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Police say they alone can’t control street crime situation in Karachi

By Salis bin Perwaiz
September 25, 2022

These days there’s more talk in Karachi about street crime than anything else. However, police claim that the situation sounds worse than it is. They also point out that they alone can’t improve matters because there’s need for effective legislation as well as better traffic management.

They claim that the rate of street crime in the city has decreased when compared to how matters were over the past several years. To further improve the situation, some officials suggest amending the laws so that the arrested criminals have no way to benefit when on trial.

The News talked to various observers and law enforcement officials about the present situation as well as about Karachi police chief Javed Alam Odho’s recent comments on the matter.

The observers and officials defended Additional Inspector General Odho’s statement, saying that he’s absolutely right about Karachi’s people themselves causing a decrease in tourism and investments in the city.

They pointed out that according to the statistics available, other cities of Pakistan also have high rates of crime, but the residents there don’t paint their cities in such a negative light so as to harm local tourism and investment opportunities.

They also pointed out that businesses have been rapidly moving from Karachi to other cities, even though there are plenty of opportunities here, including the port, but the people’s constant badmouthing of Karachi has caused tourists and investors to lose confidence completely.

They said that in the name of infrastructure, the people of Karachi have tilled the soil of the city to the extent that it has become very difficult to persuade any investor to invest in the city.

Basing the infrastructure of the slums has turned the entire city into a garbage dump, and now there are rumblings that companies are leaving here, they added.

Officials said that in the past when target killings, extortion, arson and ransom kidnappings were at their peak, and many people had lost hope, law enforcers, especially the Sindh Rangers and police, restored peace in the city after their joint efforts and the sacrifices of many frontline soldiers who were martyred.

They said that in the current scenario, when the law and order situation has seen much improvement, persistent efforts are required to achieve durable peace and stability within the province.

They pointed out that the issue of street crime has once again garnered much attention, saying that it resurfaces at intervals when some groups start damaging the peace of the city and spread panic through the use of social media.

However, they admitted, there is no denying that crimes are being committed on a daily basis, and people are getting injured or killed by criminals upon resisting them, so this issue must be addressed on a priority basis.

Observers and officials said that the areas requiring more focus to retain the peace dividends have been identified for further progress to include police reforms, better coordination between federal and provincial authorities, expeditious completion of the Safe City project and the need for speedy prosecution among other things.

They said that the rate of street crime has decreased since last year, adding that the important factors contributing to street crime incidents are in focus as they are being analysed during the present year.

According to them, the main contributing factor of street crime incidents is unemployment, followed by electricity load-shedding, fewer CCTV cameras installed, and out-of-order cameras among those installed.

They suggested some recommendations for curbing street crime, including the imposition of Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act while registering street crime cases, and also amending the laws, including the Pakistan Penal Code, so that the arrested criminals can’t benefit during their trial.

They pointed out that 70 per cent of the street criminals are drug addicts, while most of the criminals commit crimes during the frequent traffic jams in the city.

They also blamed the car parking mafia because they worsen the traffic gridlock situation due to mismanaged parking on roads. They said that protests on power and water issues is also a factor behind the traffic mess and an opportunity for street criminals to rob people.

Lawyers’ panel

Officials said that concerned over the low conviction rate, former city police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon, who is now the Sindh police chief, had requested that the government form a panel of lawyers to argue cases in the courts of law.

They said that the analysis of the criminal justice system suggests an approach that requires improving investigation as well as prosecution of cases in the courts of law.

The draft proposal for an amendment in the relevant law had been forwarded to the government for the establishment of a panel of lawyers for the prosecution of high-profile cases, but it is still under consideration.

Officials said that establishing a panel of lawyers is a step forward to assist the resource-intensive prosecution service by hiring well-reputed private lawyers on competitive market rates to prosecute high-profile cases.

Moreover, added the officials, it will offer a choice to the complainant to opt for a lawyer of their liking from the panel of lawyers established through this scheme.

The draft amendment aims for the establishment of a panel of lawyers for the prosecution of high-profile cases as a step forward to support resource-intensive prosecution service through input from well-reputed private lawyers hired on competitive market rates.

It also aims to increase the conviction rate in high-profile cases to 50 per cent, up from the current rate of less than 20 per cent, as well as to improve the preparation of case files for the prosecution of high-profile cases.

The amendment also aims to offer the complainant the opportunity to opt for a lawyer of their choice based on the lawyer’s track record in prosecuting high-profile cases.

The draft amendment also describes the procedure of hiring or selecting lawyers for the proposed panel, said the officials, adding that selection for the panel of lawyers will be open to all the lawyers meeting the selection criteria.

They said that wide publicity will be given for the selection of lawyers, adding that lawyers will be selected from among those who meet the requirements of the selection and apply for their inclusion on the panel.

Officials said that a selection committee will select lawyers. The composition of the committee for the selection of lawyers will be prosecutor general as chairman, with crime & investigation DIG, additional home secretary, additional law secretary and Citizens-Police Liaison Committee Sindh chief as members, they added.

Fake videos

The Karachi police recently also issued a video message through Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Irfan Ali Bahadur, who issued a statement regarding fake video clips circulating on social media.

SSP Bahadur said that the events that did not even happen in Karachi are being associated with the city on social media. A video clip of Latin America is among those that have gone viral mostly in Karachi. This video is labelled ‘Street crime and spread of terror in Karachi’.

The officer said that an incident that happened in Faisalabad was associated with Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The news of an incident that supposedly happened at a restaurant in Gulshan-e-Iqbal was also denied by the restaurant’s owner himself.

SSP Bahadur said that the people should support the police against these elements and report such videos to the social media accounts of the Karachi police. A strict legal action has been initiated against such elements.