Killing fields

Published April 9, 2024

PERHAPS rankled by the daily flood of grisly news — murders, armed robberies, muggings and kidnappings — and panic among the public, the PPP and MQM-P have engaged in a war of words. In another sad instance of political point-scoring taking primacy over a matter as grave as Karachi’s crime epidemic, the MQM-P demanded policing powers for the Rangers across Sindh. This was met with a sharp rebuke from the PPP — it accused the MQM-P of undermining the police force due to “vested interests”. Meanwhile, according to police data, there were more than 90,000 street crime incidents in 2023, 7,822 cases in January 2024, 5,876 in February and 2,234 in March. Media reports claim nearly 50 people have been killed in the past three months, with at least 16 lives lost to crime in Ramazan.

Indeed, the resentment against the ruling party’s failure to restore peace and safety in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, especially the bandit-infested riverine stretch, is valid. The PPP also has to battle the common perception that it has a stake in Karachi’s bedlam and the turmoil in the katcha areas. But the solutions presented are debatable. After all, the Rangers have been in the metropolis since the 1980s. Almost four decades of the force’s deployment have not led to a perceptible difference in Karachi’s crime score. Therefore, politicians should be mindful of the fact that paramilitary forces provide momentary calm; long-term relief lies in an effective and empowered police. Other than coordination between the police and residents, political commitment to bolstering and incentivising law enforcement can encourage denizens to become witnesses so that fewer cases result in bail for offenders. As the city grapples with this challenge, accountability has to be established for illegal weapons. Any strategy to tackle such a staggering surge in street crimes must include superior preventive steps — streetlights, CCTV monitoring and identifying hotspots for round-the-clock patrolling.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2024

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