Organised gangs have the tenacious capacity to exterminate anyone anywhere. The recent killing of veteran Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Waja Ahmad Karim Dad confirmed that fact.
Assassins come well prepared and fully informed. They are skilful killing machines who are trained to disappear upon completion of their heinous missions. According to news reports, a little over halfway through August alone, the death toll has crossed the 150-mark.
(Read: Violence continues in Karachi; 200 killed in July)
The locations for these blood battles are mostly places where turf wars have been raging for several years ie Korangi and adjoining Goths (villages). Fear has gripped Lyari and its surrounding areas, old town areas, Baldia, parts of Orangi and many other places, due to the ongoing ‘kill and run’ episodes. It is important to note that erstwhile torture cells enacted by many terror planners are back in focus. And if one goes by the statement of the sitting MNA from Lyari, the existence of such camps and arms dumps are not clandestine destinations, at least for the local sufferers.
Common sense suggests these killing missions cannot be carried out without the tacit support of hawkish elements in various political parties. One plain interpretation is that warring groups are trying to silence the more active and vocal elements amongst the ranks of opponents. It is obvious that eliminations shall deprive parties from the support of loyal and dutiful workers. Newcomers to party ranks would also be frightened away from this blood laden game.
A drastic outcome of these acts has been the weakening of moderate and peaceful membership of various parties and strengthening of extremist but invisible hands. It is also disappointing to consider that in the times to come, political parties of various origins and profiles are likely to be controlled by rogue elements against the sane and ideological people. For quasi criminal record bearers, this is the ultimate victory and advantage. Do we, as a society, agree to such a travesty of our political culture and context?
A clear message that the citizens have been able to read is the serious incapability of law enforcement apparatus in preventing these happenings. Many assumptions can lead us to analyse this shortcoming.
(Read: How the police is failing the people of Karachi)
The scale of spread of areas is a major determinant. The city portrays the image of a gun-loaded society with plentiful of trigger happy youth waiting to burst into action. A reflection of this fact is the evidence of widespread celebratory firing that is witnessed on the eve of Independence Day or any similar moment. In a city of over fifteen million, with less than fifty thousand law enforcement personnel, one can imagine the predicament of force commanders.
(Read: The bad guys are better armed than us, says IG)
Preparedness, training, multiplicity of tasks, VIP duties, patrolling sojourns and long working hours cause fatigue, lack of motivation and a decline in the efficiency of police personnel. Allegations of connivance, nepotism, corruption and malpractice are no mean factors in this grave state of affairs. The apparatus of political decision making and the forces that control it have been found complacent in the prevailing circumstances. While the political leadership verbally condemns these acts of killings and terror, it stops short of taking action against the black sheep that use party affiliations for covertly supporting these annihilation drives. Since party leadership is not elected through open conventions or a legitimate mechanism of political functioning, their acts go virtually unaccounted for and unchallenged.
The economic fallout of target killings is tremendous. Countless working days are lost due to the inability of city and provincial administration to restore order. Closure of shops, businesses, workshops, small and medium enterprises, transport and educational institutions cause incredible damage and hardship to the common man.
Daily wage workers, push cart vendors, repair mongers and vendors suffer losses that reduce them to pauper status. To buy peace, some of these folks attempt to align themselves with the ‘invisible’ hands.
Thus the network of willing and not so willing accomplices in the labyrinths of terror goes up. The households and families who have lost a family member – especially a bread earner – slide deep into emotional, psychological and economic trauma that mere lip service cannot cure. It is obvious that the numbers of directly affected families and people is increasing. Needless to say that unaddressed frustrations erupt into desperate acts which snow ball into perpetual unrest.
The conventional process of crime and punishment may not be able to address this situation. A political consensus backed by mass support of ordinary people shall be the first building block towards a preventive mechanism. Some of the key points for consideration include enforcement of a cumulative de-weaponisation regime in the city, de-politicisation and capacity building of the police force, an institution of a potent surveillance mechanism and immediate relief to the families of terror targets. Monitoring and objective reporting by electronic media can help in pre-empting many crises in the making.
The author is a professor and chairman of the Architecture and Planning Department at the NED University.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.