Who are Sindhis

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The five most important lines of conflict are mentioned here: Firstly, militants from various ethnic groups fight each other in Karachi to defend or enforce their rights: Sindhis fight against Muhajirs, Muhajirs against Pathans, and Sindhis and Muhajirs against Punjabis. Second, they all regularly come into conflict with state security organs, be it police forces, paramilitaries or regular army forces. Thirdly, despite all the corruption of the state apparatus, the same applies to the drug and weapons mafia operating in Karachi and throughout Pakistan, which is dominated by the Pathans. Fourthly, however, the focus of violence in recent years has been the merciless fratricidal war between two warring factions of the party Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) and, fifthly, violent clashes between partisans of radical Sunni and Shiite groups.

But Karachi is not only the city of the almost unmanageable civil war of all against all, it is also Pakistan's largest city and its economic center of gravity. Almost all of the country's major industrial and service companies have their corporate headquarters and production facilities here. A very large part of Pakistan's legal and illegal foreign trade is carried out via Karachi's port, the only one in the country. Karachi's airport is Pakistan's gateway to the Arab world, through which thousands of workers find their way to extremely lucrative jobs in the Gulf States. And Karachi's domestic economic significance is enormous: the metropolis in the extreme south of the country generates just under a quarter of the country's gross domestic product (Zaidi 1997, p. 28).

The escalation of violence over the past decade and a half has hit many branches of the economy hard. However, a special industry is prospering extraordinarily under the civil war-like conditions: According to estimates, up to 8 million Pakistani rupees (around 150,000 US dollars) are earned in Karachi daily through extortion and other forms of organized crime (HRCP 1995, p. 18). Protection rackets are targeted not only at companies and factories (including their employees), but also at hospitals, wedding parties and newly retired employees in the regular economy. About ten vehicles are stolen "at gunpoint" every 24 hours. A significant part of the drug trafficking in the "Golden Crescent" is carried out via Karachi and, with the proverbial "Kalashnikov culture" that pervades the city, has closed into a vicious circle of lucrative violence. But these are only examples - no matter how comprehensive and detailed a list of the various lines of conflict in "Beirut Asia" may be, it would necessarily remain incomplete.

Karachi is not just the city of ubiquitous civil war and big business, both legal and illegal. Even if it is no longer the capital of the country, Karachi is not only the "birthplace of Pakistan" in the eyes of the founder of the country, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in the figurative as well as in the actual sense: every tenth Pakistani lives here, and no more muhajirs live in any other Pakistani city , Baluchis, Sindhis, Pathans and Kashmiris (Malik 1998). This makes Karachi a kind of secret capital for all Pakistani ethnic groups except the Punjabis. Karachi is the "official" capital only for the group of Indian Muslims who moved to Pakistan in the course of the division of the subcontinent: the Muhajirs. And in a certain way also for the Sindhis, in whose province Sindh the port city is to be found.

The peculiarity of Karachi is that the city is an economic center of gravity, a city of civil war, a place of organized crime and a "Muhajir City" at the same time. And in a historical longitudinal section, the example of Karachi shows how the creeping erosion of the state's ability to act and the emergence of violence similar to civil war can lead to one another and lead to the dissolution of an order of violence.

The development of Karachi in the years after independence

The history of Karachi is closely linked to that of the Pakistani state. Pretty much all of Pakistan's contradictions and conflicts can be found here compressed and potentiated in a very small space. The peculiar importance of the port city has specific historical and political reasons, knowledge of which makes it easier to understand the current situation.

On August 15, 1947, the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent were granted independence after almost two hundred years of British colonial rule. The change of India from the debtor of the colonial power to its creditor, the moral and material strengthening of the Indian independence movement through the Second World War and, last but not least, the pressure of the USA, the new hegemonic power of the approaching post-colonial era, were the decisive factors for the unexpectedly rapid, even precipitous completed departure of the British colonial rulers.

Another factor was the escalation of the conflict between the two warring wings of the Indian independence movement, the predominantly Hindu, but who see themselves as secular Indian National Congress (INC) on the one hand and the All-India Muslim League (AIML) on the other hand. The AIML saw itself as representing the interests of the Muslims of the subcontinent and had been demanding national self-determination since 1940. The reason for this demand was provided by the "two-nation theory", with which the principle of self-determination of the peoples was transferred to the religious communities: Indian Muslims (a good quarter of the population) and the majority population of Hindus are two nations, so it was said who could not possibly live peacefully in a state without one suppressing the other.

