Karachi: A complex law and order situation


Professor Waheed Uz Zaman Tariq

The writ if the government is challenged by the society, which has undergone a change due to a complexity of situation. The public institutions of our civilian set up have functional gaps. Lack of proper professionalism, inefficiency, corruption, nepotism, exhaustion and scarcity of resources of law enforcing agencies is one thing. The police remains under a constant political pressure and people of their choice are appointed by the parliamentarians, ministers and rulers at all levels. On the other hand, politics, corruption and terrorism has developed a nexus. Judiciary in Pakistan  is facing multitude of problems.

Unopened, pending and neglected cases, lie on its racks for years. The investigation is either half-heartedly carries out, with insufficient evidence or deliberately tainted to save the culprits, by the interrogation agencies. People are afraid to provide evidence as witness, due to fear of serious repercussions or compromise. The lawyers may be clever enough to mould the legal interpretations in the favour of their clients, The judiciary has insufficient evidence and many cases end blindly.  The aggrieved persons are unable to pay heavy fees of the attorneys and bear court expenses. They may not have enough time at their disposal to waste it in the alleys of the courts. Common people are unable to find justice and help from the police. The privileged one, get away with any crim. The desperate masses may  take the law in their hands.

After control on politically motivated terrorism in Karachi, the jobless youth has focussed on street crimes; like snatching of mobile phones, watches and purses or robberies. People having lost their trust in police and magistracy, have unfortunately started physically beating or even killing the robbers, thieves or offenders by themselves. There is a chance that set their personal scores; innocent people may be labelled as culprits. When the mob is gathered to attack someone, no one has time of patience to go into the situation and all join hands in beating the person, who may at times be a scapegoat. Extrajudicial disposal of such cases may be more serious when the victim belongs to another ethnic or sectorial group, in a pleural society. Karachi has become a disorganised mob, over the years. All disturbances started with the advent of ethnically cantered politics. The city was armed and the small groups joined hand to develop a system of their own. The government lost its writ. Sindh police was generally defunct. Good officers, who took care of law and order, were murdered one by one, even after their retirement. The witnesses were killed one by one.

The city was handed over to the rangers and army. Things were improved but that was not the permanent solution. Those institutions were badly criticised by some quarters and incidents of mishandling by the rangers were highlighted at all levels, within and outside the country. The police was unable to take over, as it could not be organised according to modern standards. Corruption and political pressures were the main problems. Therefore, the rangers had to do the job. As the officers of rangers are sent on deputation from army ranks, it had its own ramification. The civilian intelligence services, which had been the mainstay of keeping the system intact, had suffered over the last three decades.

The media has gained popularity, over the last few years. Easy spread of the true or false information is possible, in no time. An array of TV channels and explosion of electronic gadgetry is instrumental in the spread of news as well as rumours.  It takes minutes for news, to spread. That we say in case of a dharna (sit up)  of Faizabad, Rawalpindi, when the information about the police action, in the capital  became viral in Karachi and within twenty minutes of happening in Islamabad, main areas of Karachi were paralysed. People poured in at vital places, in no time. Their riots became instrumental in the agreement between Kahdim Hussian Rizvi led mobs of Faizabad and   the government, the way it suited to the designs of the demonstrating mob, which had strangulated the life at the capital. Similarly, the TV channels have been attacked by certain ethnic group, when the live instructions came from London. The electronic information cannot be controlled and it is difficult to regularise it. The way the media is exploited by the mischief mongers and the way it is at times intimidated to pressurise it to broadcast in their own favour, is an open secret. It needs a code of ethics and conduct for itself. The people of Pakistan have no time or patience to make them abreast with the true situation, before reacting. Their uncontrolled reaction is often manifested in terms of dame to property or persons.

Karachi is a multi-ethnic city. So far the majority of its population consisted of the Urdu speaking people, whose fathers or grandfathers have migrated from the areas, now included in India. The vast majority of them was in born in Pakistan but still they retain the adjective of Muhajir (migrant). These people had played a vital role in the business, bureaucracy and education in Pakistan. They make almost half of the population of the city.   All Pakistanis have a right to settle there, despite reservations shown by a distinct political group of so-called Muhajirs. All ethnicities have maintained their original lifestyle and languages, decades after settling there. They live in different locales, due to security reasons, convenience or a sense of community. They can be easily recognised, identified and targeted.

