In a raid on Tuesday, the police and rangers confirmed the arrest of 15 persons and the recovery of Indian-made weaponry, including a light machine gun, sub-machine guns and rifles, from a political office in Karachi. In a press conference later, and by the reactions of party officials on television, the raid was revealed to have been conducted at an MQM office in Landhi. While the MQM denied all allegations and termed the charges a conspiracy, the police chief vowed that “I may be killed, but the operation will continue.”

With the installation of the new government came the long-awaited realization that the peace of Karachi is a national imperative. In one memorable sitting, the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Governor Sindh, and the CM Sindh, was bluntly informed by a Karachi businessman that the two reasons why there was no peace in Karachi were seated to his left and right. All political parties have tried to give the impression that they are delighted by the decision of the federal government to initiate a Rangers-led operation in Karachi. Naturally, anyone found to be vociferously resisting such obvious measures such as the apprehension of target killers, confiscation of illegal weapons and so on, would not have escaped attention and identification as part of the problem.

Karachi is a mega-city, populated by an estimated 23.5 million people, and it is the country’s main seaport and financial centre. But, unlike New York, it has yet to find a Giuliani. Criminals operate with impunity, the local police are highly politicised and accused of being in bed with the mafia. A small forest has been sacrificed to printing Joint Investigation Team reports, which are conspicuous by their number and inconspicuous by the amount of action they inspire. No one needs a JIT, or three, to state the obvious: political parties have resisted efforts to dispense justice. None of them are blameless, militant wings are a fashionable and desirable accessory in the hostile Karachi landscape. For all its diversity, it seems the City of Lights suffers all the more for it. Vested interests fight hard to maintain their ground, and the average Karachi citizen is condemned to be the grist of the mill in the face of such ambition. The accusations made by the chief of police and the Rangers spokesman are dire. Any political party facing action as a result of the action must give the most serious attention to clearing its name of the charges, or to clearing its ranks of those nefarious elements indulging in violence and intimidation.

It is hoped that all the political parties stick to their word this time and co-operate. The operation must go on, uninterrupted and uninfluenced. It’s now or never for Karachi.