The city it appears is not only the country’s economic hub, but also a safe haven for criminals and terrorists
The kidnapping for ransom of two girls, Ms Bisma and Ms Dua Mangi, within months in Karachi is an ‘eye opener’ for all those who believe that all is well in this mega city of nearly 22 million people. The girls have returned after huge ransoms were paid in US dollars. Their kidnappers are at large, may be even looking for their another target.
The city it appears is not only the country’s economic hub, but also a safe haven for criminals and terrorists. Besides contributing 75 per cent of the revenue, its citizen also pay millions as bhatta and in ‘ransom’ regularly to terrorist and criminals.
Everyday hundreds of people lose their cars, bikes, smartphones and other valuables on gunpoint. Most of the mugging victims don’t even report due to lack of confidence on law enforcers, particularly police.
The crimes thrive despite many operations by army, police and rangers. Kidnapping of girls for ransom has panicked many citizens. However, the situation has improved remarkably since 2013 when it comes to target killings, bomb blasts and ethnic and sectarian violence.
Though the city probably has the highest number of unreported cases of crime, it has no ‘Safe City Project’. The one launched a few years back was shut down because one of its contractor had left the country after he had been detained for 90 days by agencies for unknown reasons. Later he was released without being charged. The 170 CCTV cameras which he had installed are still in place, but not properly maintained. While we have similar projects functioning in Lahore and Islamabad, the city which needed it the most is being ignored.
Karachi’s over 8,000 katchi abadies house around five million people. These abadies are used by criminals for shelter. Besides, the presence of over four million aliens should be a matter of concern for the authorities. A majority of them are Burmese, Afghan refugees, Iranian Baloch and Bengalis.
Karachi’s over 8,000 katchi abadies house around five million people. These abadies are used by criminals for shelter. Besides, the presence of over four million aliens should be a matter of concern for the authorities.
The city still has ‘sleeper cells’ once used by groups like Al-Qaeda, Taliban and some sectarian outfits. These cells used to abduct people and transport them to Afghanistan or North Waziristan for ransom to be paid in dollars. These criminals have their allies in police. They always considered jails as their ‘second home’ from where they operated their business. In some cases even ‘police sleeper cells’ involved in cases of kidnapping were busted.
Against this backdrop, it remains a mystery as to who kidnapped and freed Bisma and Dua Mangi in a span of six months after their families paid ransom, some say in US dollars others say in rupees.
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah tells me, “Incidents like kidnapping of Bisma and Dua are a matter of concern for my government. I admit that there has been no progress in the two cases, beyond the conclusion that same gang has been involved in both cases.” Law and order has improved in the last few years, but much needs to be done in dealing with street crimes and kidnapping for ransom, he added.
Dua’s relative reportedly paid the ransom without taking police into confidence for two reasons — (1) They were threatened by the kidnappers, and (2) they did not trust police. In the past, some police officials were found involved in such cases. They often acted as informers for the criminals until and were caught and tried.
A few years back two gangs were busted in Quetta. They were involved in kidnapping for ransom. They used to abduct traders from Karachi and release them after collecting huge ransoms. One of the suspects arrested was later found to be a man freed by terrorists during ‘Bannu jail break’. He was convicted after an abductee and his mother identified the suspect in court. Many businessmen have left Pakistan after such incidents.
Karachi operation-2013 busted many terror networks of outlawed groups and also targeted MQM’s militants. But it did not target street crime or kidnapping for ransom.
Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), which once used to be very helpful in resolving crime cases, is no longer effective. It was the brainchild of former Sindh governor, Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim. He launched the initiative in 1989 when kidnapping for ransom and car-snatching were at a peak. It also helped in bridging the gap between citizen and police.
Kidnapping for ransom has always been an effective weapon for criminals and militants to generate money for their terror activities. Stop them before they strike again.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang. Twitter:@Mazhar.AbbasGEO