THAT Karachi is no stranger to lawlessness is an understatement; violent crime, bombings and targeted killings have become routine. Each day ordinary citizens are killed in acts of violence. However, it is when a victim with significant security is targeted that the fragility of the city’s law and order situation is truly exposed. Such a victim died in Wednesday’s apparent suicide attack in the city’s congested Guru Mandir area. Bilal Sheikh, a senior security aide to President Zardari and a member of the president’s inner circle, was killed, along with three others, as a bomber struck when the driver stopped the vehicle in order to allow Mr Sheikh to buy fruit. Mr Sheikh had survived two previous attempts on his life; one attack was believed to be carried out by criminal elements from Lyari. However, suicide bombing is not a method used by Lyari’s gangsters and no group has so far claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. The bombing is a major intelligence lapse, particularly on the part of the civil security apparatus. It shows that militants are way ahead of the state’s security set-up and that when they plan to carry out acts of terrorism, they do their homework thoroughly. Targeted attacks often happen near the victim’s home or workplace, but in this case the perpetrators seemed well aware of Mr Sheikh’s routine and movements. The killers had performed proper reconnaissance; the police and intelligence agencies regrettably lack such efficiency when tracking down militant elements.
The attack also exposes the vulnerability of those in sensitive positions such as Mr Sheikh. Suicide bombings can happen anywhere, hence it is important to track down the nurseries where bombers are produced and to neutralise the infrastructure of terror. Wednesday’s bombing should also prompt greater introspection in Sindh’s law and order circles as currently it seems that anybody — even those with significant security detail, as in Bilal Sheikh’s case — is an open target for violent forces in Karachi, with the state unable to control the bloodshed.