In the past, Karachi was known as the City of Lights and people from Dubai and Singapore used to come to the city to celebrate the New Year. But sadly, due to target killings, kidnappings, lack of enforcement of the rule of law and deteriorating law and order situation, the City of Lights turned into a city of Doom and Gloom.

Therefore it was refreshing to learn that Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh, had directed the police to remove all barriers and containers placed on the roads leading to Sea View to block entry of revellers wanting to celebrate New Year on the beach.

The direction was given during his surprise visit to various areas of the city where development work was going on. Local Government Minister Jam Khan Shoro and other senior officers accompanied him. The Chief Minister said that he had given clear instructions to the Karachi administration and the police not to harass the people who wanted to visit Sea View beach to celebrate the beginning of New Year.

Following years of celebrating New Year’s Eve among blocked roads and cordoned off beaches, citizens of Karachi were afforded rare respite while welcoming 2018 as all major thoroughfares of the city, including those leading to and from Sea View, remained open on the orders of the provincial government. There was no lockdown in Karachi enabling citizens to celebrate the New Year freely and responsibly.

The welcome announcement confirming removal of barricades and opening of roads was made by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Sunday as he conducted an inspection tour of the metropolis early in the morning.

Talking to media personnel, the Chief Minister said he had issued instructions to the city administration and police to facilitate, instead of harassing, citizens who would be heading to Sea View and Clifton beaches to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

He had stated that: “I have directed them [the police] to remove all the containers placed to block off roads leading to Sea View. We are confident that the people of Karachi, particularly our youngsters, are responsible enough to not create problems for the public or themselves. I urge everyone to celebrate peacefully, respectfully and responsibly.” “Everyone should remember, however, that there will be no tolerance for carrying and using weapons, doing wheelies, racing and activities that create problems for others.” “My youngsters are responsible enough and they will not create any problem for others. I am urging them to enjoy themselves peacefully and respectfully. However, carrying weapons, doing wheelies and creating problems for others will not be tolerated.”

As a precautionary measure, the home minister, asserted that the police would put into effect Section 144 to take action against those indulging in aerial firing or wheelies, as well as those riding motorcycles without silencers. However, despite this, due to the reckless behaviour of some misguided people, over twenty citizens were injured in aerial firing.

Citizens of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were also treated to a fine display of fireworks on the stroke of midnight, courtesy Bahria Town. Although it was not as grand as the fireworks display in Sydney, Australia, Hong Kong and other major cities of the world, it was at least a good beginning for the citizens of these cities. But the American President, Donald Trump, put a damper on the celebrations, when in his first early morning tweet of 2018, he accused Pakistan of lying and being deceitful regarding its action against terrorism. He threatened to end US foreign aid for Pakistan, a move that comes amid strained ties over America’s decade-long war in Afghanistan, saying Pakistan was providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt”.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The tweet on Monday comes in the aftermath of heightened tensions between Washington and Islamabad since the summer, when the US president announced his administration’s national security strategy for Afghanistan.

Trump called on Islamabad to cut support for militants who find a haven along the Afghan border and warned Pakistan would have “much to lose” if it did not comply.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” In a surprise visit to Afghanistan last month, the US vice-president, Mike Pence, said the US administration was putting Pakistan on notice to end its support for Taliban insurgents, a comment that generated a chorus of criticism from the Pakistani civilian and military establishment, which has consistently denied harbouring Afghan militants. The New York Times reported last week that the Trump administration was considering withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan over Islamabad’s failure to confront terrorism in the country.

Pakistan had refused to allow the US access to a captured militant from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network. The militant was arrested in October by Pakistani troops as they rescued a Canadian-American couple who had been held captive for five years. The US believes that the captured militant could provide important information about other American hostages in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has rejected these accusations and has maintained that it has continued a military operation to push out terrorists from its territory and that 17,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in fighting militants, due to target killings and suicide bombings since 2001.

“America’s stance is clear and it will deteriorate relations further, the US is shifting blame of its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan.” Zahid Husain, an analyst based in Islamabad, said.

In the past, both military and civil governments have been known to run with the hares and hunt with hounds, while Donald Trump is no ‘tolerant’ Barack Obama and shoots from the hips, without considering the results. Is this also a new beginning for the already strained Pak-Us relationship? How will this affect the future of Pakistan, only time will tell, but then, let us hope for the best.

 Email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk

Hamid Maker