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A convoluted puzzle — Karachi law & order

March 11, 2013

WHILE a chief justice-led Supreme Court bench was hearing suo motu cases related to the Abbas Town blast and lawlessness in Karachi on Wednesday and Friday, several incidents in the city illustrated the complexity of the metropolis’s violence. On Wednesday gunmen brought life to a standstill in Karachi and other urban centres in Sindh, even as the MQM called for a “peaceful protest” to denounce the government’s “inaction” over the arrest of the Abbas Town attackers. The day after Lyari saw violence as Rangers entered the locality to conduct a “targeted operation” after two of their personnel were kidnapped and later found dead in a Lyari graveyard. Meanwhile, on Friday a bank was robbed in Defence, making it the fifth bank heist this year. Hence the Supreme Court is absolutely right in its criticism of the police and Rangers; both have failed to control crime and terrorism in the city. The police are corrupt while the Rangers have proved ineffective despite being given wide-ranging powers. But the chief justice’s observation that Karachi’s lawlessness is mainly due to a turf war between vested interests is debatable. As the events have shown, the metropolis faces more complex issues.

True, organised crime plays a major role in Karachi’s violence, but there are other, equally powerful fault lines tearing the city apart: Karachi is plagued by sectarian, ethnic and political violence, with the lines often blurring. In such a scenario, can administrative and judicial orders alone bring peace? Will increasing the number of anti-terrorism courts in Karachi or recruiting more policemen help unless the courts prosecute criminals and the police take unbiased action against suspects regardless of their political links? After all, political parties often apply pressure to have suspects with whom they have links released. So even if we assume that the police are transformed into a professional force, the violence will not end unless they are also depoliticised and political meddling in law enforcement ends. That is the first step.