Trigger-happy police

Published February 24, 2024

ARE the citizens of Karachi becoming fair game again? There were some grisly signs of a rapid return to living dangerously for its people this week: six offenders were shot dead in four ‘encounters’, a young boy took a fatal bullet from the police in a separate incident, and robbers rampaged through parts of Shah Faisal Colony, killing a middle-aged man. On Thursday, the City Council reverberated with worry about the worsening law and order situation in the metropolis, and a proposal to constitute a committee to tackle the mounting street crime was approved by the mayor. Karachi’s turbulent history, riddled with ‘encounter specialists’ — no less than murderers in uniform — and criminals of all stripes should tell us that a rise in violence is symptomatic of a city’s descent into sociopolitical decay.

The police simply cannot be trigger-happy, regardless of how broken our criminal justice system and economy are. They have to own the principle of lawfulness to save their own legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. It is true that the force is demoralised by dismal conviction rates and a labyrinthine legal system that acquits hardened offenders. Moreover, the absence of knowledge and resources, such as forensic and medico-legal procedures, impede investigations and often render the process inconclusive. It does not help that political patronage of criminals and rogue police officers leads to ‘bought’ verdicts and intimidated judges. On one end, criminals are either desperate, victimised or habitual, and on the other, the ground realities narrated by the overburdened and poor security corps must be heeded to script effective and sensitive rules of engagement. When the catalyst is not economic distress, violence is often a learned behaviour. Therefore, reforms within the police department, accountability mechanisms and application of laws in letter and spirit will help Karachi turn the corner. The moral contract between citizenry and state legitimises punishment in return for guaranteed life and liberty.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

Opinion

Rule by law

Rule by law

‘The rule of law’ is being weaponised, taking on whatever meaning that fits the political objectives of those invoking it.

Editorial

Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...
X post facto
Updated 19 Apr, 2024

X post facto

Our decision-makers should realise the harm they are causing.
Insufficient inquiry
19 Apr, 2024

Insufficient inquiry

UNLESS the state is honest about the mistakes its functionaries have made, we will be doomed to repeat our follies....
Melting glaciers
19 Apr, 2024

Melting glaciers

AFTER several rain-related deaths in KP in recent days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has sprung into...