In last few days two high profile crimes have shaken the confidence of everyone and raised concerns that Karachi is reverting back to its lawless state. First it was the broad day light kidnapping of son of Chief Justice of Sind High Court. And today it was target killing of famous sufi qawal Amjad Sabri. Tehrike-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction associated with Hakimullah Mehsud group claimed responsibility for this attack. The response as usual is condemnation from politicians of all stripes and color. All these politicians seems to be clueless how to solve these organized crimes. I have lived in Karachi for over 32 years near nine zero. So i have some idea of the issues faced by the city.
We can’t solve the organized crime issue in Karachi unless and until we realize that there are still no-go-areas in the city around Layari, Orangi and Sohrab Goth. There is also weaponization of the city of both licensed and unlicensed weapons. It is also a reality that politicians protect people with weapons rather than support law enforcement to de-weaponize the city. It is also a fact that para-miliary forces are not equipped to deal with urban crimes. Long stay of these forces actually hurt their discipline and erosion of their credibility eventually turning them into a problem rather than a solution.
In last three years myself and many others have suggested some possible solutions but no one paid heed to it. But let me try one more time. First and foremost step is that Karachi should be declared as a special zone just like many other large cities like Hong Kong, London, Beijing. We should study the management of these large cities and adopt ideas that are suitable for our unique environment. This will allow the city to have its own management in terms of maintaining its infrastructure, development and law enforcement. Second is creation of a modern metropolitan police force that is adequately trained in prevention and prosecution both. Third is dealing with the shanty towns that have emerged around the city because of lack of affordable housing available to poor that have migrated from all parts of the country to seek employment and better quality life. It is also important to slow down this internal migration to reduce pressure on the city. Fourth is prosecution and punishment of drug, land grab cartels and other organized crime gangs that have emerged because of breakdown of law and order. Fifth is empowerment of local government.
Apart from the long term solutions we also have to take some short term measures. First is to cancel all weapon licenses to be reissued after detailed background checks and announcement of general amnesty to deposit unlicensed weapons. Failure to comply would mean severe punishment of those that carry these weapons. Witness protection to be offered so that people can come forward to give evidence against these organized crimes.
The key ingredient to implement any viable ideas will require political resolve which is missing in politicians and establishment. Even in my own party PTI has missed an opportunity to offer vision 2030 for development of Karachi that bestowed them with historic number of votes in 2013 general elections.
Karachi is the commercial and trade center of Pakistan and second largest city of the world by population according to Wikipedia. Progress and security of Karachi is critical for the progress of Pakistan. It is a national security issue which requires careful long term planning and execution. Karachi has the potential to become a larger economy than Singapore or Hong Kong. But that is only possible when law and order returns to the city.