Sunday May 19, 2024

With police failing to control street crime in Karachi,shouldn’t Rangers be given mandate to act?

By Faraz Khan
April 13, 2024
This image shows Sindh Rangers personel. — AFP/File
This image shows Sindh Rangers personel. — AFP/File

Police transfers are a routine matter but they may also happen extraordinarily especially when the crime rate is high. Bringing in new police officers creates some hope for the public that new cops might deal a heavy blow to criminals as previous officers were unable to do that.

Transfers of police officers serving at important posts also take place in a dramatic manner in the pre- and post-general elections period. When a caretaker government is formed, it tends to do a reshuffle in the police department, partly because the opponents of the last government also demand this. Once elections are held and the elected government takes charge, which in Sindh has not been a new government for the past 16 years, another reshuffle in the police force takes place as it has taken now.

However, what has remained constant amidst all these changes in the police force is the criminal activities. Street criminals were on spree in Karachi during the last elected government. They continued so when the caretaker setup was governing the province and they are still relentless now after the new elected government is in place.

Despite efforts to increase police personnel through various recruitment methods, street crime in Karachi continues unabated with no effective solutions in sight.

There appears to be a lack of specific mechanisms on part of the police to address the issue. While there are often grand statements made, practical efforts are not visible. When the police or the government assert that a certain number of crime incidents in a large city with a significant population are not a cause for concern, it reflects their lack of seriousness in tackling the problem.

Appointing station house officers (SHOs) on merit is a solution often recommended to deal with criminals. However, this Sindh government seemingly finds this solution impractical for some reason. Often SHOs are found involved in crime or misconduct. They are also suspended for a short period only to be reposted to other police stations.

The issue of street crime in Karachi might not have been as serious if the street criminals were not killing people for resisting them. The perpetrators often target heads, necks and chests of their victims suggesting that they are professional killers.

As residents of Karachi have lost trust in the police due to the rampant street crimes, some of them look for other forces that may provide them some relief from street criminals. The Rangers are one such force.

The Rangers have been empowered in Karachi for a long time but unfortunately, they have been authorised only to deal with target killings, terrorism, extortion, and kidnappings for ransom with street crime not being in their domain of action.

Granting the Rangers the mandate for dealing with street crime could lead to a significant reduction in such incidents. Previously, the Rangers had 90 days' detention power, during which they conducted thorough investigations and gathered evidence against suspects. However, suspects often get free after being handed over to the police.

Although the police high-ups frequently blame the judicial system for letting the criminals go free, they have not tried to rectify their prosecution side that sometimes even deliberately make weak cases against the suspects to help them.

The solution to the problem of street crime lies in comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system and the police along with granting the Rangers the power to deal with street crime. In 2023, street criminals in Karachi claimed the lives of over 130 citizens in a total of 82,632 street crime incidents, as reported by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC).

A quarter of 2024 has passed and the police have not been able to reduce the street crime in Karachi. So far during the ongoing year, at least 60 people have been killed for putting up resistance during mugging bids and several others wounded.

Alone in the month of Ramazan, at least 20 people died at the hands of street criminals in Karachi. More than 10,000 incidents of street crime were reported in the provincial capital during the holy month.

On the 3rd of Ramazan, Jameel, a milk seller, was shot dead by dacoits near MalirCantonment. On the 5th of Ramadan, a man, Farhan, was killed by bandits in the Essa Nagri area. On the same day, Muhammad Farhan, who was critically injured by robbers in the Pakistan Bazaar area, also succumbed to his injuries.

On the 10th of Ramazan, Akhtar Masih was murdered by dacoits in the Pakistan Bazaar area. On the same day, Engineer Shoaib Shafqat lost his life near Malir Cantonment.

Israr, an eight-year-old child, was killed in firing by dacoits in Sohrab Goth Junejo Colony on the 13th of Ramazan. On the same day, a shopkeeper, Abdul Rahman, was murdered by robbers in North Karachi.

On the 14th of Ramazan, Zohaib, a resident of Liaquatabad, fell victim to street criminals in Surjani Town. A day later, on the 15th of Ramazan, a woman, Nazia, was killed near the Qatar Hospital in Orangi Town.

On the night of the 17th of Ramazan, Ali Rahbar was murdered near the Millennium Mall within the Sharea Faisal police limits. A person namely Kanji lost his life in firing by dacoits in the Ayub Goth area of Sohrab Goth on the 19th of Ramazan.

On the 23rd of Ramazan, Hameed Ali was killed by robbers in New Karachi. On the 24th of the holy month, two passengers, Sain Dad and Shabbir Mughal, were killed allegedly by bullets fired by robbers during their shootout with police near New Nazimabad.

More citizens were killed by muggers in Karachi in the last days of Ramazan. On the second day of Eidul Fitr on Thursday, a man was shot dead during a mugging bid in Gulshan-e-Iqbal.