An operation clean up is currently underway against extortionists, political and religious militants, target killers and all other criminal elements in Karachi, the chief financial hub of Pakistan.
The law enforcement agencies under the services of Rangers and police conducting over the operations, which was launched last year by the Prime Minister Nawaz-led government after the decision taken by the federal government with the consensus of all the political stakeholders.
There is a marked improvement in the level of violence, which continued unabated for the past several years and had held the country’s financial capital hostage. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant political party in Karachi, however, expressed its reservations on the ongoing operation against criminal elements in the city. MQM has now fragmented into more than three groups and parties.
Business community, which has already been in distress over the deteriorating law and order situation and rising cases of kidnappings for ransom, falling sales and production, has forecast worse future if the government fails to restore peace and stability in the country’s economic hub.
Law and order problem has critically marred overall business environment in Pakistan. Foreign investors and businessmen fear to invest or expand their existing stake in the country due to security concerns. The country faces serious threat from religious extremists who have so far killed over 50,000 citizens in terrorist attacks across the country. Though country’s economy has improved after the new government took office following general elections in May 2013, yet the economy still faces biggest challenge on security front. Worsening law and order situation in Karachi, the country’s business hub and the biggest city, has affected the business and industrial activities causing a slump in overall economic growth.
For years, the law enforcers remain spectators, while terrorists were in full romance hurling bombs and firing rockets on roads and streets of country’ commercial capital. Crime mafias had got the license to kill the innocent citizens. The government continues its struggle for peace in Karachi, which accounts for around a fifth of the country’s GDP.
Karachi has witnessed violence on sectarian, ethnic and political lines over the past five years. A significant number of political activists were targeted and killed in political violence, while target killings on sectarian affiliation had become a routine in the city, which had become a sanctuary for extremists and the banned sectarian outfits.
Thousands of people shifted to Karachi from Swat when Pakistan’s armed forces launched a military operation there in 2009. Many Taliban militants along with the people rendered homeless during military offensive entered Karachi and settled there. Some banned extremist organizations and sectarian outfits have joined hands with Taliban in Karachi. Taliban militants have their strong presence in many areas of Karachi including Frontier colony, Nusrat Bhutto colony, Mangho Pir, Toori-Bangash colony, Banaras, Suhrab Goth, Al-Asif Square, Ittihad town, Sherpao colony, Qaidabad and many slum areas. Many police stations including Suhrab Goth and Mangho Pir police stations have been repeatedly attacked by the extremists.
The kidnapping for ransom and target killings adversely damaged the business environment in the country’s financial hub. The terrorists operate with brazenness killing people in broad daylight in the metropolis. Thousands of people lost their lives in multi-faceted violence in last two years in Karachi. For years, lawlessness ruled supreme in Karachi where people were daily killed in politically and ethnically motivated violence.
Sofitel, the luxury brand of international hotel chain Accor, quit Karachi a few years back after the project faced continuous delays because of poor security situation. Launched amid much fanfare in 2006, the Sofitel Towers Karachi was to become the grandest building of Pakistan’s largest city. Sofitel Towers was supposed to be inaugurated by the middle of 2011, but deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi made it difficult. This was the second time in three years that Accor had pulled out of Pakistan. In 2008, Accor cancelled the deal with the Karachi Airport Hotel, calling off the contract for use of its Mercure brand.
Suspension of polio vaccination
It is not only the Taliban threat that halted polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan, but it is also the poor law and order situation in the country’s largest city of Karachi that forced World Health Organization (WHO) to suspend polio vaccinations putting around 22,000 Pakistani children at risk. WHO decided to stop polio vaccination campaign in Karachi after a UN doctor from Ghana working on polio eradication with his driver were shot in Gadap town area in July 2013 and just after three days a local community worker who was part of the same campaign was shot dead in the another area of the city.
Karachi has the country’s main seaport, the central bank and the stock exchange. The local businessmen have to pay money to the extortionists to run their businesses in Karachi. Many businessmen and industrialists have been killed for not paying the extortion money and many have moved their manufacturing units abroad. The business community accused that the civilian government failed to control the militant wings of political parties, which use their influence to pressurize the police and Rangers to release militant workers.
The former government had blatantly failed to restore peace in Karachi. Industrialists and businessmen in Karachi demanded the government to call the army to control the worsening law and order situation in the city, as situation had gone out of the control of civilian authorities.
The country’ economy reels as the Karachi bleeds. A stable and peaceful Karachi is essential to boost industrial and commercial activities with an aim to bounce the economy back to the growth track. The country’s industry and exports are worst hit by the unsatisfactory security situation in the port city. The law and order problem has already shattered the investors’ confidence. The cash-strapped country direly needs foreign inflows to revive the economic growth. There is no hope for foreign investments in the restive economic hub.
Destabilizing Karachi means throwing the entire country into chaos and the economy into recession. The ongoing rangers-led operation against extremists, extortionists and target killers must succeed if the government is serious in restoring peace in Karachi. The government should take all measures to make this operation a success. Wary of extortionist mafia, the business community in Karachi has already expressed lack of faith in the civil administration and demanded the army to control the law and order situation in the port city. Only a fair, impartial, even-handed and indiscriminate action of law enforcers against mafias can bring peace back in Karachi.