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Extortion or militancy?: Attacks on wine shops

August 08, 2013

SAD as it is, bombings in Pakistan have increasingly over the years had precise targets and identifiable motives: to kill and maim in as large numbers as possible. When citizens hear an explosion, it is for good reason that they fear the worst. That is what happened on Tuesday evening as four locations in Karachi — three in Defence Housing Authority and one in Gulshan-i-Iqbal — were jolted by loud explosions. The reality, thankfully, turned out to be less grim than expected. The explosions were caused by firecrackers rather than bombs and the damage wasn’t great, particularly since the wine shops near which they occurred were closed.

As to why, the police’s best guess is that they were perpetrated by militants as part of a plan to spread “organised panic” in the country. That may well be true, even though it is hard to understand why militants would resort to less damaging means of spreading fear when they are patently not shy of using the most lethal tactics. Another explanation can be found in the fact that the incidents occurred just a few days before Eid, a time when criminal gangs redouble their efforts to milk the city’s businesses of as much ‘protection’ money as possible. The extortion racket in Karachi is well-established and holds hostage much of the commercial and business activity. The days in the run-up to Eid see a surge in spending and cash withdrawals. What better time to remind ‘clients’ of the consequences of failing to offer ‘Eidi’ to the extortionists? Whatever the broader debate about the place, if any, of alcohol in society the security of such premises in commercial hubs is a serious issue. More can be done to keep the peace in these areas.