Targeted killings

October 11, 2019

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OVER the past few years, the law-and-order situation in Karachi appears to have improved drastically. When compared to its blood-soaked past, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse is now deemed a much safer and more livable city. Violence had become intertwined with the city’s identity, and most of its young residents had grown up only witnessing rampant terrorism, sectarianism, kidnappings, robberies and extortion, as powerful and often politically backed criminals operated with impunity on the city’s streets. But despite some improvements, the challenges regarding law enforcement, extremism and rising inequality are far from over. More worryingly, certain crimes seem to be on the rise again. Just last month, according to new data released by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, 18 people were murdered across the city in targeted killings or during armed robberies. Other crimes recorded in September include one case of kidnapping for ransom and three instances of extortion. In the same period, 163 vehicles were stolen, out of which 26 were snatched at gunpoint. Meanwhile, 2,806 motorcycles were reported as stolen, including 147 that were taken through armed encounters.

The violence has continued into the next month, which suggests that criminal elements are resurging. Just last week, a PTI worker named Muhammad Asif was killed as he was heading home from a mosque in Azizabad, when armed assailants fired upon him. Towards the end of the previous year, prominent MQM politician Ali Raza Abidi was shot dead inside his car as he tried to enter his house in Karachi’s Defence area. This was then followed by a spate of killings that targeted members of minority communities and various professionals. Such news reports will undoubtedly bring back a sense of unease to the residents of Karachi, who had started welcoming the ‘normalcy’ that other cities are accustomed to, as memories of the not-too-distant past return. The government and the law-enforcement authorities must ensure the city does not slip back into its old ways.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019