FOR the past four decades or so, Karachi has experienced several waves of violence, with periods of uneasy calm in between.

Sometimes bloodshed has manifested itself in political killings, at other times ethnic violence has erupted, while the threat of sectarian trouble is always bubbling under the surface. Throw into this lethal mix the incidence of deadly street crime, and a picture of a metropolis constantly on edge emerges.

While the city has seen some semblance of peace since the 2013 law-enforcement operation, this calm is often shattered by violent incidents that remind both the state and citizens how fragile the situation in Karachi is. Just on Wednesday, a number of violent incidents took place in the city, including murders and break-ins. In one incident, a teenager was shot dead upon resisting an attempt to rob a few thousand rupees.

Over the past few weeks, a number of high-profile attacks have taken place, including the targeting of religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani; a police guard and another individual accompanying the mufti were killed, and though police claim to have made headway in the case, no solid leads have emerged. Only a day after the attack on the mufti, Wajahat Hussain, a youth related to an MWM leader, was gunned down in Orangi Town.

From circumstantial evidence, it seems the same set of elements that had previously sown chaos in the city have become active again. However, only a proper intelligence-based analysis can uncover the sources of instability.

It needs to be ascertained where the threats are primarily emanating from. Have sectarian killers and political assassins become active again, or does the threat lie elsewhere, for example in killers for hire? Are local criminal gangs taking advantage of the chaos in Karachi, or are foreign players meddling in the city’s peace?

The situation needs to be studied deeply by the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus to break the latest cycle of violence. Moreover, one key reason for recurring bloodshed is the fact that Karachi is awash with guns. Other than lip service, over the years no government — federal or provincial — has considered a serious de-weaponisation drive for Karachi. That is why everyone from professional killers to street criminals is armed to the teeth, and able to take precious lives at will.

The authorities need to arrest the rising violent crime graph before bloodshed once more becomes routine in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2019

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