OVER the past few days, there has been a spate of armed robberies targeting banks in Karachi. On Wednesday, a bank in the city’s congested Kharadar area was looted, reportedly only a short distance from a police post. A day earlier, criminals had struck a bank off Shahrah-i-Quaideen; sadly, when the bank manager, a father of three, tried to put up resistance, he was shot dead by the culprits. Nine banks have been robbed in the megacity since the year began, with at least four of the heists occurring within the last one month alone. These grim facts illustrate that while the law-enforcement operation that began in the metropolis in September 2013 has brought down the number of militant attacks, other crimes — particularly bank robberies and muggings — still remain a challenge.
There has been the usual official reaction to the spike in bank robberies. The Sindh chief minister has sought a ‘security audit’ of banks, the provincial police chief has sought reports, while some police officials have been suspended for negligence. While these sorts of measures are usually announced after a major crime, law enforcers in Sindh, particularly in its teeming capital, need to come up with an out-of-the-box strategy to tackle the menace of bank heists and other violent crimes. Police officials often complain that banks have been negligent and have not followed standard operating procedures. In many ways, this criticism is justified; some banks, to cut corners, are indeed lax about their security. For example, security guards are often ill-trained and not capable of resisting armed attackers. However, the fact remains that protecting banks and all other public and private institutions is, ultimately, the job of the police. There should be increased patrolling by police units to respond to any emergency situation. Moreover, in case of a robbery, the police must respond as soon as possible and not arrive after the culprits have escaped. In many past robberies, it has been reported that the culprits emptied the bank within a few minutes, while the police were slow to respond. While these measures can be used to tackle robberies as they happen, a more calibrated response is needed to bust the gangs involved in this racket. For this, specialised units, such as the Counter-Terrorism Department, can be tasked with tracking down and neutralising gangs involved in bank robberies.
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2017