With 125 people killed and 200 reported cases of extortion besides three bomb attacks in July, the local administration and law-enforcement agencies fear a rise in violent crime in the month of Ramazan.
Recalling the frightening wave of targeted killings during last Ramazan, the police claimed on Friday to have taken extraordinary security measures in all five districts of the city. But with only 30,000 personnel at their disposal, officials in law-enforcement agencies sounded shaky about policing a sprawling city of over 20 million people.
Not less than 100 people were killed in ethnic violence in Ramazan last year. Declaring the entire city sensitive, Additional IG Iqbal Mehmood told The Express Tribune that “this Ramazan might be tough for us,” adding, “let us pray that this Ramazan passes peacefully.”
Usually, sectarian clashes and street crimes are the real challenges for the police during the holy month but this time police fear that they have to deal with political violence among parties and religious groups, especially over the collection of Fitra and Zakat in addition to cases of extortion and kidnapping for ransom.
Recent cases of bomb attacks on Rangers and SUPARCO employees are another source of concern for law enforcers who would be required to provide additional security at mosques and imambargahs as well as markets and shopping malls.
Police spokesperson SSP Asif Ejaz Sheikh told a press conference here on Friday that they had declared the entire city sensitive. He added that terrorists were not limited to any specific area but were active across the city. He claimed, however, that most of the targeted killings were taking place in retaliation for some important arrests.
Referring to the extortion cases, he said that 700 policemen and 341 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary have been deployed in the Old City areas to watch out for traders and shopkeepers.
According to the security plan, about 280 police pickets and police reporting centres are being set up while personnel on 366 police mobiles and 195 motorcycles will be on patrol.
The prime minister’s adviser on interior affairs, Rehman Malik, and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah have decided to detain any person arrested for delivering extortion chits to traders. The Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) rules will be applied.
Also, 10,000 more policemen would be posted in the city and the SHOs would be held responsible for crimes. The chief minister said that police personnel have been given training to combat the situation. “President [Asif Ali] Zardari has assured that latest weapons will be given to the Sindh police for timely and prompt action against criminals and bhattakhors [extortionists],” he added.
Shah was of the view that the force of 25,000 to 30,000 policemen was not enough for a huge city like Karachi and 10,000 more personnel were needed.
Both leaders agreed with the chief justice’s order that institutions should set up tents where people can hand over cash to deserving people. No vehicles will be allowed to broadcast appeals for fitra on loudspeakers on the roads.
Not only would action be taken against extortionists, cases would also be registered against people backing them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.