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July 24, 2011

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July 24, 2011

Sixty-four years ago a majority of Karachi’s population was Sindhi-speaking. In 1981, close to 55 percent of Karachi’s residents claimed Urdu as their mother tongue. According to the 1998 census, Urdu-speaking residents were no longer a majority.
In 1998, nearly 15 percent of Karachi’s population claimed an affiliation with Pushto (census). In March 2004 began the Battle of Wana forcing economic refugees to head to Karachi. In October 2005, the earthquake sent in additional mohajirs. In 2007, Operation Rah-e-Haq, and in 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijat, sent in even more mohajirs to Karachi. Then came the 2010 floods and Karachi had to host additional mohajirs. Currently, Karachi’s new, Pushto-speaking mohajirs are estimated to be around 25 percent of the population.
Sixty-four years ago, Karachi’s Sindhi population felt threatened. Karachi’s old mohajirs, the ones who came 64 years ago, now feel threatened by the new mohajirs. Whereas Karachi’s new mohajirs feel disenfranchised and excluded – both from the political infrastructure and the administrative pyramid. Exclusion, particularly youth exclusion, breeds violence. According to a briefing given to the House of Commons, “political systems that fail to address the needs of their citizens, or exclude them from meaningful participation, will not result in ‘stability’ that lasts.”
Violence in Karachi has at least three overlapping layers. At the very top of the pyramid is political violence primarily MQM versus ANP. Then there’s inter-faith Shia-Sunni violence. Then there’s intra-faith Deobandi versus Barelvi violence. And around these two layers of violence are organised criminal gangs, drug mafias, weapon mafias and land mafias. Add to that cocktail a more recent addition – the Taliban whose goal is to de-legitimise the state.
Here are the three primary drivers of violence in Karachi: One, the predatory behaviour of our political leaders; Two, inter-ethnic feelings of

relative deprivation (the ‘grievance theory’); Three, elite competition to capture resource rents (the ‘greed theory’).
Here are the two secondary drivers of violence: One, conflict actors see little or no incentive to abstain from violence (the ‘commitment problem’); Two, ethnic geography and the rapidly changed group population ratios.
The PPP, MQM and ANP continue to play their own power games while Karachi burns (the ‘greed theory’). Are our leaders moving towards giving up their predatory behaviour? Has the leadership in Sindh started taking steps to alleviate inter-ethnic feelings of relative deprivation? Are our political parties preparing to restrain their militant wings? So far, the answer to all these questions is a big ‘No’. And as a consequence, Karachi will reignite.
The social contract between the government of Sindh and the residents of Sindh’s largest city has failed. To begin with, the government of Sindh must provide the residents of Sindh’s largest city three things: physical security, economic security and justice. Or, Karachi will reignite.
Side-note: Liberians had lost trust in their government. And then came a president who promised just one thing – electricity. The president fulfilled his promise and the lost trust was won back.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]

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