Against the backdrop of escalating violent clashes between religious communities, the British became Raj divided into two states on an ethnographic basis: predominantly Muslim provinces or districts were added to Pakistan, the rest of the territory became part of the Indian Union. The rulers of the princely states ruled only indirectly by the colonial power had to choose one of the two successor states.

The advocates of the two-nation theory, most of whom lived as a minority in the predominantly Hindu provinces, largely prevailed, albeit at a high price: over 15 million people voluntarily or involuntarily left their homeland in the course of the division and transferred the border, almost a million of them fell victim to planned or spontaneous massacres. Even more: the consequences of what was probably the largest population exchange in human history should become a contradicting basic constellation in the post-colonial Pakistani formation and its metropolis of Karachi. (2)

More than two thirds of the Muslim refugees came to Pakistan from the eastern, now Indian part of Punjab and settled in the Pakistani province of the same name (Ahmed 1998, p. 91). A common Punjab language and culture, as well as the fact that almost as many Hindus and Sikhs left western Punjab for India, facilitated the integration of this population group.

Most of the remaining refugees settled in the relatively sparsely populated, rural province of Sindh and its capital, Karachi. Many of them came from the Muslim upper and middle classes of Central India and had been among the intellectual champions of the two-nation theory and the Pakistan movement before independence (cf. Ahmed 1998, pp. 94ff.). This group of refugees called itself from then on and to this day "Muhajirs", which means "refugee" in their native language Urdu, which became Pakistan's national language. (3)

Shortly after the partition was completed, the Muhajirs formed the majority of the population in Karachi and quickly took over the key positions in administration, trade and industry (cf. Husain et al. 1965, 67ff. And 116). They benefited from the policy of the central government, which was then resident in Karachi, which enabled the refugees to acquire real estate, which was almost entirely in the public domain, at special conditions (Haydar 1974, p. 111). With the economic and political dominance gained in this way over the indigenous Sindhi population, the Muhajirs effectively succeeded the Hindu middle class who had emigrated to India.

This created a central line of conflict, because the migration movement in the south of the country was shaped as a social contradiction. Before the founding of Pakistan, rural Sindh was geographically, politically and economically located on the periphery of the subcontinent and was shaped politically and economically by the Sindhi landlords and their mode of reproduction. Due to the strong influx of people and capital, the power relations within India came into conflict with a political economy transformed by state intervention and economic change (cf. Malik 1996, p. 76ff.). This contradiction between traditional and modernized economy was translated into a blatant urban-rural contrast, which was ethnically coded as the Muhajir-Sindhi contrast, through the "takeover" of Karachi by the Muhajirs.

In this context, it is also worth taking a brief look at the power constellation for the whole of Pakistan, which is closely linked to the economic and political situation in Karachi. In contrast to the Muhajirs, the long-established Sindhi elites saw themselves excluded from the start on the whole of Pakistan. The AIML, well Pakistan Muslim League (PML), was particularly strong where the Muslims of British India were in the minority. In contrast, in the Muslim majority provinces on whose territory the Pakistani state was constituted, the Pakistan movement was only weakly anchored in the rural and local political culture. This basic constellation, in combination with other factors, favored the rise of first the civil and then the military bureaucracy to the dominant faction of a hegemonic bloc, in which the Punjab landlords were involved as junior partners with veto power (cf. Alavi 1990). Since the Urdu-speaking Muhajirs were well represented in the civil bureaucracy as well as in the state-controlled media and Karachi was initially chosen as the Pakistani capital, they - and with them Karachi - initially also belonged to this hegemonic block, but the Sindhis did not. Not only were these demographically, politically and economically marginalized in their old provincial capital, Karachi was also administratively detached from Sindh as the "capital territory" (Ahmed 1998, p. 103). With the proclamation of the administrative reform of the "One Unit" in 1955, Sindh was even merged into an administrative unit with the other West Pakistani provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province and, as it were, wiped off the map.

Karachi under Ayub Khan (1958-69): The locally politically overwhelmed developing state

As early as the early 1950s, the first effects of the social change that was peculiarly accentuated by migration were noticeable in the inner workings of the metropolis of Karachi. Crisis and conflict only emerged under the rule of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who had put himself to the head of the state in 1958 and repealed the constitution that had only come into force two years earlier. Ayub Khan established a modernization dictatorship with massive support from the United States. Its hallmark was a state-controlled development policy, which benefited almost exclusively a narrow economic elite (cf. Amjad 1983). However, despite state-controlled development, the first signs of a rather involuntary withdrawal of the state from central political areas were already apparent during this period.

