HIGH drama was witnessed on Thursday when Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that motorcycles would not be allowed to ply the roads of Karachi and Quetta on Friday, the first day of Muharram. In its turn, the Sindh High Court, responding to a petition, swung into action late Thursday night, suspending the interior minister’s ban. While Karachi’s million-plus motorcyclists must have been pleased with the court’s intervention, the Balochistan government decided to implement Mr Malik’s order, though the ban was challenged in the Balochistan High Court on Friday. The action against two-wheelers was taken due to fears that motorcycles may be used in acts of terrorism; Mr Malik told the Senate on Friday that motorbikes had been used to carry out over 400 bombings across the country. And in what now appears to have become standard operating procedure during any major religious occasion or whenever there are heightened threats of terrorism, cellphone services in Karachi and Quetta were also suspended on Friday.
These methods are arbitrary and unlikely to counter terrorism in a big way. They are easy ways for the government to wriggle out of its responsibility of maintaining law and order. The logic behind the motorcycle ban is shaky; if tomorrow there are intelligence reports that cars or trucks will be used in acts of terrorism, will the state order all vehicles off the road? True, perhaps the SHC should have acted more prudently and listened to the government’s view before suspending the ban as it is not clear whether the court was aware of the threat level. Nevertheless, while various remedies have been given for the security situation, especially in Karachi, and have included Senator Raza Rabbani’s impractical solutions, little has been done to beef up intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism efforts. These would be far more effective than stopgap measures which paralyse daily life.