Pakistan: Tragic Trendsetter for Religious, Political, and Ethnic Violence

Karachi“The bloodbath in Karachi continues,” blogs Murtaza Haider at Pakistan’s Dawn.

The death toll in the last week alone has reached over 100. … in Pakistan’s largest city. The citizens appear helpless, the government looks impotent, and the future looks grimmer by the day. While the resurgence of violence in Karachi is a recent phenomenon, the rest of Pakistan had been engulfed in senseless violence since 2003. No fewer than 36,000 Pakistanis have died in violent deaths in the past eight years, making Pakistan the hotbed of religious, political, and ethnic violence.

Haider links to this mind-numbing 2011 timeline of militant activity in Pakistan, with all the killing that implies. What’s the answer? In a subsequent blog post at Dawn, Ahmad Ali Khalid writes:

Today as we look at the tragic situation in Karachi an attitude has come to the fore. … ‘We need a strong man’ is a common plea by ordinary Pakistanis.

Nor are they kidding around.

To sort out the bloodbath in Karachi some would have us believe that more spilling of blood is necessary by calling in the Army. A popular call has been one of mass execution of politicians [yikes! – RW] by the Army and then a messianic ushering in of a glorious leader who can quash any sort of dissent.

Khalid understands “the call for a ‘strongman’ – it is only natural when jungle law is the norm in a city like Karachi.” But

The ‘strongman syndrome’ is an insidious threat to Pakistan’s already fragile if not dysfunctional quasi democratic system. It is what paves the way for autocrats and ensures their survival. The ‘strongman syndrome’ is the glue for the social contract between a dictator and his peoples – it is a deadly rot that crushes the democratic spirit.

Khalid gets off a good one with that last line. Then he concludes that Karachi’s

… deliverance will only come about with more democracy and more dialogue – it will only come about when political parties are held to account and the rule of law established.

Nevertheless, there’s no end in sight to the violence. Hamza Ameer reports at Asia Times Online:

Al-Qaeda-linked 313 Brigade has appointed a new chief, Shah Sahib, following the death of its commander Ilyas Kashmiri in a United States-operated drone attack in the South Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan in June.

And he’s wasting no time picking up where Kashmiri left off.

… Sahib, a well-known Taliban commander, has been selected to initiate major alliances and finalize consultations ahead of Eid – the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan – to launch fresh assaults against the Pakistan security forces. … a major assault is now expected to be launched immediately after Eid. … As Pakistan reels from floods, political paralysis, unrest in the major city port of Karachi and sectarian violence in Balochistan province, militants are preparing to escalate their activities on both sides of the border.