MEMORIES of violence past have begun casting a shadow over Pakistan’s largest metropolis. After months of relative calm, targeted killings have taken place with disturbing frequency over the past few weeks in Karachi. The development was described to this newspaper by a senior counterterrorism official as evidence of a new ‘underworld criminal group’ in Karachi. The spate of violence began with the assassination of Ali Raza Abidi late last year, with the former MQM leader gunned down outside his home. A sectarian motive is one of the angles being considered for the as-yet-unsolved murder. Among some half-a-dozen targeted killings that have happened since then are that of a KDA official active in the Shia community, two Ahmadi brothers and a policeman. While it may be too early to claim that any of these were religiously motivated killings, this is the point at which the right kind of response from law enforcement can curb violence from spiralling out of control.
When the Rangers-led Operation Cleanup began in late 2013, Karachi was a cauldron of ethnic, sectarian and political rivalries — the wages of years of disastrous policies that had sabotaged the interests of the city’s residents for political gain. Militants affiliated with political parties, with the tacit support of their leadership, ran an underworld economy that thrived on the proceeds of extortion, kidnapping, bank robberies, etc. Not surprisingly, targeted killings also became the order of the day. Within a year or so, the operation to restore law and order in Karachi halved the incidence of major crimes; targeted killings were brought down by a whopping 80pc. Part of that had to do with many hard-core criminals escaping the dragnet and fleeing the city, even the country itself. It is difficult to say how much store one can set by the police version, but there is irrefutable evidence that some of those criminal elements are returning to their old hunting ground. They must not be allowed to spread terror in Karachi again.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2019