It was certainly no coincidence. OnJuly 21, 2001, the immediately preceding day to the state-inspired mayhem in Landhi & Malir, Zafar Aziz, one of top 3 leaders of Haqiqi’s Afaq’s faction and its Joint Secretary announced joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. This was a major breakthrough given the profile of Aziz in Afaq faction and the expectation (as he also announced) of rest of the elements treading on his path as well. But of course the establishment wishes to keep the bogey of Haqiqi alive.
What followed on the next day in Malir and Landhi certainly was no coincidence and was purposedly orchestrated to attemptedly reignite distrusts between the two sides (elements of Afaq Ahmed’s Haqiqi and the MQM) and therefore halt the process of their reintegration in the MQM. It is also important to note that only a few days before this incidence, the day following the one when Zulfiqar Mirza twice met Afaq Ahmed in jail, and in response to the speech of Anis Qaimkhani, the military establishment gave assurance to the MQM chief that they are not party to the purported plan of Zulfiqar Mirza and will also ensure that the same doesn’t succeed. It is only after such assurance that the MQM chief then cancelled an announced address to his workers inKarachi, wherein he would have also echoed the same threatening tone of Anis Qaimkhani.
Yet, despite such assurance, the way the military establishment and PPP’s civilian government meticulously collaborated towards making of the Malir and Landhi incident becomes evident on a closer examination on how events unfolded that day.
As has been widely reported by now, elements belonging to the ANP and People’s Amn Committee were used to execute the attack in Landhi and Malir under garb of Haqiqi. A few elements of Haqiqi though accompanied them as figureheads – these Haqiqi elements are the ones that are captive in the ANP/pukhtun-dominated Landhi Sherpao Colony and have no choice but to tread on the instructions of their host in Sherpao Colony in order to survive otherwise they will meet a similar fate as that of many other Haqiqi workers who have been killed by the same elements who are now trying to sabotage their reintegration into MQM but the blame, as always, will land on the MQM. Television grabs of some of these elements who attacked Malir and Landhi clearly indicated that they were anyone but certainly didn’t have the appearance of a Muhajir that Haqiqi elements are supposed to be. Even random interviews with residents also confirmed that the attackers were not Muhajirs but Pukhtuns and Baloch but they were certainly carrying the flags of Haqiqi.
The attack happened and nearly ten people, sleeping at that time, were killed in their homes or dragged out of their homes before being killed. Rangers, as per commitment of the army top brass to Altaf Hussain were supposed to ensure that such provocative and conspiratorial attacks don’t happen and don’t succeed. It may also be noted that, unlike what is normally said as an excuse, rangers have full powers to move into any area, conduct an operation, and make arrests, etc without seeking permission from anyone including the provincial and federal government. Rangers did act on the promise of the army establishment but it took for ten people to die and around six hours of siege of the attacked areas for them to move in. And even then, they chose not to use any of their powers to arrest the attackers or to conduct an operation against their known hideouts in the suburbs of Malir and Landhi Sherpao Colony, allowing the attackers to not merely walk scot-free but to continue distant firing and rocket attacks on these localities from such hideouts. And all the rangers did to prevent it was at the most flag marches.
But nevertheless, the police came in even after the rangers did, which was of course meant to show that the police under command of PPP is certainly party to the attack but the rangers aren’t. When the search operation later happened in the same areas that were attacked instead of the hideouts, the police carried out such operation so as to suggest that it’s the PPP doing it and not the rangers, though the rangers did indeed cooperate with the police to cordon off such localities before the search.
So all in all, it seemed a well-orchestrated good-cop, bad-cop game that nevertheless achieved the common interest of both the good and the bad cop & also certain individual objectives of both and yet gave a bit of a basis to the army establishment to assert that it did meet its promise. After all, the rangers ended the siege of these areas after ‘only’ six hours and ten dead, a certainly un-enviable response from a security agency in any civilized country, but given what happened in Qasba colony just a few days earlier where the siege went on for four long days and a 110 people got killed, six hours and ten dead certainly looked too good and too early a response. The rangers also attracted qualified praises from the MQM as they reportedly helped in evicting the attackers form their occupation of MQM’s offices in the area – something that the army establishment would cite as their fulfillment of the promises they made. But the fact is that such occupation was never sustainable given the ethnic identity of the attackers, who were certainly not muhajirs of Haqiqi as already mentioned earlier, as had these attackers stayed in the area for long, their identity would have certainly been revealed.
The common objective of course as already detailed was to reignite distrusts between the MQM and Haqiqi and thus sabotage Haqiqi’s reintegration into MQM (which would have furthered MQM’s control on important towns including Landhi, Malir, Shah-Faisal, etc) as without a Haqiqi figurehead the establishment would have had difficulty putting up a proxy challenge to the MQM in these towns. Individually, respective objectives of the two cops were also successfully achieved including PPP’s objective of blackmailing the MQM to back off from some of its demands vis-à-vis the commissionerate/local bodies system as well as to pressurize it to rejoin the government whereas army establishment benefited on further strengthening of the spectacle of a democratic failure, rebuilding of ranger’s image (when they were shown being welcomed by the besieged people of Malir), and most importantly negation of the otherwise undeniable fact that the army establishment is ‘the’ grand strategist of the proxy game in Karachi targeted at the MQM and essentially the majority of Karachiites.