The streets of Karachi

Street crime has gone out of control, with hardly anyone safe from robbers that seem to lurk at every corner

By Editorial Board
June 08, 2024
People throng at the Bohri Bazaar in Saddar, Karachi. — AFP/File

Home – whether the physical house one lives in or the city or country one is a part of – should make you feel safe. Unfortunately, big cities around the world come with their set of safety concerns. For the people of Karachi, though, the city poses danger everywhere: home, the street, commuter vehicles. Street crime in particular has gone out of control, with hardly anyone safe from armed robbers that seem to lurk at every corner. Previously, such thieves would use cloth masks to hide their identities for fear of getting caught. But now it seems as though they enjoy absolute power in the city, confidently mugging people under the watchful eyes of CCTV cameras, in front of police vans, and in relatively secure areas. This week, the Sindh home minister suspended the SHO of the Gulshan-e-Iqbal police station where a man was shot dead last Saturday (June 1), reigniting the debate on what is to be done to tackle the problem of growing crime in the city.

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Some political voices have come up with a bizarre suggestion – demanding that citizens should be allowed to carry weapons for their self-defence. In the first five months of 2024, at least 71 people in Karachi have been shot dead by robbers so one can completely understand the sheer frustration among people and representatives regarding this situation. However, arming people seems like inviting even more trouble into the mix, and carries the risk of pushing the city into absolute chaos and anarchy. Yes, the city’s leaders are stuck and probably feel the need to introduce some face-saving measures to face their voters. Yes, our law-enforcement seems to have nothing in control when it comes to regular people going about their day being robbed. And yes: people in Karachi have exhausted all channels – they have protested the growing crime, requested police authorities to take action, installed barriers in their residential areas to stop robberies, hired private security guards to keep checks, and tried to be as vigilant on the roads as possible. In fact, some have also gone to the extreme and illegal extent of beating robbers to death. But Karachi still remains unsafe.

Maybe if all the political parties that have a stake in Karachi for once ignored their differences for a while, they could come up with a coherent plan to heal the city. Statements by the police that citizens should not resist robbers also add fuel to the fire and make people vote for extreme measures like shoot-on-sight suggestions. Several years ago, a mob in Sialkot killed two brothers on false accusations of robbery. Arming already frustrated civilians may lead to shootings on mere suspicion. All stakeholders in Karachi must sit together and chalk out a foolproof plan to reduce the incidence of street crime. Since crime rate is inversely proportional to a country’s economic situation, improving the employment rate and ensuring that people in the city have access to basic necessities will also go a long way in making Karachi’s streets safer. The city of lights has been in the dark for much too long.

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