Karachi has the largest urban congregations of Pashtuns. They have brought business and prosperity to the economy, with their hard work and enterprise, because they wanted to establish themselves with respect and prosperity.  Their influx became more after takeover of Swat by Fazlullah led control. Moreover, the military action against the clandestine organisations ion FATA and Swat had displaced the people. Many of them had relatives in Karachi and found it a place to settle. Some fanatics and terrorist too, did make their way to Karachi but were dealt with by the rangers, to some extent. Still, there is need to tackle with such elements. It should not have any repercussion against the majority peace loving and patriot Pashtuns. Almost one fourth population of Karachi consists of Pashtuns, which might not be properly represented in the assemblies as well as the city council. Moreover, there are fifty thousand registered Afghan refugees in Karachi.

Karachi is the capital of Sindh but lying on an edge of the province, which abuts with Balochistan. The Baloch, are among the indigenous population of Karachi. Lyari Town, is a Baloch majority area. The consecutive governments had been neglecting it in terms of education, healthcare, employment, sanitation and civic amenities.  Lyari had, therefore, become known for smuggling, drug dealing and criminal activities. It had been a center of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), politics in Karachi, which had been sponsoring armed gangs and to an extent had been depending upon their support.  Lawlessness in the area had led to local warlords ruling the area.  There had been a minimum interference by the government. Recently, rangers led actions have resulted in some control of the area and comeback of writ of the government.

The police had been dysfunctional in Karachi, due to many reasons. It good officers like Chaudhari Aslam and many others, who took action against the terrorist had been assassinated one by one and lost their lives  in target killings. The local police have to be empowered, after being reorganised and restructured according to the local requirements. There is a moot question, whether it should be controlled by the city government or the provincial government (which is mostly from the rural Sindh). It has to work without any fear, in the absence of political influence and free from corruption. It needs training on modern scientific basis and should be well equipped and armed, supported by strong intelligence and in coordination with army and civil armed forces.

A makeshift arrangement, working on need basis and not supported by the magistracy and judiciary, may empower it to kill people in fake encounters, like what happened in case of Naqeebullah Mehsud.  This time, people have recorded their resentment and shown their political will to protect the innocent victims, who may be picked due to their ethnic background, irrespective of their behaviour. How many victims had lost their lives before, due to dysfunctional mechanism of the establishment. No one knows exactly, which is tragic. This is not a one-time phenomenon. Rao Anwar is not an independent person. He has been brought up by a rudimentary chaotic system. In which extra-judicial actions might be justifiable. When the existing judiciary is unable to take punitive corrective actions, people may become furious and take the law in their hands.  The police resorts to a culture of custodial killings and fake encounters. They take it as an easy way to deal with suspects, who may be possible criminals, militants and sectarian extremists, to their own judgement. It  is not just the police but intelligence agencies and the paramilitary forces too may be involved in such phenomenon. Where, there is no coordination between federal, provincial and city government and the common people suffer the worst kind of exploitation, the dame may be exorbitant to the civil society.

The answer is simple. It lies in restoration of the writ of the government, with restructuring of police and strengthening of judiciary, while taking the public in confidence. We live in a contemporary civilised world and are under the scrutiny of human right watch groups and international monitory group. Simultaneously, we are facing the menace of terrorism and interference from outside the country. Unity of the nation and mutual trust is needed more than ever. Law and order should prevail with true letters and spirit. All citizens have been guaranteed equal rights by the constitution.  The nation may win an on-going war against terrorism, provided it is united in that cause. Karachi is no exception. It should be equally applied to whole of the country; may it be FATA or Baluchistan. The foreign agencies may never make their inroads in Pakistan, if we are all united, vigilant and patriot. We have no other place than Pakistan to live and that is our sacred abode.