Senate calls for Karachi’s deweaponisation
ISLAMABAD: The Senate adopted on Monday an ANP-backed resolution recommending to the government to take “effective steps” to ‘deweaponise’ Karachi.
The MQM vociferously opposed the resolution and its legislators wanted an amendment saying that the entire country should be cleared of weapons. Otherwise, they said, the move would yield no results and Karachi would continue to bleed.
During a heated debate on the resolution tabled by Senator Shahi Syed, Sindh provincial chief of the Awami National Party, members from all parties spoke in favour or against it, but eventually only the MQM voted against it.
The members from the ANP and MQM blamed each other for Karachi’s situation whereas the opposition senators expressed their surprise over the blame-game between the two parties which were part of the ruling coalition at the centre and in Sindh.
Haji Adeel of the ANP said that according to some reports five people on an average were being killed daily in Karachi. He said police and Rangers both had failed in the city and all parties which had ruled the province in the past had made appointments on political basis.
He said former interior minister Naseerullah Babar had conducted a “successful operation” in Karachi in the 1990s. He regretted that almost all police officers who had taken part in the operation and unearthed a number of torture cells had been killed one by one. Police lacked courage to enter no-go areas in the city, he said.
Regarding MQM’s demand that the entire country should be deweaponised, the ANP senator said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been facing an extraordinary situation due to the ongoing war on terror and foreign troops were stationed in the neighbouring Afghanistan and, therefore, such a step could not be taken there. He, however, said that in principle his party agreed to the proposal.
Without naming the MQM, Haji Adeel said that thousands of licences of prohibited weapons had been issued to members of a particular organisation “whose representatives are sitting in the Senate, National Assembly and the provincial assembly”.
Responding to his speech, former Karachi nazim and MQM Senator Mustafa Kamal said had the operation launched by late Naseerullah Babar been successful the situation would have been different today. He was of the view that deweaponisation of Karachi would only be a “cosmetic” and short-term solution because arms would start pouring into the city from other parts of the country.
He denied that the MQM had made any appointments in police since 2002. “Today, we are in the government bus, but not in the driving seat, only as a passenger. We have no control over the accelerator or brakes,” he said, asking the PPP not to “ridicule your mandate”.
Shahi Syed distributed copies of the agreements the PPP, MQM and ANP had reached in Karachi in August 2010 in the presence of the then prime minister and regretted that they had not been implemented.
He said the parties had agreed that an operation should be carried out in the city against target killers without political considerations, but to no avail.
The ANP senator said high officials of law-enforcement agencies had disclosed that they had arrested a number of people but all of them had been set free after receiving telephone calls from the Governor’s House in Karachi.
Similarly, he said, a number of Nato containers carrying arms had gone missing. “There has been virtually a governor’s rule in Karachi and the chief minister does not even know the names of the police officials,” Shahi Syed alleged.
Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Ghouri refuted the allegations and threatened to disclose the locations from where the Nato containers had gone missing on their way to Afghanistan.
He sought ANP’s support to a bill the MQM had already submitted to parliament, seeking deweaponisation of the country.
Surprisingly, Azam Hoti of the ANP opposed the resolution, terming it an impossible task. “Even if we deploy the whole army to deweaponise Karachi, it will not be able to do it even in half of the city in 10 years,” he said. He said the 1992 operation was MQM-specific and not against militants.
Senator Hoti said there was a lack of trust among the parties and a need for a guarantor to ensure implementation of agreements.
The house witnessed a handshake between Mr Hoti and Mr Ghouri when the former reciprocated an appeal by the latter to join hands to fight militancy.