Karachi operation

The law and order situation in Karachi has been deteriorating with every passing day. More than 37 people have lost their lives during the recent spell of targeted killings. In view of the increased violence, around a thousand security personnel launched a house-to-house search operation in Orangi Town, detaining more than 300 people. A large cache of weapons was seized by the paramilitary troops. The search operation was reportedly the result of the information gathered from those who were arrested earlier. The Sindh government has decided to launch a selective operation in some 120 localities in Karachi. It is almost impossible to have a citywide operation in the metropolis as it is the largest and most densely populated city in Pakistan. As a piecemeal operation, the Orangi Town effort was carried out while declaring that more such operations will take place systematically. Thereby, the government may have inadvertently alerted the elements involved in target killings and other such crimes. In order to retain some element of surprise, it should not be announced when and where the next operation will be conducted. There may be some innocent people amongst those hundreds of men detained on suspicion or due to their proximity to the theatre of operations while the actual perpetrators may or may not have fled the area already. By warning people about an imminent operation, most of the criminals can and probably will take evasive measures. Instead of general sweeps, targeted sweeps may yield better results. But to achieve that, the security personnel need information, which can only come through good intelligence work.

It was interesting to see that the Rangers personnel wore black masks in order to hide their identities. In the past, many security personnel who conducted such operations were later killed because their identities were not secret. Starting operations in Karachi is a welcome step but it is not the ultimate solution. Use of force works only to a certain extent. What is needed is a political solution. The security personnel put their lives at risk while combating the terrorists and criminals but because of backing from political parties or political connections, the gunmen, target killers and other sundry elements are set free sooner or later. No political party in Sindh should provide political cover to the criminals.

The ‘Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill, 2011’ submitted by the MQM in the National Assembly Secretariat asks for deweaponising our society. In principle, this is a good step but it must be pointed out that the whole society is militarised. Apart from political parties like the MQM, ANP, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami, MQM (Haqiqi), religious organisations like the Sunni Ittehad wield great power in Karachi. Members of all these parties/organisations are heavily armed. This is not a new phenomenon. Ever since the Afghan jihad in the 80s, proliferation of illegal weapons has become widespread in Pakistan. It will take years to deweaponise the country. Until then, the government and law enforcement agencies should find ways and means to stop target killings and other criminal activities. Political will is needed to eradicate violence from the metropolis. The government must confront the problem head on and grasp the nettle firmly instead of evading the issue at hand. Karachi is the economic hub of Pakistan and just one day’s violence costs us millions of rupees. A weak economy like ours cannot afford any more blows. It is imperative that the ANP and the MQM are brought on board and asked to help stop this ethnic conflict.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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