January 18, 2008Print : Karachi
Studying the pattern of the violence that broke lose after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, which was witnessed mainly in the commercial centres of a city that is the economic heart of Pakistan, the prevalent opinion in the investigation into the incidents, said a source privy to the probe, is that the events were pre-planned - targeting the economic lifeline of the country.
With this in mind, the probe, the source continued, is closely and seriously studying evidence regarding the possibility of foreign elements having funded or orchestrated - either directly or indirectly - the spate violence.
The source also told The News that LEAs had earlier received intelligence reports about the planning of such events - except that they were to be carried out on January 9th, a day after the general elections in the guise of a political outcry regarding poll rigging.
As it panned out, the probe believes, the assassination of Benazir allowed the plan to be implemented earlier - this time on the premise of it being a popular outcry.
The source said that also under heavy consideration by the probe is the possibility that the orchestrators of the plan feared the imminent postponement of the polls after Benazir’s assassination and hence decided to give the go-ahead ahead of schedule.
While gathering intelligence regarding that link is currently underway, said the source, a point that has come under tremendous scrutiny is the role of the law-enforcement agencies.
The already-present question mark hovering over the efficiency and role of law-enforcement agencies in Karachi was accentuated during the large-scale lawlessness that often hit the city during 2007. This was particularly the case during the frightening wave of rioting and the looting spree that engulfed the city in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir which saw the city left at the mercy of miscreants who let loose chaos hitherto unprecedented - even in Pakistan’s chequered history.
The investigation, said the source, was alarmed when informed that Karachi, a metropolitan city with a population of over 16 million, has a total strength of 10,000 deployed policemen and a total sanctioned strength of 27,000.
Within this scenario, the already thin police, the probe was informed, are overwhelmingly preoccupied with the protection of VVIPs and ex-ministers.
In this regard, several meetings were held by senior officers of the Sindh police department with concerned ministers to help them in recalling the policemen deputed with VVIPs, but this exercise ultimately failed.
The police force is currently being supported by the Sindh Rangers, who have a presence of about 10,000 personnel in the city and is playing a role in the maintenance of law and order.
However, the post-December 27 events show that an increase in the strength of the police department is still necessary.
Experts believe that, for Karachi, the force must be increased to at least 100,000 to keep pace with the city’s rising population and crime. The equipment provided to the force must also be upgraded and special training needs to be given to police personnel on how to handle such crises
A point that has also been brought up during the investigation is that while Karachi’s industrial zones bore the brunt of the violence, most of these zones are surrounded by or are in close proximity to Katchi Abadis, from where, the probe believes, the attacks were launched.
Corroborating this theory is that nearly 50 per cent of the looted goods recovered were from the hutments, said the source.
Industrialists, at a meeting with authorities, have demanded that the government remove the illegal hutments developed in and around the industrial zones for security purposes.
Also being explored are the possible links of the Landhi blast with the post-Dec 27 violence.