The black Prado has replaced the white Corolla in Karachi. We are told that such vehicles are being used by a gang who target single women in cars and force them to stop and then kidnap them. Social media is flooded with stories of such incidents. In some such stories, there is the involvement of the police as well.
None of this is confirmed. Senior officials say that not one such case has been confirmed either with them, the CPLC or even the media. They say that the panic being created is without foundation.
Despite this categorical denial, women drivers have reported instances where they were followed by SUVs with tinted glasses and government number plates. This has been independently confirmed. But there have been no reports of criminal assault. And yet, there never is.
One is reminded of 2008 when a man called Ali Muhammad Hajiano let loose his reign of terror on the city. After looting and raping on multiple occasions, he was finally nabbed in 2009 but for the past four years remains behind bars without any sentence.
In the midst of the Prado stories, we also hear that children are being kidnapped at schools in Karachi. Again, this is not confirmed from any source. But this only makes people in the city more nervous. Parents are now sending guards to schools. The schools have become more unsafe.
It is difficult to sift fact from fiction. What to report and what to suppress? How not to create panic, but at the same time, report what is happening on ground? On the one hand, many such crimes go unreported. On the other, if such incidents happened on the scale that they are claimed to have, one would expect someone to come forward.
To make matters worse, we have the case of a woman who was nearly abducted last week at a busy Karachi mall. The police continue to run around in circles. They still have no clue why the kidnap was attempted.
In all this, there are a number of common threads. For one, the police remain helpless. Also, cars with tinted glasses and government number plates were used. And finally, there is a whiff of involvement of police officials in either committing the crime or helping cover it up.
What we do know is that despite the hiring of hundreds of policemen and pumping millions of rupees in law and order by the government, Karachi has become even more unsafe. More so because there is no political will to fix the problem. The only time law and order seemed to improve was when Dr Shoaib Suddle was given charge as IG, Sindh.
Petty crime is giving way to gangs and to political violence. The police and the Rangers, comprising mainly of non-locals, are seen as outsiders and part of the problem, not the solution. No one is making any effort to talk to the people or engage them. You don’t see this level of crime in any other city of South Asia, let alone Pakistan. In no other city do we see the police indulging in brazen corruption — fleecing people on the streets and in their houses.
Some say that removing the police altogether will help improve law and order in Pakistan’s largest city. Others say that the Rangers don’t allow the police to operate properly. The ruling party insists that political compulsions and intelligence agencies are responsible for this state of affairs. The Rangers, who seem to have the best deal, continue to be funded excessively with little to show for it.
The police need to act quickly to nab those who are misusing government number plate vehicles. Many of these cars are driven by children of high government officials and are, in fact, in many instances, involved in crimes. In other instances, it is their drivers. They should also ban tinted glasses. Today, we see the police only nabbing those in smaller cars. One never sees Prados being challenged. We should also take action against those police officials caught in crimes. It’s not good enough to sack them. They should be arrested and punished. And maybe we should bring back Dr Suddle ahead of the elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.