Supreme Court’s Karachi verdict
No individual, party, or group (excepting Jamaat-e-Islami) has tried to read deeper into the Supreme Court’s verdict on Karachi’s law and order problem. It seems politically correct to shower praise on the verdict and express the desire to implement the guidelines given therein. The verdict, however, fails to address the real causes of intense violence the residents of Karachi have been subjected to for years. The Supreme Court held a suo motu hearing on the Karachi violence because the judges had been worried over the matter. They should be praised for it. This writer believes that any constructive criticism of the Karachi verdict will be taken in good faith by the judges.
The verdict says that the violence in Karachi is not ethnic but a result of conflict between groups over economic, social and political interests. This is a tricky observation. In Karachi, there are no economic or social no-go areas. There are, for instance, Pathan or Mohajir no-go areas, i.e. ethnic no-go areas. Ethnicity and political economy in Karachi are so deeply intertwined that they cannot be isolated. The Supreme Court verdict has referred to economic, social, and political interests. However, it did not put the right perspective — i.e. the ethnic perspective — on it.
A glaring omission from the verdict is the Court’s failure to mention the purely religious-sectarian factor in Karachi violence. One is puzzled to note that the verdict makes no significant mention of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Taliban. What about the hundreds of Shias killed by these outfits? What economic, social, or political interests were responsible for their deaths? The notorious bombings and suicide bombings on Shia mourning processions were done by these terrorist organisations who proudly claimed responsibility for their wicked acts, but these facts did not find favour with the judges. A number of Taliban leaders and suicide bombers have been nabbed in Karachi recently. A few months before, the Karachi police caught terrorists who confessed killing hundreds of innocent Shias only because they were Shias (a local TV channel even showed those confessions in its daily news round-up). These terrorists, however, were given no reference in the verdict.
The Talibanisation of Karachi is obvious and the coming months will evidence a great deal of sectarian violence in which in addition to the Shias, communities like Agha Khanis, Christians, Ahmedis, and even Barelvis will be targeted. But no discussion exists on it. Strangely enough, you can smell the coming violence, but you cannot talk about it!
The question is: why has the Karachi verdict failed to include sectarian violence, which has claimed far more lives than ethnic violence? The answer is found in the verdict itself. LeJ does not appear in the verdict at all. The Taliban and the SSP appear only once each and in a context where Shias can only pull their hair in frustration and disbelief. About the Taliban, the verdict says: “Karachi’s ethnic wars have claimed some 1,000 lives this year, with more than 100 in the past week alone. By contrast the Taliban and other religious extremists kill tiny numbers in Karachi” (page 137).
One would like to ask: how tiny is a tiny number? The verdict has simply not mentioned hundreds of Shias killed in the past few years. What is the point of enumerating the number of people killed in just one year and blot out hundreds of people killed in the previous years?
On page 16, the verdict refers to the Shia-Sunni conflict. This is plain wrong because it is not a Shia-versus-Sunni conflict. It is Deobandis declaring jihad against the Shias whom they call kafirs (infidels). The very verdict of the Supreme Court contradicts its own Shia-versus-Sunni claim: on page 27 the verdict refers to the feud between Sunni Tehreek and the SSP. If Karachi sectarian violence is between a Sunni monolith and the Shias, then what is the problem between Sunni Tehreek and the SSP, both being Sunni outfits? It is in fact a sectarian one: Sunni Tehreek (Barelvi) versus the SSP (Deobandi). The Taliban, the SSP, and the LeJ are expressions of the same Deobandi ideology. This also reflects on the Supreme Court’s claim that Karachi’s violence is based upon economic, social, and political interests. Sectarianism is more dangerous, because it is more real than an ethnic or any other factor.
Why did the Supreme Court not discuss the sectarian issues — the real issues indeed — of the Karachi quagmire? The answer is very simple. As identified by the verdict itself, the judges relied on the information provided by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the ISI. It was the judges’ task to ask these agencies about the role of the sectarian outfits in the Karachi violence. Did the agencies tell the judges that there are a number of Deobandi mosques in Karachi that are financed and controlled by members of the House of Saud, and which are beyond the control of the state of Pakistan? Where do these terrorist outfits get their finances? What sort of venom is preached from those mosques?
It is no secret that these Talibanic sectarian outfits are managed by the intelligence agencies. Did the judges asked the agency bosses questions to this effect?
One can go on and on, but the point is: justice should be available to all whether they are Shia, Sunni, or others. You cannot hope for peace while you do not even make a feeble reference to murderers, assassins, and criminals of the highest order. For those Shias who had been hoping for the Supreme Court to give them some relief, this verdict is an unfortunate, demoralising blow.