Red, White and Black

Karachi: Carnage, Turmoil and Anguish
14 May, 2007, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

The events of the past two days have been harrowing. Most of us have been glued to television screens following the horrific scenes of gun-battles on the streets of Karachi. The violence that ensued on Saturday was expected by many quarters. What was not expected was the manner in which the law-enforcement authorities absconded responsibility of maintaining law and order in the city. 34 died on May 12. The Daily Times covered the story under the heading “Karachi bleeds, Nation weeps.” Indeed. 7 more died on Sunday as riotous scenes continued to mar the landscape of the city. According to the reports that have poured in, it is pretty evident that the government in Sindh and the Capital was least concerned with stemming the carnage. In fact, indications are to the contrary. I won’t say more on it as this post covers it very thoroughly. But allow me to make some other points.

While Karachi burned, festivities were in progress at the “Istakhaam-e-Pakistan” rally organised by the government in Islamabad. Supporters brought in from all over Punjab danced the bhangra to the beat of the drums – all the while Karachi continued to bleed. As if that was not callous enough, leaders of the ruling coalition could not manage two words of sincere regret and grief over the developments in Karachi. No sir. It was an evening for chest thumping and declaring to the world that the government could also rally support and nay, real support at that. The honourable President kept on saying that yeh hoti hai awaam ki support. It was distasteful. All he could manage on the Karachi carnage was a self-righteous i-told-you-so:

“But what has happened today in Karachi is because of the chief justice who went there ignoring the advice of the government over the issue,” he asserted.

Justifying what he described as his government’s move to counter the opposition-backed chief justice’s campaign of the past few weeks, President Musharraf said it was unfortunate that such a large number of people were killed or maimed in Karachi. But he was quick to hold the opposition parties, and in a way the chief justice, responsible for the violence.

I am thoroughly annoyed at the insensitivity and the indifference that shone through his speech. And from a man too, who never loses an opportunity to reiterate Sab Se Phele Pakistan. Sadly, we now stand at a point where it could be aptly be formulated as Sab Se Phele Musharraf. The crass indifference could not have been more palpable . Musharraf’s insecurity has never been more evident: last week’s Lahore rally had scared the living daylights out of him.

That brings me to the next point I wanted to make. Could the bloodshed in Karachi have been avoided? Probably not and especially so when you consider the antics of the MQM over the past week. But the counter-question needs to be posed: would it not have been in the interests of the nation if the CJ had postponed the visit? Yes, the government was wrong to announce the 12th May rally to counter the CJ. And yes, MQM thugs are primarily responsible for upping the ante and for putting up a bloodbath for the world to see. But it takes two to tango.

I still believe that better sense should have prevailed. I wonder whether the bloodshed would have ceased if the CJ went back to Islamabad earlier in the day instead of waiting till the evening? Or if the opposition parties called it quits and gave up the battle in the interest of the citizens of Karachi? The cynical part of me says no. But doing so would have been an acknowledgment of responsibility and maybe the carnage could have been cut short. For it is a downward spiral in Karachi from this point. And it is the public which will be caught in the cross-fire.

The last point I wanted to make was regarding the impact of live television. Never before has an internal conflict been so “real” and alive. Private television networks have brought the conflict to the living room. I don’t know know, yet, what sort of reaction will spawn from this… or will one at all? But certainly, viewing live shots of street carnage does leave an impact. And especially when they are not being fired in Beirut or Baghdad. And so do shots of a TV channel crew crouching and lying against a cement balcony to escape a continuous barrage of bullets for over 5 hours [#]. Something’s gotta give at the end of the day.

Three days of violence and political turmoil in the City of Light. Prayers are that the situation normalises soon and the hustle bustle of the city returns. But to state the obvious, this conflict is far from over.

