Flagged: Divided, Karachi falls prey to conflict and discord
Tattered, torn and bruised; yet still standing. Or fluttering, moreover, is the flag of one particular political party, fastened to a streetlight in the Ayesha Manzil area of Karachi. As oncoming cars, motorbikes and vehicles of all sorts continue to pass, one is left with no choice but to shake his head disappointingly at the abysmal effect it has on the overall image of Karachi.
A week before the Independence Day is celebrated in the country, various vendors selling national flags can be seen in the city’s busy streets, selling the Pakistani national flag in all sizes. However, this is perhaps the only time that the national flag carries some weight and is seen across the city. Yet areas in Karachi such as Ayesha Manzil, Nazimabad, North Karachi and Clifton continue to be dominated with flags of PPP, MQM, JI and ANP.
Karachi is the most populated city of Pakistan, home to more than 20 million people (an underestimated figure by many accounts). Karachi is also referred to as ‘Mini Pakistan’ on account of its diversity, as regards to people belonging from different ethnical backgrounds, living in it. The diversity extends to politics as well, since you have sundry political parties existing in the same city, holding sway in one locality or the other. The best way to demonstrate your popularity and flex your muscles as a political party of note, is to mark that township or locality’s buildings, streetlights and bridges with your political party’s flag.
Not only are these different flags, belonging to various political parties displeasing to the eye but they also induce several other menaces one might care less to think about. For instance, Karachi’s law and order situation might have substantially improved ever since Sindh Rangers took matters into their own hands. During the PPP-led government, scores of activists belonging to different political parties were killed amid violent clashes and armed conflicts. As far as killings in the metropolis are concerned, here are a few numerical figures which depict how many lives were cut short by violence alone.
1,981 people were killed in 2010, 2,382 people were killed in 2011, 3,105 people were killed in 2012, 3,200 people were killed in 2013 and 2,909 people were killed in 2014. (Human Right Commission Pakistan).
Often these flags promote division and sow the seeds of discord between the political parties that exist in Karachi. The PPP-led government came forward with an initiative in 2010, when armed conflicts in Karachi were on the rise and presented a 10-point code of conduct. This code of conduct specifically called for removing flags from different parts of the cities, as markers of street domination. The signatories to the code of conduct were Karachi’s most influential political entities; PPP, MQM and ANP. However, workers and activists of all parties in the city openly flouted this code of conduct and planted flags as per their will across traffic signals, billboards and streetlights.
The apathetic, insensitive and complacent attitude of the local government is apparent and visible for all to see. The aesthetic beauty of the city has been plagued with these flags. However, placing blame alone on the local government would be wrong. Political parties thrive off such practices by their activists and some even encourage these illegal activities.
Until any impressive measure is taken to curtail the spread of these flags across public hoardings, buildings, streetlights, bridges and flyovers, Karachi stands divided.