In Karachi, after independence, the population more than doubled within months and exceeded the million mark (see on the following: United Nations 1989; Zaidi 1997). At the same time, the industrial base of the previously poorly industrialized city expanded under the banner of import substitution and attracted workers from all over the country.

With the economic upturn, another line of conflict should attach itself to the existing conflict: Around half of these internal migrants came from the North West Frontier Province, over a thousand kilometers away, which was mostly inhabited by ethnic Pathans (also known as Pashtuns). There, in the relatively densely populated border region with Afghanistan, modern forms of production and reproduction slowly began to establish themselves in the still largely tribal-segmented social structures. However, the regular economy did not provide a sufficient basis for the integration of the laid-off workers. Many Pathan men first came to Karachi as temporary labor migrants, but then often settled down permanently (United Nations 1989, p. 5; Husain et al. 1965, p. 44). After the Muhajirs and internal migrants from the largest West Pakistani province of Punjab, the Pathans became the third largest population group in the city (cf. Husain et al. 1964, p. 45).

In line with the views of the time, the Pakistani state tried to master the consequences of migration through large-scale development plans and housing programs. According to the "Doxiadis Plan" (1958-64), the residents of the irregular dwellings in the center of Karachi - not least for reasons of police strategy - were to be relocated to two new townships on the outskirts of the city. These new settlements should each have their own reproductive cycle in order to prevent excessive traffic or new slum formation in the inner city area. The townships Korangi and New Karachi were built, but it was not possible to provide the necessary infrastructure for the residents, nor did they find enough jobs close to home in the regular economy. Other townships that were newly built after independence were also unable to alleviate the hardship and prevent the establishment of new illegal residential areas (United Nations 1989, p. 20).

In fact, the "Doxiadis Plan", which ultimately failed miserably, only provided the starting signal for the development of a large informal sector which now provides jobs for three quarters of the working population of Karachis (Zaidi 1997, p. 37). This informal sector took over the entire quarter management in the mostly illegally newly built settlements, with "all-round care" from the procurement of land to the granting of loans to the creation of jobs.

The pattern of this informalization looks something like this (4): middlemen, so-called. dalalls, occupy land illegally and under bribery of the responsible officials, sell it either directly to those looking for accommodation or to building contractors who are also operating illegally who build entire residential areas, so-called. katchi abadis (see Hasan 1992; 1995). Now other entrepreneurs come on the scene and organize the provision of the infrastructure either through intervention with the responsible state-owned companies or through their own operation: water, sewage, electricity, etc. Still other entrepreneurs worry about the connection of the newly built residential area to the urban transport network, again with bribery of the competent authority. The necessary road safety and other police services were also provided, at least in part, in the same way.

Following this pattern, a large part of Karachi's urban development policy was informalized and privatized as early as the 1960s, with the result that around a third of Karachi's resident population still lives "illegally" (Duncan 1989, p. 170). The entrepreneurs did not appear "on the market", but put the pistol on the chests of the migrants: The purchase of the "all-round supply" was often made a condition of the provision of building land or housing. Since at least the internal migrants from the North West Frontier were mostly destitute, they were forced to accept loans, which they often had to work off over an entire decade within the framework of a wage-like dependency relationship (5).

These relationships of dependency, in turn, were often based on clan-like or tribal loyalties. B. the Pathans from the Frontier reproduced their tribally structured economy in a modified, more modern form in their living and working quarters. Through the agents in their neighborhood, they were almost all active in the same industries, such as the Pathans in the transport sector, the Punjabis in the police service and the Muhajirs in the modern service sector (cf. Duncan 1989, pp. 174f.). In this way, a significant part of Karachi's "labor market" has been divided among clans and ethnic groups. Only the Muhajirs could not fall back on appropriate tribal or family structures in their social organization. For them, modern or at least cross-clan forms of organization played a greater role from the start (cf. Hasan 1992, p. 253).But thanks to their above-average qualifications, they too had a relatively uniform job description, at least in terms of their own and external perception.

As a result of the state failure, a patchwork of locally centered communities that continued to be ethnically coded in their everyday perception emerged in Karachi, which at least in part had the character of Gangs or Protection rackets had (6). "Bypassing the state" or by including individual officials, they controlled the allocation of land and housing as well as the provision of electricity, water and means of transport. First and foremost, the racket protected against the demolition of the illegal settlements by the state, but also tried to monopolize the provision of infrastructure through its privileged access to the (corrupted) state apparatus (cf. v. D. Linden 1983, pp. 253ff.).

