Written By: Huma Kirmani
Karachi, a city by the Arabian Sea, which was once known as the "City of Lights", is now bickering in its misery of infinite apprehensions and anticipation; though circumstances are quite blatantly streaming in sea breeze of this terror inflicted city. The contemplating feature of Pakistan’s largest city and commercial hub, a place that contributes half of the total revenue collected by the FBR and the deplorable conditions of roads, mounds of uncollected waste, stagnant pools of un-drained rainwater and lack of development make it clear to any observer that Karachi is in steep and perceptible decline. Karachi’s overflowing gutters and garbage dumps can show how grotesque the provincial policy is which is a great disconnect, and has translated into gross mismanagement and general malaise.
Karachi has an estimated population of approximately 20 million; since the last census was done 17 years ago, putting the city’s population at 9.3 million then, one has to go with educated guesses and an area of over 3,500 square kilometres. Karachi is said to be mini Pakistan, reputed to have more Pashto speakers than Peshawar itself, and with over a million Bengalis, Afghans, Iranians, Palestinians and Burmese, Karachi is also home to practically all of Pakistan’s ethnic and language groups. Karachi has a distinct cosmopolitan and urban feel to it, far more as a carrier of the most heterogeneous culture. In lieu of its highly diversified cultural phenomenon, Karachi has its own lacerated ambiance of dread as almost 75 percent militants on terror watchlist for their alleged links with over a dozen proscribed organizations are untraceable in Karachi, some of them might be behind the recent wave of violence in the metropolis.
Karachi is said to be mini Pakistan, reputed to have more Pashto speakers than Peshawar itself, and with over a million Bengalis, Afghans, Iranians, Palestinians and Burmese, Karachi is also home to practically all of Pakistan’s ethnic and language groups. Karachi has a distinct cosmopolitan and urban feel to it, far more as a carrier of the most heterogeneous culture.
In the month of February 2017, Pakistan Rangers Sindh have killed notorious Lyari gang war commander Noor Muhammad alias Baba Ladla in a shootout in Lyari Town area of Karachi. Two of Baba Ladla's close associates, Sikandar alias Sikko and Mohammad Yaseen alias Mama, were also killed in the encounter. During the operation, Head Constable Fayyaz and Constable Tufail were also martyred. Karachi operation often moves into a higher gear as terrorists flee to mask their presence, nevertheless the Rangers said 364 terrorists associated with various banned organizations including al-Qaeda, different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were also killed in gunfights with the force. Up to 7,312 weapons and 348,978 cartridges have been seized in the past two years while 27 soldiers from Rangers lost their lives.
Violence in Karachi emerges from multiple factors, which act together to magnify the impact of sublime criminal gangs and capitalize on perceived disenfranchisement and societal conflicts among different communities. The city has been bedeviled with targeted killings, ethnic and sectarian clashes, turf war by different political and criminal groups, extortion activities, bank looting, robberies and other street crimes. The unabated violence and chronic energy crises have made the city's situation more complex as ethnic groups from other provinces migrated to Karachi and increased number of groups have put the situation at stake as the current conflict dynamics in the city involve dozens of sectarian and militant organizations, thus making the city a battleground for more than 200 gangs.
All this chaos created ripples in overwhelming youth of this city that among youth is widely thought to stem from political, ethnic, religious and sectarian segregation within the city. The major reasons cited for young people’s involvement in violence are poverty, illiteracy and limited access to positive social interactions. These dreadful shadows of vicious tyranny generate violent culture in youth who become more violent, much to the advantage of the high profile facilitators, who sit behind scenes and control youth through various channels to meet their vested interests – as many of the political, ethnic and religious groups in Karachi have a ‘militant wing’. These wings recruit youth from colleges and universities or after their pursuit of higher education and they become an asset of these parties. These groups provide incentives including weapons and money to new recruits of the ‘youth wings’ in order to safeguard their interests. The parties attempt to enhance their economic and political status through these youth groups. There is a new trend emerging in which these parties are also using youth for extortion and blackmailing and have started recruiting violent youth to safeguard their interests and businesses in Karachi. Many youth have joined drug mafia as well. They are trained in order to protect and deliver drugs. These youth groups sell drugs to people all across Karachi including the elite. Only a small number of them are ever arrested by the police. Since the police is invariably unable to produce any evidence against them, they are released without any charges. Drugs are available everywhere, even at the most reputable institutes. There arises a question regarding the socio-political attitudes amongst youth in elite universities, that is, youth becoming radicalized followed by a conservative thought pattern that may be construed by some as bordering on radicalism. Youth from affluent socio-economic background and those, who have better career opportunities can fluctuate between being socio-culturally liberal but have a closed approach in matters pertaining to geo-politics, geo-strategy and identity politics. There is, in fact, evidence of the presence of pop-politics which itself is highly reductive and tends to follow a thought pattern which then feeds into ‘clash of civilizations’. The problem, therefore, is absence of intelligent thinking and an alternative narrative discourse in the society which would allow the youth to think ‘out of the box’.