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Analysis: Karachi operation — what next?

Updated October 01, 2018

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Rangers stand by on duty. — Photo/FIle
Rangers stand by on duty. — Photo/FIle

The Karachi operation has completed its five years.

The city has become much safer, people feel reasonably secure and one can see noticeable improvement in the commercial and industrial areas and residential neighborhoods.

The law enforcement agencies have been rightly complimented and the federal and provincial governments have claimed credit due to them. The question is whether the peace is sustainable? It’s high time to reflect and assess the gains made, lessons learnt and point out inadequacies, analyse failings and address the challenge of taking it to the next level.

An operation by its very nature is supposed to be something extraordinary aimed at reducing abnormal surge in crimes.

The Karachi operation has been a highly organised activity through greater coordination among police, Rangers, civil and military intelligence agencies backed by strong political will.

The operation involved indiscriminate action against criminals of all shades, remained apolitical in nature, was carried out within the existing resources in an enabling legal framework, and adopted long-term sustained and focused effort at eliminating or apprehending terrorists, well-organised high profile criminals, ideologically motivated terrorists, well-entrenched gangsters, hitmen, kidnappers and extortionists.

In 2013, there were nine killings a day on average which has come down to two a day, no major incident of terrorism, a bomb blast or a suicide attack, has happened in the last two years, attacks on policemen have been successfully controlled, the common citizens and businessmen do not face kidnapping or extortion threats any longer.

The so-called no-go areas such as Lyari, Katti Pahari, Sherpao Colony and several other crime-infested areas are subject to normal policing.

It’s no mean achievement, yet the challenge is not over for all times to come. If gains of the operation are not backed up by long term measures and reforms the sustainability of the operation will be at stake.

The most notable failing has been lack of institution-building and absence of a holistic approach involving much-needed reform in the criminal justice system.

The long-term objectives of the operation can only be achieved if the institution of police as a primary and premier civilian law enforcement organisation is strengthened and supported.

Coordinated and well-planned operational activities by the law enforcement agencies can put offenders behind bars, but if other institutions of the criminal justice system remain aloof and indifferent and look at the operation with disdain, the fight against crimes will remain an elusive goal.

In the last five years of the operation, police and Rangers collectively took thousands of criminals to the courts for trial but the conviction rate remained low.

A big number of criminals were out on bail after a few weeks in prison and most of them got involved in street crimes. Even those tried for terrorism in the antiterrorism courts could not be tried expeditiously and a majority of them were back in action as soon as they were out.

Prosecutors came up with a jaded response and the presiding judges cited weak prosecution and flawed investigation besides other objections.

Similarly, overcrowded and poorly managed prisons did not do anything to reform or rehabilitate them or stop them from recidivism.

Likewise, no concrete measures were resorted to address the causes of criminality, particularly the socio-economic factors responsible for the increasing rate of crime in our society.

Although recruitment in police was done on merit and the quality of training showed improvement, the quality of investigation, coordination with prosecution and judiciary, witness protection measures, case management system in courts, speedy disposal of cases, establishment of DNA, forensic and explosive laboratories remained a distant dream.

It would be unfair to presume the different components of the criminal justice system in the province were working in unison for achieving the common goal of making the city a safe place to live.

Rather it would be more appropriate to say that at times they were pulling in different directions. Short-term gains have been achieved but there is need to create a sustainable model based on the long-term goals of a functional criminal justice system where different institutions work in sync for the common objective of providing order in society.

In order to consolidate the achievements made so far, sustain them for a longer duration and taking the effort to the next level there is need to focus on service delivery, public-friendly policing, professionalism, modernisation and automation through capacity building and use of latest technology, law reform, de-politicisation, operational autonomy, institution-building of police, reforming policing systems and most importantly taking the judiciary and prosecution on board for an effective and integrated response to the menace of crime and terrorism.

The writer is a DIG in Sindh Police shaikhsp@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2018