Monday, September 27, 2010

VIEW: Just Say No…. to IDP’s? - MQM's IIIrd Strike (June 2009)

Unpublished piece

A strike call to protest the IDP’s arrival in Sindh, issued by virtual unknowns – JSQM, had been set for 25 May 2009. MQM’s initial support and subsequent withdrawal late Sunday night (24 May 2009) came too late for the strike to be called off – but in time for them not to ‘strike out’ completely. In baseball terms, however, this would be MQM’s third strike. First a deposed judge (barred for bringing in Marching lawyers); recently a fiery Cricketer turned politician (barred for bringing a peace rally) and now displaced people (barred for unwittingly bringing excess baggage of the Taliban).

As compassion and aid pours forth from all over the world for victims of Pakistan’s biggest humanitarian disaster, this very public display of hostility is bewildering. MQM reps were hauled in by talk show hosts to explain. Glib talking politicians nimbly danced around, careful not to admit wrongdoing, loathe to take responsibility, yet, eager to defend their flimsy pretext for lending support, ultimately, denying having given any. It was not pretty.

To MQM, Karachi is not a logical choice. No arguments there. A nationwide dispersal of the displaced is not an ideal scenario. Settling them near their home is obviously preferable. Can IDP’s be stopped from wandering far and wide especially if they do not have relatives to take them in? Not according to the three C’s we generally abide by - Constitution and Common courtesy!

MQM also sees sinister designs in this move. Other provinces share Sindh’s apprehensions about letting the IDP influx spread. Other provinces did not take it out on their people or allow City life to be paralyzed, public property torched or innocents murdered in the guise of a Strike that never was. While, the danger of infiltration and fear of de-stability is all too real, the rest of Pakistan has accepted these risks. The discovery of a Taliban commander living among IDP’s at the beginning of the exodus, capture of 23 suspected Taliban in subsequent days hiding in plain sight in other IDP camps and possibility of more having merged with fleeing residents in the ensuing confusion proves that this is not an irrational fear. With the arrival of IDP’s, security will be an issue. Ethnic divide could widen. And they may decide to stay on. Even so, these are insufficient grounds for keeping them out. Protecting Karachi is an admirable sentiment. At the cost of serving Pakistan is less so.

The concern for this city’s security is touching but unnecessary. Karachi is no stranger to violence. It may not have been hit by terrorists as often but bullets start flying at the slightest provocation. Such is the fickle nature of things here. If this little charade was meant to scare off poor wandering IDP’s from flying South, it failed. This has only steeled Karachi’s resolve to play host.

Sindh eventually bowed down - albeit with bad grace.

And so, IDP’s are Southward bound, perhaps driven by poor condition of camps elsewhere or attracted by better job prospects. But it is unlikely that they will find either at the so called Dubai of Pakistan. The new camps will not be any different. They could even be worse. And we are in recession. For all the talk about the IDP’s sacrificing their present for our future, no red carpet treatment awaits them in camps anywhere. Unbearable heat, mismanagement and now a frosty reception does. There are just too many of them. And, the nationwide call for ‘all hands on deck’ has been slightly muffled by other calls with less than noble agendas.

Image1 from: http://pakistanidps.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/idp_camps_hubs-small.jpg
Image2 from: http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/unhcr_idp_camps_swabi_afp-300x168.jpg

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