Karachi Diary: To prevent Eid violence over hides and skins
However it is billed as, for the prevention of quarrels and fights between actual or fake organizations over the hides of sacrificial animals on Eid ul-Azha, or “for the security and safety of the general public”, Tuesday’s ban by the Sindh government on the collection of the hides and skins by any individual or organization without the government’s written permission, is a decision that needed to be taken. It’s no guarantee that violence won’t take place on Eid—Eidul Fitr was pretty violent this year, with ast two unexplained serious fires—but at least there will be less danger of the situation going out of hand. Because there is deep-rooted politics behind their collection, and the business is a money-spinner.
That the matter has to do with the rivalry between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has intensified with existence of a pro-MQM provincial government and a pro-Jamaat city government, is proven by an emergency press conference held ame evening by the amir of the Karachi Jamaat-e-Islami, Dr Mairajul Huda Siddiqui, at which he warned that the collection of hides could lead to clashes in the city. “If the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has not changed its policies,” he told the reporters at his party’s headquarters in Karachi, “then hide collection would cause clashes in the city”; he is not reported to have elaborated on the reasons for his fears. Nevertheless, his denunciation of the MQM as “terrorists and extortionists” on the same occasion leaves no doubt that he doesn’t believe the rival party has “changed,” or that his own party is changing its own attitude towards the MQM.
The government announcement was made at a top-level meeting, with home secretary Aslam Sanjarani presiding and the director general of the Rangers, Major General Salahuddin Haider, and Sindh IGP Syed Kamal Shah among the participants, and this shows the the gravity of the matter. “No person, agency, association and organization shall collect hides and skins in camps and vehicles, on roads, and in bungalows and offices” without permission, said a provincial government notification. Also prohibited are distribution of handbills, wall graffiti and other forms of advertising for the purpose. The measure is being taken “for the security and safety of the general public,” it explained.
The Jamaat had always been the most important player in the hides-collection business in Karachi. For as long as one remembers, it vans fitted with loudspeakers would start making rounds of the city some days before Eid ul-Azha and then go around collecting the hides and skins—until the emergence of the equally organized MQM in the late 1980s. Just as the MQM drove the Jamaat from Karachi’s electoral politics, it also broke its monopoly over the collection of hides. A large number of those people had been giving hides to the Jamaat for religion started favouring the MQM for its ethnicity.
The Jamaat leader’s statement means the party will not take the ban lying down. Then there is Haqiqi, which may want to defy the ban in some way to show that, despite the government’s campaign against it, it is not down and out. On the other hands, the provincial administration is unlikely not to do anything in case of violations of its order on Eid. But it isn’t just over hides and skins that violence can take place in Karachi.
Almost anything can trigger a clash. But Tuesday’s order could prevent a free-for-all between charged party activists going around on hides-collection campaigns, not a few of them armed. —Asim Ghani