No let-up in Karachi violence: One year on, SC resumes hearing

KARACHI, Oct 22: As the Supreme Court on Tuesday resumes the hearing of its suo motu action taken in October 2011 over frequent killings and is set to review progress made by the law-enforcement agencies over the past one year, the provincial government recognizes that ‘the situation is not well’ while political leaders, human rights activists and organisations affected by recent killings deplore lack of checks by police and Rangers.

Political parties feel particular anxiety about the continued breakdown of law and order and suspect that it may jeopardise the possibility of holding smooth and peaceful general elections next year.

“Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudary has set up a five-member bench for that purpose,” said Zafar Ali, official in charge deputy registrar Supreme Court Karachi’s registry. He said: “Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali will head the bench and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Gulzar Ahmed will be part of the bench. Tomorrow’s (Tuesday) hearing is continuation of last year’s suo motu action taken by the Supreme Court on Karachi law and order.”

During the three-day hearing, he said, the bench would review the reports filed by the law-enforcement agencies to the committee, which was constituted by the SC and being headed by the Sindh High Court (SHC) chief justice, and review their performance following the apex court verdict on its suo motu notice.

Amid an increasing number of killings on political and sectarian grounds, the five-member bench observation on the law-enforcement agencies’ performance is keenly awaited by Karachiites though the authorities sound quite ‘satisfied’ with the action taken so far and find flaws at the end of the judicial process that had hardly penalised criminals.

“The CID police has recently arrested the Sindh chief of a banned outfit who on camera confessed to killing more than 100 with no regret and vowed to continue the killings if he gets a chance again,” said Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon.

“But considering the past trend, I fear he would be out in the free world without facing any punishment. That’s really unfortunate. No major killer has been penalised and if they are, the number of violent incidents will start coming down naturally.”

The minister defended the performance of the Rangers and police, while referring to the 66 policemen who were killed this year alone for tracing and arresting activists of the outlawed organisations and those involved in the killings on political and ethnic grounds.

But the partners in the PPP-led coalition government in Sindh have a different opinion in this regard. For the past several weeks, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has been raising serious questions over the performance of the police and Rangers, ‘consuming a large chunk of the federal and provincial budgets’.

“Every citizen of Karachi wants to know about the reasons for continuing wave of violence and bloodshed in the city despite heavy presence of police, Rangers and other law-enforcing agencies,” said a recently-issued statement of the MQM coordination committee. “The law-enforcement agencies should be held accountable for their failure. They should be made to realise their duty towards protecting the life and property of the people.”Same are the thoughts of the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the parties which claimed to be major victims of recent killings on sectarian grounds. Their spokesmen did not only criticise the police and Rangers but also found criminal negligence on the part of the law-enforcement agencies which failed to check killings on sectarian grounds.

While the number of total killings in targeted attacks this year has not been made available by the Sindh police despite several attempts to obtain it, the data collected by independent organisations shows no difference before and after the suo motu action taken by the Supreme Court last year.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 1,725 lost their lives in the city between January and August this year.

Of them, 1,345 people were killed in targeted attacks.

The HRCP sees the trend ‘dangerous’ with serious lack of political will on the part of the government to stem the violence coupled with a demoralised police force that is also under serious political pressure to set its course in right direction.

“The only difference that we have seen this year is the change in trend in violence,” said HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf.

“Last year we witnessed a kind of battle between groups for winning territory and killings on ethnic grounds. This year there has been an unprecedented upsurge in killings on sectarian grounds.”

She agreed that if the situation continued, holding of smooth, peaceful and transparent elections, due next year, looked dicey and the situation in Karachi, being the largest city, could cast a negative effect on other parts of the country.

“One should not have any doubt that the violence and bloodshed is our own indigenous problem, which has nothing to do with any outside conspiracy or third-hand involved. The authorities must move now as no one can afford further deterioration of law and order in Karachi,” she added.

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