The murder of Amjad Sabri and kidnapping of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice’s son, Awais Ali Shah, had lent a new sense of urgency to the ongoing security operations in Karachi. On Sunday, senior civil and military officials put their heads together to take stock of the situation.
CoAS Raheel Sharif accompanied by the ISI chief Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar visited the Rangers headquarters for a briefing and later participated in a meeting attended, among others, by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and National Security Adviser Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua (retd).
According to an ISPR statement released afterwards, the Army chief sought to assure the people of Karachi that “the nexus of terrorists, their abettors, sympathisers and financiers will be broken at all costs, and the ongoing operation will be taken to its logical conclusion.” That should give some comfort to the people.
The two high profile cases are seen as a setback to the Rangers operations that had brought significant reduction in targeted killings, extortion, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism in the mega-polis. Needless to say, however, what is happening in Karachi is not a simple law and order problem which the Rangers have been grappling with since September 2013. It is rooted in weak governance and political contradictions.
In fact, speaking in the provincial assembly before he came for the security meeting, CM Qaim Ali Shah said land grabbing was the reason behind most targeted killings and terrorism, adding that all of the city’s violence is related to ‘zar and zameen’ (money and land), and that there is a third element too which he did not wish to name.
He went so far as to say the term ‘Qabza mafia’ (land grabbers) had its origin in Karachi. Which merits the obvious question, what his government, presiding over the city and the province’s affairs for two consecutive terms, had done about it?
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court bench hearing Karachi law and order situation case a while ago, had observed in its ruling that all political/religious parties active in the province, including those in the then ruling alliance headed by Shah, were patronising the land grabbers.
The court had also declared that the police were highly politicised, appointments and promotions were made on the basis of political considerations rather than merit, and hence they were reluctant to take action against the perpetrators of violence.
Indeed, many policemen have sacrificed their lives fighting terrorists, but they are reluctant to take action where the interests of their political bosses are involved. The result is chaos in a city of two hundred million, which helps terrorists and all manner of criminals to operate in it.
The provincial government’s lack of interest to reform the police is a major obstacle in the restoration of peace in Karachi. Terrorists and other dangerous criminals arrested by the Rangers usually are freed by the courts because of weak prosecution cases prepared by the police.
In frustration, at one point, the paramilitary force had requested the Supreme Court the power to investigate and prosecute suspects, which of course was rejected for its potential unsavoury ramifications. It is about time the provincial government gets its own act together to fulfil its part of the responsibilities.
It needs to improve governance, depoliticize the police force, and upgrade the law enforcers’ capabilities and numbers in line with the challenges at hand.