KARACHI: The city went through one of its worst 12 months in recent years as in 2012 more than 2,000 people lost their lives to violent incidents, including targeted attacks on political, ethnic and sectarian grounds, with a staggering increase in militancy that spewed an unprecedented rise in grenade and cracker attacks, also targeting Karachi’s Bohri community.
Though the police data kept the number of victims killed on ethnic, political and sectarian grounds at 423 of the total 2,303 people murdered in 2012, critics, security experts and human rights activists said the number was much higher.
“A total of 423 people were killed in targeted attacks,” said a spokesman for the Sindh police. “More than 1,600 people were murdered due to personal enmity. Similarly, more than 100 policemen lost their lives in Karachi while performing duties.”
Violence returned to the city mainly in the second quarter of 2012 with frequent killings and targeted attacks just months after Karachi started limping back to normality in August last year after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of killings but this year mostly on sectarian grounds.
The random and scattered hand-grenade attacks, which were often seen as extortion threats, also kept the south and west city districts on edge with a number of improvised explosive device explosions across Karachi.
“I think this year the Taliban factor made its presence felt in the city,” said Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which counted 54 people killed on sectarian grounds only till October 2012 with 692 and 313 people killed due to their political association and other targeted attacks, respectively, during the first 10 months of the year.
“I agree that all murders were not due to targeted attacks but they definitely were because of some kind of violence. Our police force is inadequate for a city like Karachi and needs to be used for law-enforcement instead of performing VIP or protocol duties.”
With threats ranging from militancy to targeted killings and street crime to kidnapping for ransom, the city was seen battling against organised criminal gangs for its more than 18 million inhabitants with mere 30,000 policemen, half of whom either protected influential individuals or were deployed at several foreign missions, or were engaged with administrative job within the department or serving its specialised units.
Experts believe that the force available for policing is so politicised and under several influences that it cannot perform effectively.
“I remember 1995 was the worst year in terms of violence and the city witnessed hundreds of killings,” said Jameel Yousuf, who was witness to the city’s bloody history and monitored the situation closely as the chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee from 1996 to 2003.
“But by September 1996 the killing rate came to zero. It’s a job of the police and it was the Karachi police force which did it in 1996. But if you politicise the entire force, from where can you expect the remedy? The city faces the same irony.”
He also cited lack of punishment to culprits and unwillingness of the government to legislate on the issue that also encouraged criminals.
“For years, we haven’t executed a single man awarded death sentence. Similarly, we heard so much about legislation but the fact is that it has been delayed under a new controversy that ‘it’s a federal not provincial subject’. The United States and the United Kingdom managed to bring law that allows them to interrogate terror suspects for six months without producing them in court. We lost 5,000 people in four years, but still we are unable to legislate on these lines.”