Once a major political party that yielded influence over a city inhabited by over 23 million, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of today remains nostalgic of its lost charm. The party has split into factions, and not a single faction has appeared as a force to reckon with, despite high hopes.
But, judging from the events of the last two weeks, the political landscape of the city seems to be changing. There is a correlation, if not causation, between what has happened in the Kingston-upon-Thames crown court recently and the events that have unfolded in the streets of Karachi.
In the duration constituting start of the trial of MQM supremo Altaf Hussain and a favourable verdict by the jury, a lot has happened in Karachi. Even before the start of the trial, there was a baton charge by the Sindh Police on an MQM-P rally in the city, leading to the death of a protestor and injuries to several others. Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the situation. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also took notice of this unprovoked crackdown on the right of peaceful protest. The situation was diffused to a great extent.
There is a correlation, if not causation, between what has happened in the Kingston-upon-Thames crown court recently and the events that have unfolded in the streets of Karachi.
But this was not a one off incident. Several governance and law and order failures have followed since which highlight the deep fault lines in the city’s management issues. Senior journalist Athar Mateen was shot dead in a robbery bid. More than 100 people were looted in Korangi by 10 armed dacoits, while the law enforcement officials remained at bay. Previously, a newly married man was killed when he tried to stop robbers from looting his family. It turned out that the robber was in fact a policeman who later shot himself. There are several videos doing rounds on the social media, where men potentially portraying themselves as law enforcement personnel are seen harassing citizens or sometimes even attempting to carry out a robbery.
Security is the foremost right of every citizen, and when it is repeatedly compromised, it lays down the groundwork for change. It initiates a lookout for an alternative, and in this search, people tend to ignore the drawbacks of that alternative, owing to their frustration with the present, and desperation for the better.
It was in this backdrop that celebrations of the verdict started in London. Around the same time, the local factions began to reach a compromise acceptable to all. Even those, who were previously undeterred in their opposition, started showing flexibility.
Many political analysts are busy connecting these dots to predict what the coming days hold for the city. But the only question that holds immense importance for any ordinary citizen of Karachi is whether there is hope for the better? Even if there is not, they must be told there is.
People of Karachi are least concerned about any political formulae except one that improves the condition of their city, and this has to be taken into consideration by quarters who call the shots.
The city infrastructure has collapsed already. Inflation has shattered the already crippled incomes of the middle class and has sent the lower class reeling to the ropes. Provision of basic amenities such as water, gas and electricity has become a lucrative commercial enterprise big enough to accommodate multiple stakeholders. Public transport has shrunk in size. Projects like the Green Line are meant to achieve political mileage only. Traffic is unmanageable. Routine municipal functions, such as road repairs, are considered to be big political favours supposed to garner votes in upcoming elections.
Mired in all these problems, and hundreds others that are too long to list down, people of Karachi are least concerned about any political formulae except one that improves the condition of their city, and this has to be taken into consideration by quarters who call the shots.
In a representative democracy, especially in context of a vibrant and cross-cultural hub that Karachi is, people’s voices materialise sooner or later. No one can be deprived of their space on the political stage, and it is this reality that manifests itself in every transition that comes periodically. Karachi has seen a lot of these before, and none is going to be the last. Everyone who comes to power must have only one priority in mind — how to make this city a better place to live.
Karachi is a house with many mansions. Politics of exclusion will not help. Only when all stakeholders will work together to create and maintain a delicate balance of compromise, will the city be saved. At the moment, Karachi’s survival is at stake. Ethnic appeals, settling previous political scores, indulging in incendiary rhetoric and fanning hatred will further risk its survival. If there is any opportunity looming on the political front, it must be taken only as a chance to pay back the city for what it has given us.