Fear, Facts and Rumours
Karachi is pretty scared at the moment. I've listed some facts, and some rumours below which explain and reflect that fear. The question really is as to how much truth there is in any of the rumours or speculation.
"The house of Munir A. Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a member of the panel of lawyers defending Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in the Supreme Court, came under a gun attack early Thursday morning."
Source:'Gunmen Attack Malik's House', May 11, 2007 Dawn.
There has been some violence in the run up, and shops are already shutting a day prior. We even witnessed a pathrao (stoning) at Gizri on the night of the 10th of May around midnight, opposite the Saudi Counselate. (It's rumoured that the MQM and the Police conducted a joint raid on an MMA or PPP rally point where materials were being distributed for tommorows big rally, and the credibility for the rumor part of this fact rates High)
The MQM has already started 'fortifying' the Quaids Mazaar (the expected flash point for tomorrow, as that is where the rival rallies intersect). MQM anners have been strung all across the city, with the rally routes particularly saturated.
Significant numbers of party workers Haqqiqui, Sunni Tehrik and the MMA have already been detained.
Buses are being Highjacked in both Karachi and Lahore so as to ferry people in to beef up the numbers attending the Karachi and Islamabad rallies respectivley.
The Government is considering closing down all Gas Stations in Karachi, in case of possible security problems.
(Rumour Credibilty: Medium - Low - How shutting all of Karachi's gas stations is really going to help matters is beyond me, but the gas stations on Sharah e Faisal have alread been shut and cordoned off by Qanaats.
Ahsan points out validly: "that shutting down gas stations is very useful because setting fire to them is really easy and makes news, which is part of what any rally wants." To which I would agree. Still, shutting down the entire city's gas stations doesnt really mean that they're un-torchable, and protecting them all from arson is impossible. I imagine its more likley that they'll shut down and protect the high risk ones.)
MQM party workers have been instructed to bear arms for tomorrow in great numbers, and are expecting to use them.
(Rumour Credibility: High, owing to our source)
The Army might be out in force tommorow.
(Rumour Credibility: Minimal, due to alternative sources + I havent seen any signs of this as yet + it escalates matters + the rangers and the police have already started being put in place)
Some people are actually 'expecting' 200 - 300 people to be killed tomorrow, as the Government is apparently looking for a pretext to impose an Emergency. Pir Pagara seems to fear as much as well, though what his opinion is worth is anyones guess.
(Rumour Credibility: Completely Unknowable - in my opinion low, in Ahsans opinion High.)
While scary as all hell, I personally have strong doubts that its in the interests of the Government to impose an emergency, just yet anyway. Ahsan agrees with me in that whether or not the government plans to impose an emergency is the most important issue. However he disagrees with me in that he feels that the Government has tacitly declared its intention to impose an emergency. I've posted his comment below.
"[Imposing an] emergency, is exactly what the govt wants to do. Witness the multiple statements given in the past three weeks on the matter. An excellent way of telling the government's intentions is to see:
(a) how much they talk about something and
(b) how much they confirm, deny, prevaricate and attempt to leave everybody in confusion about something.
For instance, when it came to the PPP deal, for about a year we witnessed mutlplie statements in the press saying it may be happening. We also witnessed multiple statements saying it wont be happening. Rumours and innuendo dominated the fray. The point to be made is that:
(a) they talked about it a lot and
(b) they confirmed and denied it a lot.
The same can be said of Musharraf's uniform issue in 2004, which if you remember observed the same general contours (lots of statements, nothing definite). The question of emergency has been the same. The Government has made sure to put it out there, but in a way no one can be sure of its intentions. That tells me they want to do it, and are looking for an opportune time. Well, the opportune time is here."
Personally I feel that while theres still not enough information upon which to draw conclusions, theres enough reason to be fearful. If there has already been a decision to impose an emergency, then theres also been a decision as to how much violence there will be tommorow, and how many people will die. I suppose we'll all just have to wait and see. In the mean time, in the unlikley event that this post came as news to anyone currently residing in Karachi, please buy your provisions tonight, fill your car with fuel and be extremely careful of where you step out tommorow, particularly if its in the vicinity of the Airport (the Cheif Justice arrives around noonish I beleive), Sharah-i-Faisal, and especially the Quaids Mazaar.