BY SHAHAB USTO
THE recent spike in attacks on security forces has yet again exposed Karachi’s vulnerable security environment, prompting the provincial government to add more anti-terrorism courts, prosecutors and police personnel. However, it bears thinking whether these actions are sufficient to meet the security challenges that are rooted not only in terrorism but, more significantly, in the three constants of Karachi’s body politic — identity, ownership and governance.
Identity: Karachi was initially a small but cosmopolitan city, where various communities lived in harmony. But after independence, the city’s socio-cultural and political complexion kept changing because of four successive influxes. First, from 1947 through the 1950s, Karachi came to be identified as predominantly Urdu-speaking. Thousands of people from the Indian provinces of UP, Bihar and what was then known as Central Provinces, settled in the city while a large number of Hindus and Sikhs left for India.
In the 1960s, Karachi received the second wave of immigrants, mainly Pakhtun, from the then NWFP. As they entered the labour market particularly in the construction, transport, security and ports and shipping sectors, the city’s ethnic relations came under strain and riots ensued.
The third influx found its way to Karachi in the 1980s following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Many of these Afghans even received local residencies, thanks to state patronage and connivance of local registration offices. Indeed, the ‘Afghan factor’ combined with Gen Ziaul Haq’s policy of dividing political forces in Sindh along ethnic lines to weaken the PPP’s urban appeal, drastically transformed the city’s face and security environment. The city saw an emergence of an arms-and-drugs market and the attendant political and criminal militias controlling various territories through violence.
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