Law & Order: Karachi

That Karachi is no stranger to crime and violence is fact. That the crime just doesn’t seem to abate is also fact. According to reports published earlier this month, around 80 people were killed and 500 wounded by armed robbers in Karachi this year alone. The CPLC – a non-political statutory organization that monitors crime in Karachi and parts of Hyderabad – suggests that at least 2,092 mobile phones were snatched in the city in July, and around 4,343 motorcycles were stolen. These stats alone are enough to explain why the former and the current caretaker chief minister of Sindh have emphasized the need to work for the security and safety of people in the city. Before leaving office, former chief minister Murad Ali Shah had inaugurated the Karachi Safe City Project and reiterated the need to provide a safe environment for the residents of Karachi. In his maiden cabinet meeting, Caretaker Chief Minister of Sindh Justice (r) Maqbool Baqar also ordered the relevant authorities to work together and resolve the city’s law and order issues. The surge in crime and the low prosecution rates (mostly because people prefer not to record statements against criminals) have given a green signal to criminals to carry out their attacks with impunity. The liberal use of weapons has also deterred citizens from resisting all such mugging attempts. In the past, high-ranking Sindh police officials warned citizens against showing resistance as they feared that criminals would panic and pull the trigger.

It may not be the most popular opinion but crime rates are seen by some academics as also being directly proportional to poverty and economic challenges. With the economy showing signs of trouble, metropolises like Karachi are vulnerable to a high crime rate and related issues. While technology (the use of surveillance cameras) can help catch criminals, the caretaker setup should also consider launching witness protection programmes to provide confidence to witnesses to come forward and record statements. Police officials also complain that cases against criminals are often dismissed due to lack of evidence. Vague attempts at deweaponization have led nowhere with the problem linked in to political affiliations and to backing by political groups. To combat it, this patronage has to be ended. This can happen only as part of a wider drive against militancy, terrorism and violence. These hurdles can only be overcome when all stakeholders join hands and build people’s trust in the city’s security apparatus. The lack of confidence that people currently have in the security and justice system is apparent from the incidents of mob lynching where residents often take the law in their hands and beat criminals to death, whenever they get the chance. Karachi and its people have suffered too long. They need to be made safe as soon as possible through effective political and security actions.

Published at The News on 25th August 2023

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