9th April 2015 will be remembered as a day when Imran Khan smashed the myth of terror from Karachi. Karachi, also known as the mini-Pakistan, the economical hub of Pakistan, most populated metropolitan city of the country which earns more than 60% of the revenue, was for the last 25 years held hostage by a militant-political party known as MQM.
MQM, whose chief is in a self imposed exile in London, took control of Karachi in late 1980`s, subsequent state operations against them saw MQM turn into a militant organization. Injustice and oppression was committed against their workers and supporters in the beginning, this prompted MQM to take up arms, however later when Gen. Musharraf took over, MQM was once again ushered into mainstream politics. It was the right time for MQM to turn over a new leaf, this however never happened.
While under the Mayorship of Mustafa Kamal of MQM, the party claimed credit for most of the developmental work that was done in the city, they also kept denying any sort of association with armed or militant wings. Karachi slowly kept sinking into a pool of terror and fear where everyone knew the real face of this political party but no one could dare to speak a word against them. Whoever as much as even dared to utter a single word, was silenced with a bullet jammed inside their body. This is not an overstatement or a play of words.
Most of the police officers who took part in the state operation against MQM, were murdered, even the ideological founders of MQM who vehemently rejected these militant tactics were assassinated upon the orders of Altaf Hussain. ( This was said in a confessional statement by a target killer who was given instructions by the MQM supremo )
They also created extortion rings and every trader, shopkeeper, businessman had to surrender a share of their profit to MQM as what they termed “protection money”. In this manner, millions of rupees were collected daily from this cash cow that is known as Karachi. In addition to running extortion rings and militant wings, MQM on the ideological front created ethnic rifts which transformed Karachi from the city of lights to the city of bullet riddled bodies.
A time came when 15-20 people were massacred daily in this city. Strikes became common in the city. People were forced to close their businesses to show their support for MQM. This is by no means an exhaustive list,in fact this is an understatement of the atrocities that have been committed in this city. But MQM is not to be blamed entirely, for they were supported and aided at every step by the governments and other political parties.
The reign of terror began to break when the current DG-ISI and Army Chief, categorically decided to rid Karachi of these villains. An operation to clean up the city was started almost two years ago, initially it turned out to be a failure as local police showed no spine in apprehending the criminals. Finally in January this year, an iron fisted operation began and in March the head quarter of MQM was raided by Rangers.
Notorious and wanted mercenaries were apprehended from the MQM head quarters, a large cache of arms and ammunitions was also recovered which also had prohibited weapons.
MQM leadership denied any involvement, but internally saner elements within the party knew the grim reality. There was almost no resistance, interrogation of the target killers revealed shocking details of how Karachi had been turned into a cesspool. The investigation is still undergoing, therefore it`ll be un-ethical to say anything more on this, but those living in Karachi will testify to the reign of terror. One can only hope that the saner elements within MQM, those who are ideological and loyal to their supporters, will help MQM regain its lost honour by dishing out corrupt and criminal elements.
The psychological grip of fear that MQM had over Karachi, was broken today by Imran Khan. While his policies have attracted much criticism, credit has to be given where it is due. Khan decided to enter the by-polls of NA-246 which is the fortress of MQM. The candidate of Khans party was Imran Ismael, as the election campaign kicked off, Karachi saw for the first time in last 25 years someone take a stand against MQM.
PTI is a relatively young political party, which has matured only in the last 3 years. As their scared looking workers set up their election camp in the fortress of MQM, tension was evident from their faces. The first few days saw MQM come out in their trademark fashion. Their workers stormed into PTI camps and broke down everything. Wherever the PTI candidates went for election campaign, MQM workers followed them, pelting stones and rotten eggs. Even the supporters of PTI were scared from coming out with their party flags to campaign, such was the perception of fear and terror.
It was under these circumstances that Khan took a stand in Karachi. Many people say that this is a battle between MQM and PTI, while others dismiss the entire situation and term it as un-necessary drama. I would humbly differ from both positions. This is not just a by- election, this is not about MQM and PTI. This is about the people of Karachi, taking back the control of their city. There is still a long way to go, but a starting had to be made and it has been made. The 3 month long sit-in last year showed that the masses are fed up of this corrupt system, what happened today reflects that the sit-in hasn`t ended.
It all was smashed into bits and pieces today when Imran Khan came and spent the entire day in NA-246. His rally which started in the morning around 11 am, kept attracting thousands of supporters, going at a snails pace, it reached Karimabad and Azizabad, the fortress of MQM. A time came in late afternoon when some charged workers of MQM tried to attack PTI supporters, but the tension was soon diffused by the police.
This was the first time in 25 years that MQM saw its fortress get flooded by the supporters of a political opponent. First time in 25 years that someone took a stand against all the oppression, terror and fear. First time in 25 years that the people of Karachi came out and breathed freely. It is not over yet, although PTI took the whole constituency by a storm today, they still have to translate this support into electoral votes on 23rd April.
Karachi is a dynamic city, it needs ownership. Other political parties, including Pakistan Awami Tehreek which lead a continuous sit in for over 2 months last year, should also come to Karachi to address the issues being faced by the economical hub of the country.
Regardless of who wins the by-elections, the reign of terror has been broken. I am repeating this phrase again and again for it means a lot for this city. Karachi is no more a hostage, lets pray that it remains this way.