Having just returned, it would be remiss of your Blogger not add a few words on the appalling carnage that took place in Karachi two weeks ago today.
Most of us by now have our own view on what took place and why it took place, so it is pointless for me to regurgitate what is already widely known. So, instead I’ll just simply state my own assessment of the Karachi bloodbath.
For me, the first indication of the coming slaughter took place on the night of 11 May when Geo reported that five unidentified men shot dead a private security guard employed by a shopkeeper who had refused to succumb to their demand to shut down his shop on Shahrah-e-Faisal (Drigh Road).
What was attention-grabbing was the fact that this shop was located at Falak Naz Plaza, the very point where the exiting road from the airport connects with Shahrah-e-Faisal.
Geo TV then quoted an MQM spokesman who blamed the murder on Punjabi-Pakhtoon Ittehad (PPI) but this was very soon contradicted by eyewitnesses who told Geo that the culprits were dark-skinned (‘kalay rung kay thay’), in other words they were suggesting that the killers were neither Punjabi nor Pathans. The insinuation was clear – according to them the killers were most likely members of the MQM.
Then, as The News reported on the morning of 12 May:
… the police in Karachi on late Friday night blocked sections of Shara-e-Faisal and its link roads, forcing hotels, shops and petrol pumps to close down. The law-enforcement agencies used containers and trucks to block streets and roads that open to Shara-e-Faisal.
After vehemently denying it for days the MQM finally confessed last week that it had been responsible for blockading all roads leading to Shara-e-Faisal, the arterial road linking the city to its airport:
Waseem Akhtar, adviser to the Sindh government and leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), admitted … that he had directed the authorities concerned to block Shahra-e-Faisal with containers to stop the rallies on May 12.
And so on the morning of the Chief Justice’s arrival to Karachi Shahra-e-Faisal was hermetically sealed to all approaching traffic from Metropole Hotel all the way to the airport.
Soon after the Chief Justice’s plane landed heavy gunfire pervaded the air near Falak Naz Plaza once again, successfully blockading off the airport from Shahra-e-Faisal.
Then Geo TV began reporting heavy crossfire between the MQM and opposition rallies at most major intersections of Shahra-e-Faisal. This piece of news puzzled me greatly. How, I wondered, could the MQM rally which was centred on Bunder Road (also known as M. A. Jinnah Road) stumble upon opposition rallies which were clogged up at the various blockades on Shahra-e-Faisal some three miles away.
Subsequent live pictures from the scene cleared up this initial piece of misreporting. There was no meeting of opposing rallies and no crossfire, instead what we witnessed were dozens of gunmen positioned on the raised bridges and flyovers above Shahra-e-Faisal (at crossing such as Baloch Colony, Rashid Minhas Road, etc) intently engaged in a turkey shoot of opposition party supporters. With their cars and vans all jammed up at the block points on Shahra-e-Faisal there was little room for the hapless victims to find shelter. A massacre ensued.
To the best of my knowledge no MQM supporter is believed to have died near the vicinity of Shahra-e-Faisal. However, it is common knowledge that a handful of MQM people did die on 12 May. It now emerges that these persons were killed that day during a ferocious gun battle west of Bunder Road. Here the MQM gunmen encountered a heavily armed jihadi/MMA mob who took them on bullet for bullet. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as this part of town neighbours the vast Binori Masjid madarassa complex.
For those still unconvinced about MQM’s role in the carnage, I suggest they take a look this video clip available on YouTube.com (‘Real Face of MQM Exposed’) which contradicts their spurious claims of innocence.
It should also be noted that while MQM gunmen were freely wandering around Karachi with their lethal automatic weapons, Sindh’s MQM controlled Home Department ensured that Karachi police remained completely weaponless for that day.
As the Daily Times reported the next day:
KARACHI: Police personnel in Sindh were still weaponless Sunday, one day after Saturday’s bloodbath. The Sindh home department had directed the police departments to take back the weapons of all personnel deployed to control law and order on May 12, sources disclosed to Daily Times. Most of the police were given batons instead. Around 15,000 policemen were deployed to control the situation on Saturday. However, most of the policemen preferred to stay away from the violent areas on May 12 because they had no weapons.
A few hours after being stunned by the scenes of death and destruction in Karachi I was staggered to see a prancing Musharraf raise both his fists in the air and tell a gathered rent-a-crowd in Islamabad ‘Karachi nay aaj hummai’n apnee takat dikhaee’.
In parting I would like to leave you with quote from a UK-based writer and broadcaster Ziauddin Sardar:
Anyone who objects to the military dictatorship of President Pervez Musharraf can disappear at any time, anywhere. …Every Pakistani is now asking how many others will disappear, how many atrocities will be committed, before General Musharraf realises that he has overstayed his welcome. Unfortunately, Musharraf is incapable of realising anything. He is determined to hang on to power come what may. So the body count in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan is set to accelerate.
PS: While overseas my viewing was limited to a friend’s subscription of Geo TV. Hence my comments are largely restricted to what I saw on this particular news channel and some news items I subsequently read on the Net.
For those interested, on 12 May BBC reported that the MQM rally at Karachi numbered no more than 25,000 to 30,000 people, a substantial let down for Altaf Hussain. While Musharraf's Islamabad rally of '500,000 supporters' on the same day is believed to have numbered no more than 50,000 people 'rented' for the occasion from all over Punjab.