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Tuesday May 17, 2022

Unjustified violence

By Editorial Board
January 28, 2022

With a worker of the MQM-Pakistan dead and several others injured, the politics of Karachi is taking another ugly turn. The injured include women who became the target of police baton charge and tear gas during a sit-in outside the Chief Minister House in Karachi on January 26. The bone of contention is the recently passed controversial local government law that has snatched away most of the powers from the local administrations in Sindh, especially in Karachi. The opposition parties have been protesting against this legislation which they say is a ‘black law’. First, it must be clear that staging a peaceful protest is everybody’s democratic right and no government authority should use force against the exercise of this right. Ideally, representatives of the Sindh government should have held talks with the protesters, which is an advisable common practice in such situations. Instead the government left the matter to police authorities who neither have the political acumen nor the powers to negotiate political issues like this.

Naturally, the police failed to persuade the protesters to go back to the venue of the Karachi Press Club. Declaring the area surrounding the CM House as a ‘Red Zone’ is easy but ensuring the sanctity of such zones is not. Political activities are at the heart of any democratic dispensation, be it at the federal or the provincial levels. No government can and should ban such activities including protests of various kinds. There was absolutely no reason for the police to resort to the violence that took place on Wednesday. The MQM-P has said that one of its workers lost his life during treatment as a consequence of police brutality; the Sindh government’s representatives have all but refuted this claim. Be that as it may, the fact is that the police did not spare children, parliamentarians, and even women.

One thing is clear: the Sindh government must uphold people’s democratic right of holding peaceful protests, and it is now on the top leadership of the PPP to investigate this matter and seek explanations from the provincial administration. Subjecting children and women to such police attacks deserves severe condemnation. The primary objective of all politics is and should be the strengthening of democracy and not undermining it. If the provincial administration goes to this extreme, the opposition parties are also likely to respond in kind. Where does that leave Karachi and its people? The Sindh government must take immediate reconciliatory measures rather than issuing rejoinders. It is imperative, both to the politics of the country and to the people of the city, that Karachi does not once again fall back to the political, ethnic and criminal violence it has seen in the past. For far too long has the city suffered violence and insecurity, its people living in constant fear of what the next minute holds for them. The worst thing that can happen right now to the city is a return to politics of ethnic hatred – a fire that will engulf all ethnic communities living in Karachi, and we hope all parties in the city and the province make sure this does not happen once again to Karachi. For the sake of the wonderfully diverse people that make Karachi the vibrant city it is, it is on the provincial government to take the first step to ensure that matters such as the local government law and the delimitation of consultancies can be worked out in a proper fashion between politicians, rather than through the use of brute force by the police. The scenes on Wednesday were a disturbing reminder that no political party is above such resort to violence, regardless of its claim to peace and liberal values. No one wins when state violence is unleashed on dissent and protest.

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