The consequences of the failed development policy were privatization, illegalization and ethnic segmentation in the sense of the formation of a tribal or clan-like structure than Claim areas political economies which were delimited from one another and which were largely beyond the reach of the extraction organs of the state. Karachi's order of violence was already at least potentially segmented at this point, even if the city was spared the litmus test of a violent escalation of conflict for the time being.

In addition to the informalization of urban development, another legacy of the Ayub era should be noted, which is able to dispel the impression of a peaceful coexistence of the various Protection Rackets. In response to the suppression of any democratic movement by Ayub Khan's regime, the university scene became radicalized, especially in Karachi. A violent culture of conflict had been practiced on campus since the early 1950s, in which almost all ethnic groups living in Karachi - Sindhis, Punjabis, Baluchis and Pathans - were involved with student fighting organizations. A few muhajirs also got involved: They were - as well as off campus - mostly partisans of the militant Islamist party Jamiat-i-Islamiwhich was the most modern and tightly organized and fought for a stronger Islamization of state and society (Ahmed 1998, p. 109).

From the mid-1960s onwards, the students' struggles among themselves and against the state spread to other areas of society. One trigger was the local non-party elections ordered by Ayub Khan: Since partisan ideological positions were not allowed to be represented in these votes, the candidates wrote ethnic identities on their flags (Shaheed 1990, p. 203). The presidential elections of 1965, in which Ayub Khan presented himself to the people for the first time, were also very symbolic. In Karachi, Ayub, who was himself a Pathane, was supported almost exclusively by Pathans, while the Muhajirs gathered behind the opposing candidate Fatima Jinnah, the daughter of the state's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Against the background of this specific politicization of "imagined communities" (Anderson), the university conflicts spread to other areas of society. Until then in the area of ​​the professional group of professionals undisputed Muhajirs saw themselves challenged by the rising Sindhi middle class in the face of slowly dwindling jobs in the public and private service sectors. Slowly a line of conflict between the Muhajir and Sindhi became recognizable in and around Karachi, caused by the competitive situation in the educated middle class elite positions. The late 1960s therefore mark the "collapse of the symbiotic interdependence between Muhajirs and Sindhis" (Haydar 1974, p. 119).

As early as the 1960s, a fragmentation and segmentation of Karachi's political economy could be observed. This has not yet had any dramatic influence on the administration of violence - not least because the city lost its status as the Pakistani capital in 1961 for strategic military reasons. In the long term, the conflict situation tended to intensify: From the newly built capital Islamabad, idyllically located on the Margalla Hills, the rulers saw the manifold conflicts of Karachi as more of a local political issue.

Karachi under Z. A. Bhutto (1972-77): Ethnicization of Politics after the Failure of the Two Nations Theory

In the late 1960s, the crisis of the Ayub regime expanded into a crisis of the Pakistani state. The political, social and cultural differences between West Pakistan and East Pakistan, 1,800 kilometers away, escalated into a civil war in which India intervened militarily in favor of East Pakistan and thus enabled the establishment of the state of Bangladesh (cf. Sisson / Rose 1990).

The separation of the eastern part of the country intensified the West Pakistani contradictions and conflicts and became a decisive prerequisite for the escalation of the conflict situation in Karachi. Because in the "ethnic make-up" of Pakistan, the Punjabis, who in the meantime had fought for dominance in the military, administration and agriculture (keyword: Green Revolution), not only constituted the most important power bloc, they now also made up the slim majority of the entire Pakistani population. With their economic, political and numerical dominance they pushed the Muhajir bourgeoisie more and more into the background (Zaidi 1992, p. 34). At the same time, the secession of Bangladesh set a precedent for the secession of a province. This also destroyed the myth of the two-nation theory and that of the Punjab-dominated military. The result of this penetrated the power vacuum that had arisen Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of the populist Sindhi politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The takeover of power by Bhutto, the first democratically elected President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, marked the beginning of the end of Karachi's traditional order of violence. The PPP was in many ways the first all-Pakistani people's party and was not only supported by Sindhis; she also distanced herself from the separatist Sindhudesh movement, which opposed a perceived suppression of the Sindhis by Punjabis, Muhajirs and Pathans. But for all its "national appeal", the PPP had its most important power base in Sindh. The massive promotion of educational opportunities for the Sindhi middle class through the introduction of a tightened quota system for the public sector became the core of Bhutto's policy, which was also directed against the Muhajirs who were dominant in Sindh and Karachi (Kennedy 1991, p. 944). Likewise, the nationalization of large companies, especially in Karachi, hit many muhajirs, who consequently saw themselves expropriated by the Sindhi populist Bhutto. As a result of this policy, a sharp ethnic and political identity of the Muhajirs developed.

