IN a pattern reminiscent of a few years ago, law-enforcement personnel in Karachi are once again falling prey to criminal elements. Two policemen in plain clothes were gunned down in Orangi last Monday, bringing the number of law enforcers killed in targeted attacks in the city this year to 10. Police claim that the empties found on the scene matched those collected elsewhere in the same locality at the site of two earlier attacks on cops. In fact, at least half the policemen murdered in targeted killings since January were slain in Orangi. That may indicate the involvement of a local group familiar with the identity and routine of cops living in the neighbourhood. Similar attacks, however, have taken place in various other localities, including Hijrat Colony, Defence Society, etc.
Karachi, with its history of warring gangs, violent extremist groups, militant wings of political parties, etc, has not been easy to police, even though the force itself is riddled with corruption and known to partake in the proceeds of crime. The years leading up to the Karachi Operation in late 2013 were particularly perilous; in 2014 and 2015 too, with law enforcement taking on a slew of criminal elements, being a cop in the sprawling metropolis meant gambling with one’s life. Police were ordered to patrol in groups, and many avoided wearing their uniform in public lest they be targeted. Even traffic police were not spared, prompting bulletproof vests to be issued to them. According to official figures, 165 police fell in the line of duty in 2013; the next year, the number was 136. By 2016, it had fallen to 29. However, the number of police fatalities so far this year may point towards a resurgence in criminal elements that had been lying low or were driven out of the city by the Rangers-led crackdown. Targeting law enforcement adds to outlaws’ sense of invincibility and demoralises the police. The attacks must be investigated thoroughly. Complacency is not an option.
Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2019