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The events that unfolded on Wednesday are indicative of a disagreeable fact: unless the controversial Sindh government law is addressed with sagacity and foresight, violence will continue to mar the province—particularly Karachi.
At least one person was killed — the provincial authorities ascribe his death to cardiac arrest — and many were hurt when police confronted an MQM-P protest against the law in front of Chief Minister House.
The administration moved in swiftly as the demonstration was meant to be limited to the Press Club and had crossed into the Red Zone. Following that, a baton charge and tear gas shelling occurred, killing one MQM supporter and injuring several others. The Muttahida has condemned the use of force, while the PPP-led Sindh government has stated that it had no choice but to intervene to maintain security in the area because PSL teams are also staying in hotels within the Red Zone.
Protesting is a democratic right, and police abuses, particularly the use of brute force, are unacceptable. The government appeared to have panicked, resulting in the use of excessive force. True, instead of marching to Chief Minister House, the MQM should have stuck to the agreement of protesting in front of the Press Club. It should not be forgotten that Karachi’s peace is extremely fragile, and provocative statements intended to fuel ethnic tensions must be shunned.
The current standoff has the potential to snowball into an ugly situation Karachi witnessed in the nineties and beyond, when ethnic clashes were a norm on the streets of Karachi, resulting in the deaths of a number of people. Instead of putting an ethnic spin on the LG law debate, the government and opposition should gravitate on civic issues to ensure that all Sindh residents have access to their civic rights.
The opposition parties must be mindful of the fact that protest campaigns shouldn’t militate against a peaceful law and order situation, while the Sindh government must demonstrate flexibility, accommodate the opposition’s legitimate demands, and assist in the passage of an LG law in Sindh that solves the province’s civic challenges in a fair and progressive manner.