Thinking Aloud: Getting Fleeced in Karachi

Sept. 28, 2015 by Darius 

As part of celebrations for the holiday of Eid al-Adha last week, thousands of animals were sacrificed across the Muslim world, including Pakistan. In recent years, though, in Pakistan another seeming holiday tradition has followed the sacrifice of the animals: gunmen belonging to the main political party-cum-mafia in Karachi, the MQM, going door-to-door to forcibly seize tens of thousands of animal hides, which are then sold. The fact that such seizure is illegal has never mattered in the past.

This year, though, this tradition was disrupted. Karachi has been the scene of a political and occasionally literal battle over the last few months as the Sindh Rangers, an elite paramilitary unit under command of the military’s top brass, has attempted to wrest control of Karachi from the MQM. According to Pakistani news outlets, after Eid the Rangers arrested hundreds of the MQM’s goons and seized more than 18,000 animal hides.

The fact that the MQM is being pushed off its turf is not necessarily good news for the actual residents of Karachi. Instead, Pakistan has been the scene of a predatory kind of see-saw in which government and private sector mafias take turns shaking down the populace.

It’s not surprising, then, that Pakistanis are not terribly attached to staying in Pakistan. A recent poll showed that 97% of Pakistanis are willing to work abroad. The average of the 70 countries surveyed in the same poll was only 64% — no small number in itself but a far cry from Pakistan’s level. (In the US, with its comparatively strong economy and fair job market, only a third of respondents were willing to go abroad to work.)

The fact that Pakistan’s people seem to be willing to knuckle under and accept victimization at the hands of their government, as well as at the hands of parallel governments, should not be construed to mean that Pakistanis are happy about it. Eventually, public discontent boils over. That’s a lesson that goes far beyond Pakistan.

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