Targeted killings – 24 Mar 2023

DISTURBING echoes of a violent past have re-emerged in Karachi, and experience tells us that swift action is necessary to nip this pattern in the bud. On Sunday, three individuals in different parts of the city fell victim to targeted killing. On Tuesday morning, a cleric associated with the Sunni Ulema Council was walking down the street when he was approached by two unidentified men on a motorbike and slain with a single gunshot to the head. Wednesday saw yet another similar crime in which a factory owner associated with the banned sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat was gunned down in the New Karachi area by four armed assailants on two motorbikes. Just short of a month ago, an educationist also fell victim to a targeted killing in the city. Police have yet to ascertain the motives behind these murders, but in a city where street crime has risen exponentially over the past year or two, robbery was clearly not the objective.

The police have yet to put forward any theory about what lies behind this spate of targeted killings, or indeed whether any of the murders are connected at all. However, the back-toback assassination of two individuals associated with religious organisations warrants a close consideration of the sectarian conflicts, with their political dimensions, that have in the past caused much bloodshed in Karachi. Some elements may also be trying to stir panic and create a law-and-order situation to serve some other agenda. The city`s crime graph has fluctuated considerably over the past several years. In 2010, there were 1,233 targeted killings in the metropolis more than the total number of people who lost their lives in suicide bombings in the entire country that year. The Rangers-led Karachi Operation that began in late 2013, when the city was a cauldron of ethnic, political and sectarian violence, managed to bring down the rate of what are categorised as `major crimes`targeted killing, kidnapping for ransom and bank robberies. In the last couple of years, it is street crime that has been the bane of the residents` existence. There were over 60,000 incidents of street crime in Karachi in the first nine months of 2022, but virtually no targeted killings. The police must get to the root of the recent murders; there is far too much lawlessness already in the city.

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