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October 23, 2010

A little late

Lahore

October 23, 2010

The massive security deployment the interior minister says will now be effected in Karachi appears to come a little late in the day. Had the 3,000 additional security personnel been put in place a little sooner, we could have avoided the frenzied violence that led to 90 people being killed within days. The calm that has descended since is an uneasy one, with 'occasional' deaths still being reported. Mr Rehman Malik's announcement comes after a flurry of meetings in the city. Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who accompanied Mr Malik during his press conference in Karachi on Friday, has been holding meetings with the ANP and the MQM. He has warned all political groups to avoid hurling accusations against each other. There is talk now of "targeted action" – instead of an operation – against criminals and mafias. Mr Malik and Dr Mirza also tell us that intelligence agencies are now closing in on targets – but given that such claims have been made before, it is probably wise to wait and see if the actions now taken can restore peace on the streets and allow life to return to normal in a city that has seen regular bouts of violence this year.
We must hope that this time round intelligence and security agencies are able to perform the duties they have been entrusted with. So far there has been an element of mystery about who is responsible for the mayhem in Karachi. Land-grabbers have been blamed for some of the violence, but it seems unlikely that criminal elements could have acted alone. What we badly need is far more intelligence on what is happening and why. The failure on this count has, to a large extent, been responsible for the continuing unrest and the suffering it has caused. The fact that Mr Malik has also been actively engaged in previous meetings intended to stop the violence does little to build confidence. He did not succeed then. What guarantee is there that this time things will be any different? For success to come it is essential that

all the key parties back initiatives and make their own efforts to end the violence. Their cooperation is an essential ingredient. This, more than anything else, will determine what happens next. While moving in more security personnel is necessary at this point – it is also important that they be given specific instructions on what they are to do. Merely stopping innocent commuters at barricades will not serve any purpose.

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