In this context, it is important to note that Bhutto was the first leading politician in Pakistan to owe his power to a democratic mandate. The democratization led straight to an intensification of the Sindhi-Muhajir antagonism, especially in Karachi: After the abolition of the One unit the Sindh was restored to its democratic rights. As a result, the Muhajirs of Karachi saw themselves politically assigned to Sindh for the first time, which was all the more serious as the autonomy granted under Ayub Khan was withdrawn from the metropolis and all power over the city fell to the provincial parliament of Sindh, in which the PPP had the majority (Bakhtiar 1996, p. 63). When the latter finally set about making the regional language Sindhi the second compulsory official language in the province (alongside the national language Urdu), the conflict, which had been simmering for a long time, erupted in 1972 in major manifestations of violence, the Karachi language riots (Shaheed 1990, p. 198).

The political atmosphere in Karachi was further poisoned by the massive influence of PPP dignitaries on the politically weakened city administration. This politicization of the civil bureaucracy did not exactly improve its performance, but it would have been more important than ever. The secession of Bangladesh had initiated a new refugee movement to Karachi: Non-Bengali Muslims from the former East Pakistan, known as "Biharis", settled in the refugee metropolis by the hundreds of thousands. The legal housing supply collapsed completely, the situation did not look much better with the transport system and other infrastructure services. The city has not been able to recover from this deterioration in the supply situation: until the 1980s, the formal sector was only able to meet 10% of the demand for housing (Hasan 1992, p. 231). The state, which remained authoritarian despite its democratization, initially reacted to its temporary abdication in urban development policy by tearing down newly built structures katchi abadiswithout being able to prevent up to 25% of the urban population from living in such quarters today (United Nations 1989, p. 11). It was not until 1975 that urban development policy managed to improve the situation of the slum dwellers not by demolishing their settlements but by upgrading them (v. D. Linden 1983, p. 249). As a reaction to the collapse of local public transport, the city reacted by introducing private minibuses (United Nations 1989, p. 32), a measure with serious long-term consequences, as would later become apparent.

The reign of Bhutto thus brought about the politicization of an increasingly powerless state apparatus for Karachi, the consolidation of informal practices and the disclosure and incipient violent escalation of the differences between Sindhis and Muhajirs, but also between Muhajirs and Pathans. The city's existing, at least nominally still largely state-sanctioned system of violence, has not yet completely thrown out of joint. In order to shake the existing balance of power, a new actor was needed who appeared for the first time since the late 1970s: des Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Karachi under Zia-ul Haq (1977-88): Local diffusion of violence in a military dictatorship

The abuse of power by Pakistan's first democratically legitimized political leader took on such proportions in the mid-1970s that the renewed military coup, this time under General Zia-ul Haq, was almost a relief. This relief was soon to give way to a tremendous disenchantment, also and especially in the city that had a barely concealed hateful relationship with Bhutto: Karachi. The fact that Zia executed the failed Sindhi populist in 1979 added a martyr and a few problems to Pakistan.

Zia installed a rigorous, somewhat Islamist military dictatorship, against the background of which the eleven years under Ayub Khan appeared in retrospect as a liberal era (7). The dictator had thousands of political opponents imprisoned or murdered, entire sections of the population were permanently alienated from the state, first and foremost the Sindhis. Zia banned all political parties and only after years let some handpicked politicians share power with him and his generals. The new management team of the PML was recruited from this group of politicians and is still involved in a dynastic elimination battle with the PPP led by Bhutto's subsidiary Benazir, which both seem to be losing (8).

As a bargaining chip against the PPP, which was strengthening again after a few years, Zia gave the MQM secret support and literally built it up into a political force. The MQM, the "National Refugee Movement", was founded in 1986 under the leadership of the former Chicago taxi driver Altaf Hussain. (9) The MQM was recruited almost exclusively from young, well-educated, urban descendants of the lower middle to upper class of Central India who fled to Pakistan in 1947. The MQM was and is tightly organized to this day, at least in parts it represents a comparatively progressive program and even counts women among the active party members. Their most important point on the program and their raison d'être, however, is the militant representation of the interests of the Muhajir population. The MQM is by no means free from authoritarian features, for which the leader cult around Altaf Hussain (10) is the most striking example.

