OVER the years, Karachi has become used to the most horrendous kind of violence with political, criminal and religious dimensions. Even so, the pattern of murder and mayhem seems to be taking a turn for the worse. There are increasing reports of targeted attacks on people not directly involved in anything that could be said to have attracted the ire of those bent on killing. A case in point is the shooting that took place in the Soldier Bazaar area on Thursday night: three city wardens — constituting a nominally paid, 1,500-strong force of volunteers that aids traffic management and buttresses law enforcement agencies during crises — were targeted by armed men on motorcycles. All three died. Earlier, on March 30, three others had been gunned down in almost exactly the same manner in North Nazimabad. As a result, the commissioner of Karachi has decided to withdraw all city wardens from duty unless more security for them can be guaranteed, an unfortunate, though understandable, move that is bound to negatively affect the city.

No group has owned up to having carried out the attacks, which could be connected to political or other motives. But no affiliation to a particular group can justify the targeting of civilians. A person’s political inclinations or belief in a certain ideology cannot be held up as an excuse to silence them. It would seem that the theatre of violence in Pakistan is being expanded to include private individuals — the same pattern can be discerned in different parts of the country. For example, recent months have also seen polio vaccinators targeted in Karachi and elsewhere, their ‘crime’ being that they believe children should be protected against a dangerous virus. In this barbaric situation, what the future will bring is anybody’s guess.

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