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November 24, 2015

Postponement of LB polls in Karachi would be ill-advised


November 24, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Postponement of local council elections in the six Karachi districts will send out a highly negative message that the most important mega city was the only troubled, unmanageable and uncontrollable spot in Pakistan.
Any thinking in political or security circles to put off the polls has the potential of entailing disastrous consequences for Pakistan, which otherwise is much better off than it was before the launch of the operation Zarb-e-Azb and intensification of the campaign against target killers, kidnappers for ransom, extortionists and mafias.
Deferment of elections will wash away the hard reality that the Sindh Rangers have done a wonderful job by bringing about unprecedented improvement in the law and order scenario of the metropolitan city. Nobody would wish to see Karachi as it was before the Zarb-e-Azb.
Neither the Rangers nor the Pakistan Army nor their PR wings need to project that they have achieved matchless successes in these operations because the gains speak for themselves and are receiving universal kudos that they deserve. They have restored long-desired remarkable peace. The deferral of polls will mar this truth to a large extent because it would give the message at home and abroad that all is not well in Karachi.
No heavens fell when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) swept the November 19 elections in Hyderabad. And nothing like this will happen if it clinched a majority of seats of Karachi districts (East, West, Central, South, Malir and Korangi). Despite a multitude of its alleged illegal activities, the MQM has still not been banned as a political party and is allowed under the law to function as such. Nobody has any objection to its working as a political party but everyone condemns it for its criminal acts and militant wing.
Polling for the third stage of local polls on December 5 will mark the conclusion of the three-phase process in Punjab and Sindh as well as the whole of Pakistan except a few union councils

of Sindh where the exercise has been delayed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) due to a Sindh High Court (SHC) order to carry out fresh delimitations. If the polling was put off in the Karachi districts, the mega city will be the only area which would not have local governments.
Undoubtedly, the martyrdom of four Rangers personnel at the hands of criminals last week was the most condemnable incident but it provides no justification to postpone the polls. The Rangers are already busy in tracking down the killers and will hopefully meet with success sooner than later. This is their prime job to take out the assassins.
Senior MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar claimed and sensed that recent killings of Rangers and police personnel is a conspiracy being hatched to halt the elections.The enemies of Pakistan and their sympathisers will be thrilled and excited over the deferment of the polls in Karachi as it will mark success of their nefarious actions and plans. They want to present Karachi as the most riotous place and they have to fail.
In view of the population and the peculiar situation of Karachi, the third phase of polls in Sindh has been confined only to this city. It was done so that the law enforcers were exclusively focused on maintaining an orderly and smooth environment to make sure that the exercise is fair and free from intimidation and ballot-stuffing, which had been the hallmark of successive elections in Karachi. The MQM has always been accused of bullying during such process, and the allegations had not been without truth and reality.
The Rangers indeed face an uphill task in ensuring that the polls in Karachi are trouble-free and peaceful. This will add another feather in their cap. Given the leadership the Rangers have, the force is unquestionably capable of achieving this.
Since the start of the targeted operation, no by-election in Karachi has been postponed. The most high profile by-poll was organised for NA-246 in which the Rangers had guaranteed foolproof security. The MQM had won with an impressive majority and this victory had not turned Karachi or Pakistan topsy-turvy. The operation kept gaining pace and strength even after that.
However, without a doubt it was a limited electoral exercise, confined to just one constituency while the local polls will be spread throughout the city for which more elaborate security measures would be needed. But the Rangers aided by police and other forces will be able to ensure law and order.
Supposing the MQM largely gets control of the local governments in Karachi, the Rangers will not be barred from carrying on their operation against criminal elements at the present speed. The strong system of checks and balances, which already exists, will remain in place and the local governments will not be immune from it in any way. The mixing of crime and politics ought not to be allowed, come what may.
Moreover, there is universal consensus that the operation will not be slowed down or reversed at any cost, and this is what has often been repeated by the top civilian and military leadership. There is none who will not want Pakistan to get the fruits of a peaceful Karachi.

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