as before in public perception.

    The Rangers have only a limited, determined and surgical role; tasking them alone for the long run could be fraught with risk. Under no conditions should the army get embroiled in Karachi under Article 245. That would be an invitation to disaster. While the Rangers have the wherewithal for urban area operations and the determination to do so, the ultimate responsibility for law and order in the city must rest with the Sindh Police, they must not be sidelined. Theirs is the constitutional responsibility to exercise the law-enforcement infrastructure of the city.

    A very fine police officer, Additional IG Shahid Hayat, has taken over as CCPO Karachi. While he has set about making changes, he has his work cut out for him. His immediate challenge is to restore the morale within the rank and file. While the politicisation of the police force over the last two decades has been horrendous, far more dangerous was that their different political bosses encouraged ‘criminalisation’ across the board.

    Shahid Hayat’s team cannot accomplish miracles. However, given a clear mandate to implement rule of law without interference from their political and bureaucratic bosses they can certainly do some good. The federal government must review the credentials of all Sindh Police officers who were reverted to their parent departments by the Supreme Court because of irregularities committed by various political governments. Their experience can be invaluable in the ongoing process.

    For the moment Ch Nisar Ali Khan, the federal interior minister seems to be coping. A level-headed person, Ch Nisar is engaged in initiating reforms in law-enforcement entities in an organised manner. He is a sea change from his predecessor. Rehman Malik, more than anyone else, created havoc with the peace of the city with his ‘voodoo’ brand of politics, reducing this once bustling metropolis into a virtual state of anarchy.

    The big challenge is that the MQM contests the transparency of the ongoing process. The key to success is that the perception of even-handedness must be firmly established in the minds of the people. To protect against excesses the government is creating a ‘Public Safety Commission’ (PSC) for oversight on the operations. Armed with powers of an ombudsman duly mandated by law, the PSC should be empowered to take all actions necessary to stop infringement of fundamental rights of the common citizen.

    The PML-N’s Zahid Hamid, assisted by some legal eagles who have Karachi experience, is putting the final touch to laws amending Article 245 of the constitution for a specified period to empower civil armed forces and give them the same legal cover as the army, the amendment renewable if required.

    Karachi’s deweaponisation will not only halt lawlessness but also put an end to the proliferating terrorism that is hurting Karachi economically, socially, culturally, and above all psychologically. In which other city in the world do citizens run around freely toting weapons? Even dozens of such trumpeted operations will not rid us of the menace of criminality and terrorism if deweaponisation is not ensured.

    Armed guards without uniforms are a common sight; hundreds are seen at functions outside hotels, wedding halls, etc. The number of weapons in Karachi, legal and illegal, must run into the millions. How does one differentiate whether a man carrying a gun is a law enforcer or a criminal? There have to be very drastic orders for this, the same as for looters.

    Collateral damage is to be expected – it must be accepted. More than 1700 people have been killed by ‘target killing’ in the first six months of 2013 alone. Effective laws must empower the police and the Rangers to not only arrest those found in possession of illegal weapons but to be able to punish them on the spot. Deweaponisation must not become controversial, which could happen if politicised by vested interests.

    Deweaponisation is only one of the logical answers to Karachi’s many ills. Local bodies elections must be held for a workable and democratic local self-government system. Grave apprehension arose in the ruling Muslim League (in West Pakistan) dominated by landlords when the East Bengal Assembly in 1951 voted to end feudalism by abolishing Permanent Settlement and absentee landlordism, imposing ceilings on landholdings and thus making sure that no new feudal landholding was able to crop up.

    Not surprisingly feudals have never allowed meaningful land reform in Pakistan. Without grassroots participation, a defaced version of democracy creates a vacuum ripe for exploitation by both criminals and terrorists. There must be a genuine exercise of executive authority instead of paying mere lip-service to local self-governance.

    Given all the different versions of local self government being bandied about, the Supreme Court must step in to mandate a self-government law to be common all over Pakistan, with only minor adjustments peculiar to each province. The danger of having widely different systems is that it will encourage separatism as the constituent units of the federation become distant to each other. With meaningful participation of the citizens of the community strangers are quickly identified, helping to unearth ‘terrorist safe houses’. The community will ensure that their constituents do not take part or are involved in any criminal or terrorist activity.

    The print and electronic media must conduct a self-critical review of their own performance in the national interest, remaining non-partisan, keeping their objectivity and ethics thereof intact. Freedom cannot be taken as a licence to do anything. Can we allow the integrity of the state and its citizens to be subject to motivated logic?

    The media has been wonderful in raising awareness in people but it cannot continue functioning in a ‘free-for-all’ manner. It can only overcome its internal shortcomings through self-examination and self-regulation. This is all the more necessary in countries like Pakistan where the norms and institutions of democracy are not well-established.

    Peace can only come to this city if the LEAs perform to their capacity. Despite the handicaps imposed upon them, the Rangers and the police have still kept Karachi from descending into anarchy. There are no easy solutions to the problems confronting Karachi today, certainly not if the proposed solution becomes a bigger problem.

    The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: ikram.sehgal@wpplsms.com
     
  2. forcetrip

    forcetrip PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    With a population like karachi, there is no way I will give up my weapons. Fix the law and order first and make me comfortable in believing that I will not need weapons to protect myself. First work on deweaponizing the illegal guns and you will not have to worry about the out of control gun crime. I do not see the situation ever changing unless a massive depopulation happens in the city like the Holocaust or building of a new major city in sindh. Since we are broke, so no new city and people don't want to work and find stealing as a better alternative, I will be keeping my guns till I won't be living in the country anymore.