Each dawn and sunset brings the news of death. Every day, the death toll in the city hits the half a dozen mark. The crime of the victims? The accident of birth.
Targeted not for their choices but for their ethnicity, religion or sect. There has been an alarming increase in the level of violence in the city. To a point, this is understandable. What else can be expected given the continuous influx of sophisticated weapons; the non-stop splintering of well armed militant groups and the complete lack of political will to stem this violence.
From January this year, when 55 people were gunned down, the killings have only witnessed an upward swing. Ninety-three people were gunned down in February, while April claimed the lives of 183 people, the highest so far this year. Last year in April, 169 people were killed. July brought a bit of a breather comparatively, as 133 people were killed while the same month last year claimed the lives of 324 people.
Among other areas, Orangi and Kati Pahari were worst hit with 133 reported deaths, followed by Lyari, 100, Sohrab Goth and its adjacent Abul Hasan Ispahani Road, 86, and Malir-Qaidabad, 61.
There seems to be no respite from the violence despite tall claims by the officials and members of the government, including the Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “Strict action will be taken against those involved in criminal activities,” Shah said addressing the Sindh Assembly.
The killing spree continues unabated and according to unofficial figures collated by Dawn, by the end of August around 1,054 people lost their lives, while around 600 men were wounded.
Arms bazaar During the last few years, the number of arms presence in the city has increased at least five-fold. Investigations by senior police officials show that the arms mostly come from Darra Adam Khel in the tribal areas and Balochistan. Stacked in the concealed cavities of buses and trucks carrying passengers and fodder for animals, these are difficult for law enforcing agencies to detect.
A couple of months ago, interrogation of Mujeeb Khan, an alleged arms smuggler, revealed that arms find their way in buses and coaches from Darra to Mardan, to Naway-e-Qila and to Talaganj, and then to Ghotki, Nawabshah, Hyderabad and finally, Karachi.
The principal arms dealers involved in smuggling along this route have been identified as Manzoor, Khalid, Mujeeb Khan, Mosa, Rafique, Arshad and Rashid. Several have been arrested.
One Rehmatullah, recently arrested by the CID, disclosed that four local dealers were involved in supplying arms in Karachi. The Balochistan route includes Pisheen, Mach, Bolan, Sibi, Lehrri, Dera Murad Jamali, Jacobabad, Sukkur, Khuzdar, Larkana and Karachi. Rehmatullah disclosed that Haji Shirin, Haji Shakoor, Noor Mohammed and Haji Nasir are also involved in the same.
The arms recovered include sophisticated ammunition, anti-aircraft guns, light machine guns, rocket launchers, hand grenades, locally made bombs, rifles, mini rockets, and ammunition of AAK and rifles. The accused are said to have connections with the Balochistan Liberation Army.
The arms recovered in May were on the tip off of a suspect already in police custody.
Though it could not be fully ascertained, officials say that the increase in the number of shops of arm suppliers indicates that illegal arms are also proliferating in the city, as not all arms these shops sell are legal. At least six arms dealers are suspected of selling illegal weapons under the table, one source said.
Officials say that only some ammunition is locally made in Darra. The bullets that pierced the armoured personnel carriers of the CID during the botched Lyari operation were made of steel and most likely came from Afghanistan and originated in India. Arms of Nato/Isaf forces, which often land into the hands of the Taliban, have also been identified.
During the last seven months policemen, officials of the CID, Intelligence Bureau, Rangers and other law enforcing agencies have been targeted. Investigators fear CID and IB personnel were hit by the Taliban, whose presence in the city is suspected by all authorities.
A study by investigators shows their presence is on the rise in various parts of the city like Taiser Colony, Pukhtoonabad, Sultanabad and Kati Pahari and Hub, the neighbouring area of Balochistan.
Legal flaws Detained suspects often obtain bail on fake documents, through ‘middlemen’, present all the time in courts to facilitate them,” a senior official said.
As a result the accused hardly return for the next hearing, if ever, after being bailed out while the suspects resume their violent agenda until caught in another case. Interrogation reports of some of the re-arrested accused show that they abscond after getting bail.
Being the biggest commercial hub, Karachi attracts people from all over the country. On its peripheries the kachi abadis continue to spring up, housing a large number of migrants mostly from the northern and north-western parts of the country. Since the national census has not been conducted, it is not possible to figure out the demographics, but the number of Pushto-speaking people has increased manifold including internally displaced persons who migrated from tribal and adjoining disturbed areas. Some of them have set up construction and trading businesses, investing millions of rupees.
Turf war The tilt in the balance of population has adversely affected the interests of some political parties particularly those who want to continue their hold in the city, especially in the lucrative areas. Off and on, the conflict takes an ugly turn resulting in killings, targeted or otherwise.
It is unfortunate and deplorable that the killings have badly affected the ruling allies. The highest number of people who fell victim to the killing spree in the last several months belong to the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttehada Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party — fighting the turf war to which CM Shah referred to in one of his speeches. The PPP and the MQM were at loggerheads in Lyari, with the PPP initially supporting the Peoples Amn Committee, but later abandoning it. The MQM and ANP have been fighting for control in different areas. With the complexion of these areas changed, the MQM finds it difficult to operate, while the ANP wants a strong footing in the Pakhtoon speaking areas.
More perplexing perhaps is the officials’ confusion about restoring normalcy in the city despite agreeing that across the board action, free from political influence and changing relevant laws to keep suspects behind bars are necessary to purge the city of its violent criminals.