Gilgit-Baltistan: Violence is a Product of Socio-Economic and Political Dynamics of Karachi

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By Aziz Ali Dad

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has added another theory to his litany of theories about violence in Karachi. He has asserted that terrorists from Gilgit and Miranshah have become operational in Karachi to disturb the law and order situation in the metropolis. It has become a trait of Pakistani leaders and politicians to blame local problems on external forces. Instead of facing the reality, we have become used to blaming our problems on outsiders.

Rehman Malik’s assertion, during a visit to Pir Pagara’s house for condolences, not only reflects such a mentality but also reveals a particular streak of his personality, He tends to come up with unique explanations which have no realistic basis. Previously, he attributed targeted killing in Karachi to girlfriends and wives.

Like our interior minister, there are people in Gilgit-Baltistan too who blame sectarian violence there on external elements, instead of focusing on the real causes on the local level.

The fact is that violence in Karachi does not come from Gilgit or Miranshah. Rather, it is a product of the socio-economic and political dynamics of the city. Being a metropolitan city, Karachi is home to diverse communities and groups belonging to different regions of Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan. The majority of Gilgiti migrants in Pakistan live in Karachi, because of the economic incentives and opportunities by the city. In becoming part of the city’s economic activities a person from Gilgit, or anywhere else in Pakistan, naturally becomes part of the social milieu of Karachi. If a person from Gilgit is involved in violence it is not because he has been sent from a training centre up in the mountains and has descended on the city to kill people.

No doubt, the city of Gilgit is plagued with sectarian violence for the last two decades. And any sectarian incident in another part of the country can sometimes cause a reaction at the local level. But there has never been a time when a violent event in Gilgit had repercussions in other parts of the country. It is another matter that there is the possibility of some people from there getting involved in the Karachi violence.

Rehman Malik’s assertion came after the brutal murder of three lawyers belonging to a particular sect in Karachi. So far, political analysts have focused on the role of religious parties and sectarian outfits in religious violence in the country, but little has been said about the role of secular parties in exploiting religious sentiments for political mileage.

To some extent this holds true for the major secular parties of Karachi as well. These parties’ use of religious and sectarian sentiments for sympathy may encourage some individuals with sectarian mindsets to join them to pursue their own narrow agendas.

The nature of violence in Gilgit is entirely different from the violence perpetrated by militants in Waziristan. That is why, despite the targeted killings there for several years, Gilgit-Baltistan continues to attract a large number of foreign tourists, and violence against foreigners is rare.

Portraying the whole region of Gilgit as a source of terrorism in Karachi will have dire consequences for the peaceful migrants from there. Rehman Malik’s assertion is not even based on facts. Until now not a single Gilgiti has been convicted of a terrorism crime in Karachi. Nor did the Joint Investigation Report of the intelligence agencies mention people from Gilgit as being responsible for targeted killings in Karachi.

The federal interior minister wilfully ignores these realities and finds an excuse to cover up his own failure. Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the few parts of the country where tourism continues, and a comment like this from the interior minister of the country will not only worsen the image of Pakistan abroad but badly affect tourism in that region.

Since the elections in the Senate are imminent and preparations for the next general elections are underway, it was expedient for him not to name the parties and people involved in the violence in Karachi, and found an easy scapegoat in the people of Gilgit.

It is unfortunate that, being spineless and under the thumb of the federal government, the chief minister and the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan have not recorded their protest against the federal minister’s indiscreet remarks.

The writer is based in Islamabad. Email: azizalidad@hotmail.com

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