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The Kafkaesque Karachi - Shahid Husain - The Sunday Indian
 
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The Kafkaesque Karachi

 

The latest edition of Karachi Literary Festival boldly dealt with the fault lines in Pakistan, and its lifeline, Karachi, Shahid Husain reports.
SHAHID HUSAIN | Issue Dated: March 2, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : War economy | Karachi Literary Festival | Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa |
 

Noted architect, author and town planner Arif Hassan says Karachi’s economy is “War economy” and the informal sector in this city has been “Formalized.” He made the observation while talking to TSI at the sidelines of Karachi Literary Festival (KLF) that attracted large number of writers, intellectuals, students, retired military officers and artists in a city with an estimated population of 20 million.

“The functions that the State can't fulfill have been taken over by the informal sector and they were taken over long ago. As the city expands, informal sector expands and they are financed by the mafias. Mafias ensure things for the citizens. So they are very powerful,” Hassan said.

He further noted: “Karachi's economy is war economy. Supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan, Afghan transit trade, the tankers that supply oil; heroin are all part of war economy and it has come to control and finance the informal sector. Political parties are also involved in it; religious organizations are also involved; informal sector has been formalized. But the real power is with the financiers that can de-stabilize the city within minutes. It can kill police as it is doing. Political parties can only go for strike and defeat the administration.”

Asked if it was true that “Great Game” is being played at a higher plane and several regional and big powers are involved in the proxy war that is going on in Karachi and in Pakistan, Hassan said;“Pakistan came into existence as a result of Great Game. The British did not want to hand over Durand Line to the Congress. This was one of the reasons for the establishment of Pakistan.”

But Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, Pakistan’s top defence analyst differs.

“I do not know what Great Game you are referring to because I do not believe in this Great Game nonsense,” Siddiqa told TSI on Sunday. When pointed out that American think tanks have been making projections about geographical changes in the region, she said: “Those projections are based on conflict situation here. I am not sure about regional and big powers but these sectarian outfits were part of extension of the war that went on during the 1980s. Sectarian agenda is part of overall Jihadi agenda. Plus there are other forces building up in Karachi to challenge MQM control. The Baluch in Lyari, the Pushtoon etc; other ethnic forces and here I did not necessarily equate Taliban and Pushtoon,” Siddiqa said.

Asked how the conflict situation could be resolved, Siddiqa said: “Once various political forces understand that the cost of conflict is very high and it can be resolved by sitting down together.” Asked if it was not true that every political party in Pakistan has a militant wing, she said: “No! I don’t think so. PPP doesn’t have a militant wing, nor PML-N. PPP’s factions have been broken away like the Baluch in Lyari that are even ignored by the PPP.”

It may be worth mentioning that Prof. Dr. Vyacheslav Belokrenitsky, head of the Near and Far East Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences stated an year ago that the previous Afghan war had been fought using drug money. He made the observation while delivering a lecture at the Pakistan institute of international affairs.
Citing an eminent American professor who documented the previous Afghan War, this scribe asked whether the current war was also being fought with drug money. Professor Belokrenitsky quipped: “Drug money was a significant factor. It not only brought hardship to the people of Afghanistan, but also Pakistan.”

His discourse was on “Russia’s View of Pakistan.”

“In Russia, there are grave concerns over the exit strategy of the United States from Afghanistan,” Prof. Belokrenitsky said. “What will become of the country after they leave? Instability can occur in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan,” said Prof Belokrenitsky, who is also a member of the editorial board of “Pakistan Horizon,” a research publication of PIIA that is being published since 1948.

With the exit of US forces from Afghanistan, there will be “Regionalization” of power players. Pakistan, Iran and maybe Turkey can play a role,” the professor highlighted. “Russia can be of help,” he said. “It had observer status in the OIC. Russia can’t be a participant, but can help from the outside,” he said.
“Let us dream of hope and better cooperation.” To another query from the audience, Prof Belokrenitsky said the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was a mistake, but it was made worse by the adversaries of the Soviets.

In 1979, he said the regime of General Ziaul Haq was on the brink of collapse, but the Afghan War allowed him to survive. To another query, he said: “I think secularism is one force,” and added, “radicalization is a competing force.”

“We should start from the “benefit of hindsight,” he said. “There are multiple factors. Sometimes terrorism is the product of the war against terror. The world is changing,” he said. “So we should make it healthier in our humble capacity.”

 “Our view of Pakistan is very positive; we don’t have any problems. Russia and Pakistan have a coincidence of interests. However, there were some issues from the South of Russia that were problematic, he said. One, there was an inter-state problem from Armenia and the other being radical terrorism, Prof Belokrenitsky said. “It’s really a great headache.”

Prof Belokrenitsky said that the Russians had a history of cooperating with Muslim countries since the 16th century. “Islamic radicalism is a problem, “he said. “Then we have the problem of drugs being smuggled into Russia and then going to Europe.” He pointed out that these drugs were products of Afghanistan. He also turned his attention to the menace of arms smuggling.

From the security point of view, Pakistan had become a “Major player,” and he added that the Russians had great respect for the people of the country. “We are very much interested in peace and stability in this region.”

There were many areas in which Russia and Pakistan could cooperate such as coal, energy, railways, just to name a few, the professor stressed.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017