THERE can be no disagreement with the fact that Karachi is awash with all sorts of arms. However, it is fair to ask how practical a mass deweaponisation drive will be in the metropolis, in light of the chief justice’s call for such an exercise during the Supreme Court’s proceedings on Thursday and Friday. Such drives have been carried out in the past, and if the rampant killings in Karachi are anything to go by they have failed to deliver.
The city’s problems are complex, and sweeping actions such as calling in the army or cracking down on illegal weapons by imposing a curfew will not create lasting peace. However, an important aspect that can be addressed is the demoralisation of the police that especially stems from the lack of progress in apprehending the killers of the men in uniform. If police personnel today are hesitant to take action against militants when they see what has become of their predecessors, can they be blamed? Hence, it is a welcome step that the Sindh police have decided to reopen the cases of policemen murdered as a result of their involvement in the operations of the 1990s — in fact, they should not have been closed in the first place. The move was given impetus after the court highlighted the killing of policemen on Thursday.
Over 150 men in uniform involved in the operations of 1992 and 1996 have been gunned down over the years. In fact, militants have zeroed in on anyone they see as a threat. For example, at least five eyewitnesses, including two policemen, in the murder case of journalist Wali Khan Babar have been systematically eliminated. In this regard Sindh’s recent passage of the Witness Protection Act 2013 is a positive move. Witnesses, prosecutors and judges, as well as policemen, all need protection if militancy is to be controlled in Karachi.
Hence, if the current ‘operation’ is to succeed, the police’s morale needs to be boosted substantially. Along with providing training and life-saving equipment, the law enforcers must be assured by the state that if they go after criminals and militants, they will not be abandoned once the operation winds up. And one of the strongest messages the state can send in this regard is to bring the killers of policemen — whether those who fell in the 1990s or later — to justice, to show that the men’s sacrifices were not in vain, and to let militants know that their impunity will not be tolerated under any circumstances.