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am appalled by what has happened… I’m sure y’all feel helpless but hang in there and make your voices heard… Its just the last gasps of an illegitimate and dying regime…

The educated elite needs to step up now… peaceful rally/ work slow down/ block roads by parking on streets.. make ur voices heard and make som things happen…

Apologize for bringing this up now but … some thought Mushy Saheb could be trusted…

Comment by Daz

I was among the some that Daz mentions. The some that had faith in Musharaf. I saw him going down with the initiation of his trip to the US last year. I was certain of it when the CJ issue came to the fore and after the incidents of this past weekend I cant wait to see him overthrown.
I am not aware if you had the opportunity to be exposed to the political workers of these parties but at the end of the day they work like a loose canon. You set them free, arm them or give them an objective and they get it done. I was a student at University of karachi and had first hand exposure to both the Jamiat and APMSO and they both stood eye to eye in their notrious means . You need to understand this to realize that even if the CJ had left Karachi earlier these loose canons would have continued on their demolition derby till such a time they felt tiered.
I recently watched a documentary on Warlords in Africa. They give their soldiers some herbs with a naturally occuring narcotic in it. Not MJ but something similar to cocaine. The soldiers, under the influence of that herb rum amok killing all who oppose them. I wouldnt be surprised if these goons were all in a state of a high when they went rampaging about the city.
Your point about the live video coverage is very apt. its helped dispel several myths and brought out the true face of several people. These journalist should be awarded for their bravery.
Heres to hoping that things stablize and take a turn for the better.

Comment by Kumail

@Kumail… I didnt mean to gloat.. we all make errors of judgement… I lost confidence when “In the Line of Fire” was published.. It was the 1st time that a sitting head of a country published his memoirs and actually dissed his country… amazing!

These points apart, I hope things get better soon… I really do feel for you folks and sincerely believe that untill things get better internally, external relations will always be hostage to “upping the ante”…

Once again I say, make things happen… show your displeasure using peaceful means…. workslowdowns, chain hunger strikes, black arm bands and the like…

May peace reign…

Comment by Daz

[…] White and Black writes about the carnage, turmoil and anguish of that day. The events of the past two days have been harrowing. Most of us have been glued to […]

Pingback by Global Voices Online » Pakistan: Blog-o-furious

[…] White and Black writes about the carnage, turmoil and anguish of that day. The events of the past two days have been harrowing. Most of us have been glued to […]

Pingback by

I am deeply saddened to see what happened in Karachi, literally happened around the same area where I have lived and roamed in the streets. It is painful to see what happened.

Never in the history of Karachi, we saw the deadbodies strewn across the streets like this, it was hard to believe it was not Baghadad.

I don’t think so CJ should have left, the whole thing was pre-meditated. Even before the incident, when government raised the suspicion that there may be violence. Why effective steps were not taken to prevent it?

In a democratic society (or so called democratic society of Musharraf) people have the right to protest. MQM can go ahead for a pro-Musharraf rally if all they want. But who blocked the CJ at the airport, who created the barrages on the streets. The rally could have gone very peacefully as it went in other cities, but it was the open hand given to MQM goons by Musharraf and PML-Q that led to the whole carnage.

MQM is a part of provinicial and city governments. Governor and Nazim, both are form MQM. Infact, I will not rule out the component of ethnic undertones here. Karachi has always been the stronghold of MQM, how can they ever see a CJ coming from Punjab and holding a rally against their government?

The whole responsibility for this goes to Federal, Provinicial and City governments. It was blatant state-sponsored terrorism against its own people.

Comment by Faraz Masood

Long live General Musharraf … our lord and savior for 1000 years. When the general came to power , many educated pakistanis supported him. Now goondas and hooligans are supporting his vision for pakistan.

Comment by Prabhu

[…] become of your country when the ruling party, nay your very Prime Minister, visits Nine-Zero (yes, the very same) to devise a broad-based coalition for the upcoming elections? Of course, May 12 is just a distant […]

Pingback by Is there a silver lining? « Red, White and Black

In the context of 12 may.We must think who will be voted by us in the upcoming elections.

Comment by Saim Baig

That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.

Short but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one.
A must read article!

Comment by precision part

I get pleasure from, cause I found just what I used to be taking a look for.

You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man.
Have a nice day. Bye

Comment by wibratory

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: