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Mission Creep: Pakistani military’s crackdown on Karachi

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

International news agency, Reuters, has come out with a revealing report disclosing the advancement of Pakistan military towards the largest city, Karachi as a ‘creeping coup’.

The latest and, some say, the boldest attempt, made by the military towards capturing control from the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in the port city of Karachi, is being seen as renewed foray into the civilian life of the country.

The campaign is being spearheaded by the head of Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Rizwan Akhtar.

Remarking on the ongoing takeover and the perpetrated attack on the MQM party, an official close to the ISI chief said, “There is a quiet, creeping takeover of Karachi by the military. Karachi is just too big … too much land, too much business, resources. No one party will be allowed to rule Karachi from now on.”

The military clampdown on the largest and wealthiest city of Pakistan began in 2013 when a spate of murders took place with the disfigured bodies being dumped in the alleys.

While officially the operation was aimed at eliminating criminals and militants, most people see it as a planned attack on MQM.

Straddling and stamping over MQM and weakening the grip of exiled leader, Altaf Hussain, over the party would ensure an easy playfield for parties close to the military, such as Imran Khan-led Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Moreover, with the introduction of military courts to tighten stranglehold over the judiciary, foreign policy and national security, the military is trying to leverage Pakistan’s economic hub.

Karachi hosts the stock exchange, a giant port, central bank and accounts for more than half of the national revenues of Pakistan.

However, Pakistan army’s hawkish movements can prove to be counterproductive, particularly by making tougher and harder proposed rapprochement with India.

The army accuses the MQM of heinous crimes such as targeted killings, kidnappings and racketeering in Karachi.

According to the police estimates, more than 2,500 hundred murders took place in the city in 2013.

Even as the army levels allegations against the party, the MQM vehemently denies the charges saying that it has cooperated with the rangers in the past but will not allow the army to dismantle the party.

Meanwhile, senior government officials say that the civilian administration has been sidelined in Karachi and decisions are being taken by the Rangers and the chief military commander of the Sindh province.

As per the officials, the government was not consulted while lodging the complaint against Hussain and initiating the raid.

MQM’s leaders, on their part, blame the military for unfairly targeting them by launching a campaign of mass arrests and political “disappearances.”

At least 36 MQM workers have been killed so far and more than 2600 arrested.

The military, however, wants to completely annihilate the “militant” party.

All would be well if only the exiled leader, Altaf Hussain, steps down. An official close to the army said, “If Altaf Hussain steps down, the MQM will live on; if he doesn’t, the party will go down with him.”

A senior MQM leader, who did not want to criticize Hussain openly said, “We have built this party with our sweat and blood. Now a man living in exile is intent on destroying it.”

Irrespective of the critical opinions and the army onslaught, the by-elections in Karachi on Thursday handed down a comfortable victory for the MQM party.

In the wake of such conflicting developments, Hussain remains defiant saying, “The people and Altaf Hussain have a special relationship which cannot be shaken.”

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