WHILE militancy is a national problem, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the surrounding areas bearing the brunt, Karachi is confronting militancy of a more complex sort due to the city’s dynamics, with several fault-lines overlapping. Tuesday’s ambush targeting Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Aurangzeb Farooqui in the city was a sign that militants can strike at will and send the metropolis reeling. While the cleric survived, several men accompanying him, including four police guards, succumbed to their wounds. The fact that the police guards were so easily targeted by the assailants speaks volumes for the ineffectiveness of police escorts. Oddly enough, none of the attackers were killed or injured in the ambush. The attack provoked what has now become a routine response to such incidents: further killings, rioting and arson were the order of the day on Tuesday, with the city largely shut out of fear on Wednesday. There had also been a rash of sectarian killings in the metropolis over the past few weeks, with both Shias and Sunnis gunned down in targeted attacks.
The problem is clear: a plethora of militant groups belonging to various persuasions — jihadis, sectarian killers, criminal gangs, ethnic militants — are active in the city, while there is no shortage of guns. What is more, considering the huge size and population of Karachi, militants can melt into different pockets, blending in with the population. The end-result is a free-for-all, in which citizens without connections to any groups are the biggest victims, often targeted because of their religious beliefs. What is not so clear is what the state is doing to neutralise Karachi’s militants. Some police officials believe homicides in the city are not just tit-for-tat revenge killings but organised operations. Whatever the case, the police have failed to take credible action against militants in Karachi. If this had been done, there should have been a reduction in the deadly spates of violence that keep on recurring. There is also a lack of political will in dealing with the issue. Unless a sustained effort is made to eradicate militancy from Karachi, bloody cycles of violence will occur with increasing ferocity.