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KARACHI: As law enforcement agencies count successes in ongoing operation against terrorists, banned outfits and militant wings of political and religious organisations, Karachiites face a sudden rise in street crimes, which has cost four lives so far during the first 10 days of Ramazan and raised fears for the days ahead.

Official data shows a sharp rise in cell phone and motorbike snatching in the first 10 days of holy month compared to crime rate during the corresponding period before Ramazan, indicating renewed activities of armed groups and individuals in the city despite ongoing Rangers-led operation.

“405 mobile phones were snatched at gunpoint during the first 10 days of Ramazan compared to 338 in 10 days before the holy month,” said an official citing figures compiled by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC).

“Similarly, 84 motorbikes were taken away by armed snatchers compared to 81 in the corresponding period before Ramazan. The astonishing rise was witnessed in theft of motorbikes when 720 two-wheelers were taken away compared to 534 in corresponding period before holy month,” he said.

The rise in street crimes was sharply felt when the recent crime rate in Ramazan was compared with the trend observed in the holy month last year.

In 2015, both the security agencies and business community had broken the good news to nation that the operation against criminals in Karachi had resulted in record breaking retail shopping during the year and purchase of about Rs70 billion worth goods by Karachiites for Eid celebration, setting a 10-year high record.

The disappointed victims turned to social media to vent their angst at the menace of mobile snatching and different groups and individuals narrated their ordeals of having faced mugging in recent days since the onset of Ramazan.

CPLC chief Zubair Habib agrees that the reported number of mugging incidents is always much lower than the actual size of the crime as every victim do not report the incident.

Karachi police chief Mushtaq Ali Maher did not agree to the conclusion deduced from comparison of figures that the street crime had witnessed sharp rise during Ramazan and said that assessment could only be made after the end of holy month.

“I think the situation is stable. It has not worsened that much that raises concerns. We have utilised all our resources to keep a check on such incidents and bring their number down to a minimum level. For instance, we have decided to compile a list and data of criminals involved in street crimes and target killers who were arrested by police but were later released on bail. We need to keep a check on them because they are all professional criminals,” he said.

He, however, expressed concern over recent incident of armed mugging in which the victim had to pay with his life when he tried to resist. The story of the victim, Mohammad Anas who breathed his last a couple of days ago at a private hospital, went viral over social media.

A resident of North Nazimabad Block I, 20-year-old Anas was sitting with his friends outside his home when two armed men on a motorcycle tried to snatch their cell phones. They shot Anas in the head when he put up some resistance.

Four people have been killed during the first 10 days of Ramazan in different areas on resisting mugging attempts.

“We are deeply worried over such incidents and have also discussed the issue with officers concerned. But at the same time, we are very much hopeful to arrest all the criminals involved in recent killings during mugging attempts,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2016