SAVE KARACHI

BLOODSHEDS ARE AFFECTING TRADE AND INDUSTRY.

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
July 11 - 17, 20
11

Karachi, the city of lights as well as financial hub of the country, is once again bleeding in fresh wave of violence and spate of target killings.

Karachi, home to Pakistan's main ports, stock exchange and central bank and the main gateway for Western military supplies bound for neighboring land-locked Afghanistan, has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence. Hundreds of targeted killings this year not only caused loss to trade and industry but also badly affected inflow of foreign investments.

Karachi contributes 68 percent to the government's total revenue and 25 percent of GDP, according to the officials. Most foreign companies have their headquarters here. Trouble often means disruptions to industrial output and less chance of luring overseas investors, a task that has taken on greater urgency since summer floods hammered the economy.

In a fresh wave of killings, over 70 people have been killed and scores injured in ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan's financial capital in the last four days, amid growing tensions between the ruling PPP and its estranged ally Mutthaida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

According to police and rescue officials, the number of victims was 28 on Wednesday, with around 30 people injured. The toll on Thursday touched 42, with scores having been injured while around 30 lost their lives on Friday in the wave of violence for over a week.

Television channels showed footages of houses in the colony riddled with bullet holes and people fleeing their homes for safety.

The MQM recently quit the PPP-led coalitions at the centre and the southern Sindh province amid political differences. ANP is still a partner of the coalition. It appears there exists no writ of the government in the city.

Political analysts have expressed fears that if situation goes on unabated it could cripple the country's economy as Karachi is the financial hub of Pakistan. The key port city is also the main hub used by NATO forces to transport goods to Afghanistan.

"Karachi has resilience because it has seen sectarian, ethnic, and political related violence and killings in the past but this time strikes could really hit the economy bad (hard) as the country is already struggling economically," they said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 490 people have already been killed in targeted killings this year. Some 748 in 2010 and 272 in 2009 were killed in sectarian and political violence.

Critics say politicians lack the will to stabilize Karachi. The dominant MQM and its rival, the ethnic Pashtun-based ANP blame each other.

Business community has expressed concern over deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi and said that it would have far-reaching implications for trade and industry all over the country if necessary measures are not taken immediately to ensure normalcy there.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Shahzad Ali Malik, Senior Vice President Sheikh Mohammad Arshad and Vice President Sohail Azhar said that Karachi is the investment and trade gateway to Pakistan and its economy is linchpin of national economic growth performance as it contributes almost two third of the total revenue to the exchequer.

The LCCI office-bearers said that Karachi is the world's 20th largest metropolitan area and forms the hub of Pakistan's economic activity. Karachi produces about 42 per cent of value added in large-scale manufacturing and 25 per cent of the GDP of Pakistan. In other words, the city itself contributes over 80 per cent to the Gross Provincial Product. Economic activities in Karachi contribute more than $40 billion to Pakistan's total annual GDP, they added.

They said that over 1200 killings in Karachi in a little more than six months of 2011 are an eye opener for the government and it must review all its policies to stop killings in commercial and industrial hub of the country.

"If the city of Karachi continues to bleed, it is not the local investment alone that would dither away but also no foreigner would visit this country for business purposes. Load-shedding situation could also aggravate because a major chunk of electricity is being produced through thermal means," they said.

The LCCI office-bearers, who were very worried over recent spate of target killings in Karachi, said that there was a dire need to take immediate measures to control law and order situation in the country.

They said that the government should immediately convene an All Parties Conference wherein business leaders should also be invited to find out a strategy to cope with this menace once for all.

"Involvement of foreign hand in Karachi unrest cannot be ruled out, therefore the government must look the Karachi situation from this angle also."

They said that only on Thursday last trade suffered a loss of Rs5 billion due to sharp decline in sales in the city as buyers were avoiding risk of visiting markets for the fear of antisocial elements.

Chairman of the Pakistan Industrial and Traders Association Front (PIAF) Sohail Lashari, President Autoparts Manufacturers & Exporters Association Tahir Javed Malik and Chairman Lahore Township Industries Association also expressed deep concern over target killings in the largest city of the country Karachi and urged the government to take immediate measures to overcome the situation and curb the menace of terrorism.

They said that the Karachi situation was a cause of great depression among the people. They said that people were feeling insecurity as dozens innocent people were killed every day. They said that the terrorism had forced the Karachi businesspersons to close down their businesses while stock market had nose-dived. They said that national economy was facing loss of billion rupees almost daily.

They said despite heavy loss of human lives government has not evolved a comprehensive plan to stop target killings. The political parties were busy in blame game while terrorists are openly playing their ugly games.

They said that Karachi was the hub of industrial and economical activities and "Save Karachi" campaign is need of the hour.

They said that industrial sector was already fighting with crisis like massive input cost, high markup, energy crisis, and incompatible policies of government while Karachi circumstances were aggravating the crisis.

They said target killing in Karachi has paralyzed the economic activities across the country. They said no foreign investor of buyer is ready to step in the country, particularly in the Karachi.

They urged the government and leaders of political parties to immediately end their differences and rescue Karachi. There should not be two opinions in the interests of country. They said that government should evolve an effective security plan and ensure its implementation so that industrial and economic activities should be restored.