Presidency wakes up to Karachi killings
By: Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: The government adopted on Wednesday a ‘carrot and stick’ policy to deal with the law and order situation in Karachi by keeping its doors open for negotiations with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and giving more powers and resources to security forces to take stern action against troublemakers.
The decisions were taken in three back-to-back meetings held in the presidency.
The coalition partners authorised the president to hold negotiations with all political forces, including the MQM which quit the government last month.
According to sources, President Asif Zardari is expected to contact MQM chief Altaf Hussain and invite his party to rejoin the government.
The meetings that continued for more than three hours were convened after the MQM chief gave an ultimatum to the government to end target killings and advised people of Karachi to stock up on ration for at least a month to meet any emergency. He called upon the army to take control of the city.
The second part of the meetings related to strengthening police and paramilitary forces deployed in Karachi to enable them to act against all elements involved in killing innocent people.
President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said: “The decision authorising the president to hold political negotiations was taken at the first of the series of meetings. It was of the Sindh cabinet and was attended by provincial ministers belonging to the PPP, ANP, PML-Q and PML-F and was jointly chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.”
The meeting reiterated government’s resolve to restore peace in Karachi and to bring the culprits to justice regardless of their affiliations.
Besides the law and order situation, the performance of various provincial ministries was also discussed.
“If the MQM wants mid-terms polls it will not rejoin the coalition and if it believes that the government will complete its term it will come back to the government,” a leader who attended the meetings said.
The spokesman quoted the president as saying: “We believe in taking along all the political forces on the issues of national importance and would continue to do so in future also.”
The president called for urgent administrative, political and law and order measures to bring peace to Karachi.
Addressing the coalition partners, he said: “We have to resolve this issue ourselves and at the earliest keeping in view the importance of this city and its role in the economy of the country.”
Representatives of coalition parties gave various suggestions for peace and security in the city.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wasan briefed the meeting on the situation and the steps taken to quell violence.
The chief minister said police and Rangers were fully prepared and motivated to maintain peace in the city.
Fateha (prayer) was offered for innocent people who had lost their lives in the recent wave of killings.
Stressing the need for strengthening police and paramilitary forces in Karachi, the meetings decided to take severe action against troublemakers irrespective of their political affiliation.
Leaders of the Awami National Party offered to the president to start the action from the Pakhtun-dominated areas in Karachi.
President Zardari expressed displeasure over non-availability of funds allocated for the city police.
On a question raised by the president about implementation of his previous directives, the provincial finance minister said the first instalment of Rs450 million of the Rs5 billion package for revamping Sindh police had been released.
The president said the remaining amount should be progressively released to meet police demands for vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, bullet-proof jackets, helmets, weapons and accessories.