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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Violence in Karachi: The hell that is hate

The hell that is hate
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Samina Wahid Perozani

It all started when the driver and the conductor of a bus were beaten up by an angry mob in Moosa Colony. Soon enough, news of this incident spread to other parts of Karachi giving rise to an ethnic strife. The spate of violence played out for a good three days – educational institutions and commercial areas remained closed, public transport was sporadic and rumours were a dime a dozen (reports of chopping off people's ears and pouring adhesive in their eyes made the rounds). The death toll, going by the news reports, was an alarming 50 with countless lying in injured in hospitals to date.

Speculations about these cleverly contrived riots, it seems, have also been thriving. There are many who strongly believe that this 'so-called' strife was orchestrated by forces beyond our control – you know, Israeli, Indian, American and other such forces; anything that doesn't start with a 'P' and isn't laced with local and national vested interests. Others say it's a backlash: payback for what happened in Mumbai. For those who take the trouble to look past the conspiracy theories, the answer is quite simple – the cycle of violence last week stemmed from pure and simple hate. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the obvious, which in this case would be the unfortunate fact that a certain political group harbours immense dislike for a certain ethnic group. Why? Because the ethnic group in question has invaded the city, calling dibs on gainful means of employment such as selling fruit and livestock, driving public vehicles, and servicing all and sundry with tea and sustenance. A lot of this, say critics, has led to encroachments, land grabbing and, subsequently, the presence of slums in the city. "So this community really needs to go," said a colleague.

While one can't entirely disagree, it has to be said that this is no way to take care of a problem that has been germinating under our very noses for a very long time now. Yes, land grabbing cannot be endorsed and it's true that Karachi has one too many slums for its own good. But kicking out a community that was once warmly welcomed in the city and given ammunition for purposes of 'security' isn't really going to set things straight. Relocating human beings isn't the same as shifting farm animals – you can't suddenly decide one fine day that you don't want this group that you were keen to play host to before. It doesn't work like that with people. Unlike farm animals, they will resist if uprooted and in extreme cases, they may even retaliate. They will do whatever it takes to protect what they now know as home. It would help, however, to consider why this community is here in the first place – the relentless drone attacks in the northern parts of the country as well on Afghanistan, forcing them to flee and settle in Karachi. So you can kick them out and reclaim your city but where are you going to send them? The refugee camp? Or back to the borders where they don't know if they're going to live to see another day? But that is another long story; the kind that merits a separate article some other day.

Also, there is this little matter of replacing the labour that one is so intent on displacing. Is the political party in question really up to the challenge of driving buses, setting up tea stalls and the ilk in the city? Such jobs require hard work, the kind that not everyone in the city is used to doing. So are the party workers actually willing to go the distance just to prove that Karachi is their turf? Sadly, I think we all know the answer to that.

The writer is a staff member. Email: samina.perozani@gmail.com (The News)

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