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Dangerous location

November 09, 2012

IT is a small miracle that Thursday’s truck bombing which targeted a Rangers’ compound in Karachi’s North Nazimabad area didn’t cause more havoc. The vehicle was reportedly laden with 150kg of explosives, yet fatalities were mercifully few. Considering that the compound is located — as in many other cases where the paramilitary Rangers are stationed in Karachi — in a densely populated residential area, and that the early morning bombing occurred at a time when vans are on the roads taking children to school, the number of deaths could have been high. The incident bears a resemblance to 2008’s bombing of Lahore’s FIA centre, which is also located in a heavily populated area. Over the last year, the Rangers have been targeted in Karachi several times. Though the paramilitary force has been involved in operations against political and religious militants in the city, this attack appears to be the handiwork of the Taliban. Mullah Fazlullah’s faction of the TTP has reportedly claimed the bombing as “revenge” for the security forces’ actions against the terrorist group.

The Rangers are often called out in Karachi whenever violence spins out of the police’s control. However, while the force’s presence in the metropolis may be necessary due to the police’s deficiencies, the state needs to think seriously about relocating the Rangers’ barracks and offices away from residential and commercial areas. One idea is to house the force in isolated areas, such as the city’s outskirts. But then questions about quick deployment in times of trouble arise. It is true that Karachi’s growth has been haphazard, thus security installations once located in isolated zones are now surrounded by urban sprawl. Yet for the security of both the Rangers and civilians, the force needs to be relocated in such a way that while remaining far from population centres, rapid deployment of personnel is still possible.