Much has been made — and rightly so — of the substantial fall in the incidence of terrorism in Karachi. In that sense it is safer than it has been for many years. But a reduction in terrorism in the city has not been accompanied by a reduction in street crime, indeed the reverse is true and for the ordinary citizen life in Karachi is in reality not much safer or easier than it was before the bombs and bullets faded to the background. The Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) reports that 60,000 people were mugged in the city in 2016.
There is a surge in street crime that is unprecedented and is closely linked to the increasing (relative) prosperity of the inhabitants and the ubiquity of the smart mobile phone. A meeting of the Apex Committee on January 2nd chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was somewhat taken aback by the suggestion that he made to send all street-crime cases to the anti-terrorism courts. To this end he ordered that there be amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997 and that suggestions for those amendments might come from members of the Apex Committee. It will be recalled that the Apex Committees were set up to ramrod the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) formulated in the wake of the massacre at the Army Public school in Peshawar. Close examination of the 20 points that make up NAP reveals no mention of street crime anywhere.
The CM said that he wanted to make the city free of street crime — as does every right-minded person. The way to do this is to improve the quality of both policing and policemen and women. Reference of thousands of cases to the ATC solves nothing and further burdens an already creaking justice system. Having more police on the streets that are better trained and equipped and who come into the force through a de-politicised recruitment process is the way forward; not via some half-baked off-the-top-of-the-head proposal that has all the utility of a diesel-driven donut. Safer police are the solution. A safer city will follow.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2017.
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