KARACHI: The city lost two apolitical residents for every political activist to violence in the first eight months of the year, according to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) to select media outlets on Monday.
According to the HRCP, a total of 1,725 people lost their lives to violence in the city till this August. However, the numbers this year suggest the start of another worrying trend: extortionists are increasingly following on their threats and killing people for not paying them. The data provided by the HRCP is based on media reports.
The statistics released by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), are however on the higher side. Based on reported cases gathered by CPLC, 2012 might well prove to be one of the deadliest years in the city’s history. A total of 1,724 killings took place in 2011, and 1,742 killings in 1995, the bloodiest year on record with the CPLC. The death toll for the January-August period last year stood at 1,406. Extortionists have been known to deliver “chits” to people at their homes and threat them with dire consequences if they did not pay them.
“Target killings” claimed a total of 1,345 lives, while law enforcement personnel were responsible for shooting 146 people.
Since 2010, the number of non-political people being shot in the city has been on the rise, and the latest HRCP report showed that the trend was continuing. A total of 493 people with no political affiliation were killed in the first eight months of the year, as opposed to 418 in the entire 2011 and 301 in 2010. The city has been, on average, losing 60 of apolitical residents every month this year.
“Extortion-related killings are increasing. Crimes that are being reported as robberies are in fact extortion [attempts],” said Taranum Khan, who compiled the HRCP report.
A total of 227 activists were targeted because of their political affiliations. Meanwhile, 34 people were killed on sectarian basis in the first eight months of the year.
While commercial establishments across the metropolis have had their profits cut out due to the bhatta they have to pay every day, All Karachi Tajir Ittehad’s Atiq Mir said that incidents involving kidnappings for ransom might have gone up. However, he added that, “Extortionists do not usually kill people, they threaten and kidnap.” It was very rare that a trader might be killed for not paying extortionists, added Mir.
With additional input by Karachi bureau
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.