State of anarchy

February 01, 2013

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THURSDAY’S attack targeting two clerics and a madressah student in Karachi reinforces a disturbing truth: gunmen roam the city’s streets leaving death in their wake, and law enforcers are unable to stop them. That the ambush took place on Sharea Faisal, one of Karachi’s main thoroughfares, in broad daylight, also highlights the brazenness with which killers operate in the metropolis. Many ‘sensitive’ locations, including armed forces’ installations, are situated in the area. The clerics belonged to Jamia Binoria, one of Karachi’s most influential Deobandi madressahs. The hit was recorded by CCTV cameras belonging to a wedding lawn in the vicinity. The chilling footage shows three assailants calmly spraying the vehicle carrying the victims with bullets, then riding off on a motorcycle.

Over the past week a number of workers belonging to different religious and political groups have been killed in Karachi, which is not news in itself considering ‘routine’ levels of violence in the metropolis. Police have attributed Thursday’s ambush, which, thankfully, has not resulted in the usual violent reaction, to the “ongoing spree of sectarian killings”. If this assessment is correct it would be in line with other incidents of cold-blooded shooting of Shias and Sunnis including some high-profile political and religious activists. While one hopes that the camera footage in Thursday’s killing will provide solid clues, overall, the police’s investigative capabilities have hardly kept pace with such incidents. The force’s investigations wing was merged with the operations wing in 2011. So whatever little work was being done by the investigations wing has been greatly reduced. Also, with so many factors behind Karachi’s violence — ethnic, political, sectarian, criminal — no one, especially in government, seems to have any idea about what’s going on, or how to stop it. It seems that the state does not have the intention or motivation to lift the lid off Karachi’s boiling cauldron of violence and identify the problems. Nor do the city’s various political actors. Sindh government officials have said an “operation” will be launched to crack down on crime. Unless there is action to back up such words, which have been heard countless times, such pronouncements will remain meaningless.