Over the past few decades Karachi has witnessed a vicious cycle of sectarian strife, with a visible surge in the sectarian driven targeted killing of late.

On August 18, 11 people were killed in a matter of few hours in district central — the victims belonged to Deoband school while three were Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat activists. The law enforcement officials saw it as a reaction to the August 17 attack on the bus of Al-Quds rally, where two people were killed on Jumatul Wida.

The last six months saw a sharp rise in the targeted sectarian killings. The police department statistics show that till August 31, 2012, as many as 76 people have been killed.

During the first seven months of this year, sectarian murders took place in bouts, after a relative lull. Usually, a killing occurs, sparking a tit for tat reaction which continues for a week or so, until the situation calms down — till the triggering of fresh bloodletting.

A break up of the available statistics of the current year shows that 33 Shias, 30 SSP activists, 12 Sunnis and one Ahmadi were gunned down in the city.Comparatively speaking, according to official data, last year some 32 people were killed in sectarian violence including 17 SSP activists, 13 Shias and one Deobandi and Barelvi each.

In all incidents, the assailants were on motorcycles using pistols to target their victim — a modus operandi starkly similar to political target killings.

Over the years, many arrested suspects were set free by the courts, mainly due to weak prosecution,” says SP Raja Umar Khattab.

The killers on both sides lack unified leadership,  having reorganised themselves as small splinter groups which select and execute their own plans, SP Khattab observes.

A continuous and concerted police effort against them is missing as no specialised unit has been assigned the task, the officer added.

For the last one year, no major suspect has been arrested, according to the police officer who has handled anti-terrorist wings. He pointed out that generally police officers are reluctant to get involved in proper investigation and pursuing of the sectarian killing cases for fear of reprisal.

Ghulam Shabir Shaikh, Additional IG CID, now renamed counter terrorism department (CTD), believes that the on-going sectarian strife in the city is localised and sectarian acts of violence in other provinces do not trigger strife in Karachi.

When a particular sect is being targeted, a key person of the opposite side is usually killed in reaction, he said. But lately, targeted attacks from both sides are being witnessed.

Following its establishment in the early 2000, the CID proved effective in combating sectarian strife for which purpose it was essentially set up. Militants were arrested and relative peace was restored for some years.

Lately, the CID has been assigned other tasks instead of focusing on the so-called Taliban, which has enabled re-grouping of these outfits, sources observed.

Moreover, no concerted crackdown against any  militant or proscribed outfit was seen anywhere in the country during the last four years which has provided ample breathing space for them.

The Federal government has no clear policy of crackdown against the proscribed outfits for the law enforcement agencies to follow.

Outfits banned under the Musharraf government have reorganised themselves and continue to operate under new names.

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