The call by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee spokesman, Raza Haroon, for an indefinite shutter-down strike in Sindh came like a bombshell. Its most alarming aspect was that trade and industrial activities, as well as transportation, remained completely paralysed. The provincial government was caught unawares since it not prepared for such an eventuality.

Needless to say, both federal and provincial governments know that a complete shutter-down in Karachi can immensely harm the country’s economy - that is if sustained for an indefinite period. It is good that MQM’s threat was withdrawn the same night due to the intervention of the business community and the transporters.

Indeed, the MQM leadership is not so naïve as to embark upon such a ruinous path to destabilise the social and economic fabric of the state; first, to announce and then, to withdraw from the strike call without achieving some of its objectives. There is surely more to it than meets the eye.

Moreover, the timing of the shutter-down strike, the response of the business community, the freezing of the transport sector, and the closing down of educational institutions - all indicated the MQM’s potential to paralyse normal life in the urban centres of Sindh.

Meanwhile, the provincial government’s reaction to the issue was quite childish. Soon after the MQM’s announcement, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, reportedly, said that no one would be allowed to close the businesses forcibly. He maintained: “The police and rangers have been directed to take stern action against those who were found in forcible closure of shops in the city,” This step would have led to chaos and lawlessness. Fortunately, the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was there and apparently his intervention saved the economy great harm. Though the MQM withdrew the call, yet this does not mean that the crisis is over.

It is unfortunate that Pakistani politicians have learnt no lesson from history, neither from the fall of Dhaka nor from the military operations in Swat and FATA. Today, Pakistan is continuously facing militancy.

This has internal and external dimensions that are being exploited by anti-state forces. Pakistan is, therefore, not under a threat of war, but is facing a state of war that has no definable borders or enemies. That is why the armed forces responsible for defending the country against external aggression and internal subversion had to modify their military doctrine mainly to deal with this threats to Pakistan’s sovereignty and survival.

At this moment when Parliament is about to complete its five-year term and elections due to be held soon, the challenge of covert war in FATA, Sindh and Balochistan appear to be beyond the capacity of the police and rangers. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the governments in Sindh and Balochistan have failed to provide security to the life and property of the citizens.

Against this backdrop, there are many analysts and political parties, including PTI, that are emphasising the need for talks with militants so that bomb blasts, suicide attacks and target killings can be put to an end. Indeed, the lesson of history is that peace can only be achieved through negotiations. However first, we must maintain “unity, faith and discipline” in our own ranks to deal with the challenges facing Pakistan, as emphasised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The writer is president of the Pakistan National Forum.  Email: ikramullahkhan1@yahoo.com