Even at the best of times between Pakistan and the US it would seem unusual for the latter’s embassy in Islamabad to organise a recent gathering for homosexuals. While some in the country accused the US of conspiring to contaminate our so-called conservative society, another political party dismissed this vulgarity as “cultural terrorism”. As if this was not damaging enough to the relationship, Washington also decided to hold back on Pakistan’s military aid amounting to 800 million dollars. India gloated, but a sulk set in powerful quarters of Islamabad.
A disgruntled and even sulkier Ahmed Mukhtar – in a desperate attempt to get even – threatened to pull out Pakistani soldiers from the Afghan border. I’m hoping this was Mukhtar’s idea because as threatening as it may sound, it’s equally absurd. Does our defence minister realise that this would actually facilitate more insurgents to get into our country and boost the crop of our “backyard terrorists?” All this while, sulky congressman in the US raised their doubts regarding Pakistan’s intentions and refused to give us a ‘blank cheque’ in the future. Meanwhile, a sulkier press release was issued by the ISPR stating that they could sustain the war on their own. The China card came into play and inside quarters started talking about getting the US off Shamsi airbase. By the end of the day, the sulking had worked. Centcom Chief General Mattis and Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wyne held a not-so-brief meeting (summed up in an extremely brief press release) in Islamabad. The next thing we knew, our ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha disembarked on a day-long trip to DC.
And while the generals try to figure out the US, and the future of our Coalition Support Fund, our politicians struggle with Karachi. A gloating MQM who walked out of Zardari’s coalition government was given a rare cold shoulder by the PPP. So, the MQM sulked. Meeting between senior representatives of the PML-N and the MQM sent the PPP sulking. Talk of implementing the Commissionerate System in Karachi made tempers fly all the way to London, effects of which we saw in parts of Karachi.
As innocent, lower middle class Pathans and Mohajirs were targeted, a sullen ANP brigade was invited to the presidency to “discuss” the situation. And the MQM got even sulkier. Just when Karachi was crawling back to life, Zulfikar Mirza decided to break his silence. That too, on media and standing next to ANP’s Shahi Syed who was initially caught grinning from ear to ear. However, as Mirza crossed all lines of decency, even Syed looked uneasy and almost willed PPP minister Agha Siraj Durrani to lure him away from the dais. Needless to say, this provocation was not required to add to Karachi’s prevailing crisis.
Mr Mirza’s political maturity needs work but as bodies fell, bullets flew and fire spread, no questions were raised regarding our own lack of tolerance. As always, the reaction missed the reactor. The US upsets us with its drones, we kill our own people. Someone upsets the religious values of another and the common man on the street bears its brunt. And when either political party in Sindh sulks or Zulfikar Mirza loses his cool, innocent Karachiites’ blood is shed.
Other than being a senior minister in Sindh, Zulfiqar Mirza is an industrialist and an agriculturist. And believe it or not, he is also a doctor. However, he hasn’t prescribed the best medicine for Karachi’s problems, instead, exacerbating the crisis each time by the ‘gift of his gab’. In early 2009, replying to a question in Sindh Assembly, Mirza boasted possessing at least 350 arms licenses. In a city where gun-toting culture is the cause of all evil, one wonders if his legal ownership of so many arms is advisable. A few months later, Mirza was back with another revelation. This time, he confessed that the MQM had been included in the coalition government to ensure peace in Karachi.
Come 2010, Dr Mirza was at it again. This time it was the judiciary in the crosshairs. He said the terrorists were being freed because the judiciary was giving them “the benefit of the doubt”. Mirza managed to heat up things again in December the same year. This time he blatantly accused the MQM of targeted killings in Karachi, at the same time inciting other groups to settle their scores with them. Two months ago, Dr Mirza disappeared from the scene. Some called it an indefinite leave, while others termed it a ‘reconciliation effort’ by the PPP towards its coalition partner: the MQM. This time, Dr Mirza, it seemed had crossed the line. He declared the People’s Aman Committee a wing of the PPP.
Fast forward to now, with the MQM out of the coalition, and the PML-Q guaranteeing a majority for the PPP in parliament, nothing could stop Mirza from saying what he actually felt towards the MQM leadership. That and his comments on jailed Haqiqi leader Afaq Ahmed. I’m guessing Ahmed was not given “the benefit of doubt” by the judiciary, much to Mirza’s disapproval. So, Dr Mirza got even and Karachi bled. Ironically, an apology from the doc and an appeal for calm from London came too late in the day. Mirza’s ticket to meet the president was issued after two dozen people lost their lives to communal violence.
While there was blood on the street of Karachi, the street outside Kot-Lakhpat Jail in Lahore was being showered a different shade of red. The head of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat was anxiously waiting for his friend Malik Ishaq to step out into freedom. Ishaq was arrested almost 14 years ago implicated in 44 cases including terrorist attacks and sectarian killings. In 2009, he was accused of masterminding – from behind bars – an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. The court could only convict him in two cases. The rest stood shaky due to lack of evidence. Benefit of doubt, Dr Mirza? We are looking forward to hearing you on that again. Though I honestly believe you won’t go blazing your guns against this one. You’re selectively smart.
But he is not the only smart one. One man’s loss is another man’s gain. In this respect the beneficiary has been the PML-Q. Interestingly enough, the first time their members took oath as part of the federal government, it was a few hours after the Abbottabad incident. This time around, two of their members took oath as ministers in the Sindh Cabinet while bullets were flying on the streets of Karachi. While our military brass bargains with the US and the PPP keeps the PML-Q happy, Pakistanis wait on the sidelines. Attention anyone? We’re sulking too.
The writer works for Geo TV.