The MQM is a child of Karachi. Modern forms of organization, progressive programs and the cult of the leader are intertwined in a contradicting manner with elements segmented and delimited claims operating forms of social organization on the other hand. Inside and outside the slowly revitalized democratic process, the MQM took by storm the majority of the Muhajir districts and made itself indispensable as a social institution. However, their aim was to rule all of Karachi, which they saw as a kind of "Muhajir City" - democratically, of course.

As a party of immigrants who do not know any clan chiefs or other traditional leaders, and who thus actually correspond most closely to the ideal of the Pakistani citizen, as such a party, the MQM could not come to terms with the status quo of ubiquitous corruption and ethnically-functionally differentiated services. As a result, as a kind of idealist all-Pakistani actor, she tried to take power in the most democratic way possible, at least in her stronghold of Karachi, the "birthplace of Pakistan" (Jinnah). As early as 1987, the MQM succeeded in appointing the city's mayor. Sooner or later it endangered the existing ethnically segmented balance of power and the still tolerably state-sanctioned system of violence in the city, which had long been barely governable.

The MQM posed a threat to the corrupt establishment of Karachi, Sindh and even Pakistan. At the same time, it was viewed by the top of this establishment as a pawn with which to allied various opponents - the PPP, but also those actually with the military government Jamiat-i-Islami - could keep in check. Zia's policy on Afghanistan was just as short-sighted as his MQM policy: his military regime was only too happy to let the United States take it easy as an ally in the East-West conflict and as the Afghan staging area Mujahideen use. The promised inflow of resources did not fail to materialize, and Pakistan experienced a real boom. But the price was high: as part of the Afghan war economy, it became a production and transshipment point for drugs and small arms, a development that was promoted or at least tolerated by parts of the state apparatus, including the secret services and the military (cf.Kartha 1999).

The proverbial "Kalashnikov culture", which also became the material prerequisite for the escalation of the conflict, spread in the metropolis. In addition, Karachi alone had to take in up to 100,000 Afghan refugees during the war years (United Nations 1989, p. 5). The existing contradictions were exacerbated by the inclusion of Pakistan in the East-West conflict. In view of the massive influx of weapons and drugs from the neighboring civil war country, the state power was less able than ever to guarantee the monopoly of force. As a result, society in and around Karachi organized itself even more vertically, i.e. H. familial, clan, or ethnic lineages.

The initial spark for the violent escalation was provided by a traffic accident in April 1985 in which a Pathane ran over and killed a Muhajir girl in his yellow minibus (cf. Hussain 1990). The Pathans had monopolized transportation as early as the 1960s under the patronage of President Ayub Khan, and their drivers were mostly within theirs Racket highly indebted and forced to risky, reckless driving style, which earned them the name "yellow devil". Time and again there had been minor riots after traffic accidents caused by the reckless driving style of the minibus drivers (United Nations 1989, p. 31). So the anger of the Muhajirs initially discharged against the Pathan bus drivers, but quickly turned into a pogrom mood against the entire Pathan community.

The anger of the Muhajirs was also fed by the fact that most of the Pathans lived illegally, did not pay taxes and, as ethnic relatives of the Afghan refugees, were or at least seemed to be involved in the drug and arms trade. At any rate, it was assumed that the profit they made would be transferred back to their home country Frontier Province. The fact that they themselves lived in illegal settlements and hardly paid any taxes appeared to the Muhajirs who had also immigrated to be forgivable, because they regarded themselves as "sons of the soil".

The Muhajirs, previously decried as "cowards" - in stark contrast to the "naturally warlike" Pathans - now began to organize themselves militarily under the leadership of the MQM and to bring district by district under their control. Again and again there were planned massacres by Pathans against Muhajirs and by Muhajirs against Pathans, which were facilitated by the fact that both population groups lived in separate residential areas, each pursued certain professions, spoke different languages ​​and mostly differed from one another externally (cf. Duncan 1989, p. 173ff .; Malik 1997, p. 235ff.).The MQM, the drug mafia dominated by Pathan, and other groups that had an interest in the escalation of violence, found it easy to mobilize new acts of violence on the basis of an ethnic-functional segmentation of the city that had been established over decades. Real ones formed no-go areas out. The order of violence was privatized (cf. Hussain 1990). The fronts initially ran between the "sons of the soil", which paradoxically also included the MQM, and the "foreigners" from the other provinces, i.e. the Pathans, Punjabis and Baluchis. The years 1985 to 1988 can therefore be regarded as the phase in which the MQM consolidated its politico-military power to such an extent that it was no longer possible to establish a state in Karachi against its will.

