Shun politics of ethnicity, says Pakistani media

May 12th, 2009 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Karachi, May 12 (IANS) The politics of ethnicity being played out in this Pakistani commercial capital “tends to be divisive and fragments society”, an editorial in a leading English daily warned Tuesday.
Another editorial noted that what had once been a divide between the city’s majority Muhajirs and the Sindhis had deteriorated into a yawning gap between the Muhajirs and the minority Pashtuns.

“The politics of ethnicity tends to be divisive and fragments society when the need of the hour is unity and compassion,” Dawn said in an editorial headlined ‘Not a mature approach’.

It also called on the three political parties in Sindh’s ruling coalition - who are all but at war with each other - to forge a joint approach to the problems that they face in the wake of the war against the Taliban in Swat and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that has affected the entire country.

“Karachi has also had to bear the impact of the displaced persons, and maturity demands that this be done sensibly. The crisis is a humanitarian one - and in no way less than one caused by a natural calamity,” the editorial noted.

The leader came in the context of the public holiday the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led Sindh government declared Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of the Karachi massacre in which upwards of 40 people had been killed in clashes between the PPP and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) that speaks for the Mojahir community.

The government move came after coalition partners MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP), which represents the Pashtuns, had called separate strikes in memory of the massacre victims.

The MQM claims that the growing influx into Karachi of Pushtuns fleeing the fighting in FATA and now in Swat, would lead to the Talibanisation of the city.

This certainly wasn’t so, the editorial maintained, urging the MQM to refrain from implicitly equating the Taliban with Pakhtuns and alleging that the ANP and PPP are patronising a Taliban influx into Karachi.

An op-ed article in Dawn provided another perspective on the simmering differences between the partners, which most recently erupted last month when clashes erupted between MQM workers and the Pushtuns, killing more than 30 people.

“The government cannot afford to let Karachi descend into chaos at this politically and economically critical time,” stated the article headlined ‘In a complete state of denial’.

“If the past is any guide, it only takes a few gunshots and bodies to wreak havoc on the fragile social fabric of Karachi,” it said, referring to last month’s MQM-Pushtun clashes.

Lamenting that there was “no policy in place to tackle the challenges staring the people of this city in the face”, the article said: “A turf war is a political reality in Karachi and denying it will delay the process of addressing the problem.”

The article also contested the MQM’s Talibanisation claims, saying there were “few signs” of this.

“Overblown fears to this effect must not be allowed to be used to establish one party’s hegemony over Karachi, which remains a saving grace of Pakistan as its truly multicultural, multi-ethnic metropolis,” the article said.

Daily Times also warned of the growing divide between the MQM and the ANP.

“The Muhajir-Sindhi divide has slid into the background and a Muhajir-Pashtun divide has come to the fore, in no small measure helped by the FATA diaspora into Karachi because of the civil war-like conditions there,” it said in an editorial titled ‘Karachi getting out of hand?’

It also noted that as the army goes after the Taliban in Swat and the rest of the Malakand region of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), “more Pashtuns will trickle down to Karachi”.

“The instinct of the ANP as an ethnic party is to give them a political safety net, only at the cost of sharpening its contradiction with the MQM whose electoral strength in Karachi is overwhelming - a fact that both ANP and PPP must pay proper heed to,” the editorial cautioned.

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