Karachi in the Age of "Democratization" (1988-99): Between Racketeering and Civil War

If one takes the criteria of research into the causes of war as a basis, then the violence in and around Karachi in 1986 exceeded the war threshold around which it has oscillated since then. After the reintroduction of democracy in Pakistan (1988) and the consolidation of the MQM, the situation apparently became clearer: the disputes between Muhajirs and Sindhis and - at the level of the whole of Pakistan - between the MQM and the Pakistani state emerged as the most important lines of conflict. The disputes between MQM and Pathans, on the other hand, ceased in these years without the exact background being able to be clarified so far. Obviously, both communities have moved out of the confrontation into a symbiotic stage.

After the position of the MQM in Karachi had consolidated and the PPP emerged as the strongest party in the first democratic elections to the National Assembly in 15 years in 1988, both representatives of the sons of the soil to set up a phase of cohabitation in Karachi, Sindh and Pakistan through the December agreement, which in the end turned out to be more of a standstill agreement (cf. Malik 1997, p. 238ff.). The PPP ruling at the national level under Benazir Bhutto left Karachi to the MQM, but had a free hand in rural Sindh.

This "armistice" between PPP and MQM collapsed after just under a year. The MQM became more and more a threat to the PPP and in the long term endangered the status of the military, the rest of the establishment and the Pakistani state. MQM leader Altaf Hussain even threatened a "new 1971", that is, the secession of Karachis or Sindh based on the Bangladesh model. (11) At this point it became clear that the policy of rearming the MQM and tolerating Kalashnikov culture and the drug economy, which had been covered by state agencies, if not driven forward, had led to the complete dissolution of the order of violence that had been segmented for decades but was still state sanctioned .

For example, the weak Bhutto government called on the army to come to terms with the violence in Karachi with military courts. Significantly, the attempt failed because Bhutto's PPP tried by all means to prevent itself from becoming the subject of military judicial investigations (Malik 1997, p. 243). Even at this point in time, the temporary clearing up of the clutter was undone by a new confusion. The understaffed, demoralized and corrupt police were and are unable to maintain the order based on the state's monopoly of force or to "recapture" the city. Public order collapsed completely at times, and the judicial system is helpless to this day.

An almost classic civil war escalation was recorded between 1992 and 1994, when the central government marched the military into Karachi to put an end to the activities of the MQM. This "operation clean-up" provided a superficial calming of the conflict situation without defeating the MQM militarily. Many MQM activists went underground. At the same time, the army and secret services promoted the split-off of a group of MQM dissidents around Aamir Khan and Afaq Ahmed, who agreed to cooperate with the central government (cf. Malik 1997, p. 247ff.). Since then, this "true MQM" (MQM-Haqiqi) has been fighting a bloody battle with the original MQM (Altaf) for control of the Muhajir residential areas (cf. Bakhtiar 1996, 1997, 1998). Although the MQM (H) does not have a mass base comparable to the MQM (A), it has used armed force and alleged support from part of the state security forces in Muhajir strongholds such as Landhi and Korangi fixed and this in no-go areas transformed for MQM (A) activists. In doing so, the Pakistani establishment has succeeded in breaking the rule of the MQM (A) over the city and taking the lead from the Muhajir movement, which made it strong itself.

But the spirit has not returned to the bottle, on the contrary: After the withdrawal of the army in December 1994, the most violent fighting so far took place in Karachi, killing over 2,000 people in twelve months. Most died in clashes between the two warring MQM factions. The fighting took on the character of merciless mutual extermination. Another attempt to integrate the MQM (A) into the national mainstream by participating in a coalition government, this time under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PML, failed miserably.

No Exit for Karachi?

1997 began a new series of acts of violence, which could be temporarily contained with the return of the regular armed forces and the establishment of anti-terror courts in 1999. But a political way out is currently not in sight. Even an all-party coalition could not break the circle of violence. In a way, this coalition already exists: almost all of Karachi's political parties, for whatever reasons they came into being, have become competing with one another Protection rackets developed. Whether MQM (A), MQM (H) or PPP - they all extort protection money with the participation of the local police, if not the paramilitary ones ranger or the regular armed forces in Karachi. It is often not clear to what extent the blackmailers act with the knowledge of the party leadership or not. One MQM (A) leader speaks of 30,000 uncontrollable activists in his party who are underground (12). The politics of the parties in Karachi is characterized by the fact that they only provide infrastructure or protection in those areas that are among their "strongholds" (cf. HRCP 1995).

Against this background, it is not surprising that the military coup led by General Pervez Musharrafs on October 12, 1999 initially aroused more relief than fear in Karachi (13). Previously, the Sharif government had repeatedly had to resort to the armed forces, not only in Karachi, to prevent the collapse of the state order. Now the military took the helm completely in hand. (14)

The events of 1999 confirmed Karachi's reputation as a microcosm of Pakistan. Here, the limits of the democratic consolidation of the Pakistani state were revealed earlier and more clearly than elsewhere: the state's withdrawal from central political areas, which began in the 1960s, was the early but necessary prerequisite for the ongoing escalation of the conflicts in Karachi. As a result of the state's withdrawal, everyday practices became more informal, leading to ethnic and functional segmentation - this formed the breeding ground for the escalation of violence since the mid-1980s. Their abolition is the central condition for the re-establishment of a state order. However, it is unclear how the material prerequisites for this are to be created today.


(1) On the situation in Karachi, see Ahmed 1998, AKUF (1999, p. 178ff.) And Wilke (1997, p. 78f.). On the development of Pakistan in general, see Duncan (1989) and Weidemann (1997). Information that the author gathered in spring 1999 during a research stay in Pakistan has been incorporated into the present presentation.

(2) The implementation of the two-nation theory also had far-reaching consequences at the international level: As Pakistan's state of affairs, it still determines the power-political rivalry between the two brother states, which have been in a latent to virulent state of war since independence (see Weidemann 1996).

(3) The expression "Muhajir" has a religious connotation: it originally referred to the participants in the Hijra of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina and was later intended for all Muslims who were forced to migrate for religious reasons (Haydar 1974, p. 108) .

(4) On the informalization of housing policy, cf. the descriptions in van der Harst (1983), Hasan (1992), v. d. Linden (1983) and Zaidi (1997).

(5) Cf. Hasan (1995, p. 61) and van der Harst (1983, p. 63), whose exemplary case study of a katchi abadi shows around half of all dwellings as (informally) credit-financed, with a third of the loans being financed by the "Employers" were asked.

(6) "Protection rackets" can be understood here as violent client relationships through which goods of all kinds are exchanged, whereby the good "security" - in its comprehensive sense - justifies the reciprocal exchange relationship. On the racket term Pohrt (1997), who refers to Horkheimer (1985, p. 287ff.), And on racketeering in Karachi, the passages in Alavi (1991, p. 184).

(7) Cf. on the Zia-ul Haq era: Hyman / Ghayur / Kaushik (1988), Burki / Baxter (1991).

(8) Such an interpretation comes to mind after General Pervaiz Musharraf's military coup on October 12, 1999. At the moment, however, it is not foreseeable which political groupings could take the place of the PML and PPP. Buchta (1998) offers a good overview of the domestic political situation in Pakistan (before the October coup).

(9) The MQM emerged from the All-Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization, founded in 1978, which had formed as a result of the alienation of large sections of the Muhajirs from the formerly favored Islamist, now increasingly pro-Punjab Jamiat-i-Islami. Cf. Ahmed (1998, p. 121ff.) And Malik (1997, p. 223ff.) As well as on the relationship between the Muhajirs and the MQM and Karachi: Verkaaik (1994).

(10) See the MQM website (http://www.mqm.org)

(11) Cf. the interview with the MQM leader in India Today v. July 15, 1995, pp. 44-47 ("Don't push the Mohajirs to the Wall. Or else 1971 will be repeated.").

(12) See the interview with the MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar in the magazine Südasien 3-4 / 99 p. 77ff.

(13) On the background to the coup and the reactions in Pakistan and elsewhere, see Wilke (2000).

(14) Two examples of this: At the beginning of 1999, over 30,000 soldiers were deployed to rehabilitate the over-indebted water and electricity authorities. The military collected electricity bills, cut illegal electricity branches and brought bribery officials and politicians to justice. Soldiers were also used to check how many schools there are in the country. Countless officials had enriched themselves from the budget allocations for "ghost schools".

Source: This article originally appeared in: Leviathan. Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft, Vol. 28, Issue 2 (June 2000, pp. 235-253).


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