The rising tide of street crime in Karachi is making life difficult for its citizens
“I was travelling slowly along Korangi Road near Nasir Jump when two robbers on a bike stopped me at gunpoint. After I pulled over, they switched off my bike and asked for all my valuables. I requested them to return my ID card as I needed it, and they gave my wallet back after taking the cash. They tossed my bike keys as far as they could so I couldn’t follow them as they left,” says Shahid Shah, a Korangi resident.
According to Shah, the incident took place a few miles from Zaman Town police station.
After a long waiting period, he managed to register his complaint. However, he has little faith that his losses would be recovered. “I also lodged a complaint with the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) and requested them to trace my phone but they could only block the snatched phone. They do not have phone tracking equipment,” he says.
Karachi is facing a rising tide of street crime, mugging, target killing, and robberies. Over 25 million people feel unsafe as law enforcement agencies have failed to control crime. As many as 20 people, including TV producer Ather Mateen have been killed, and over 100 injured amidst street crime incidents in various parts of Karachi in 2022.
According to CPLC statistics, over 214 four-wheel vehicles, 4,702 motorcycles and 4,612 mobile phones have been snatched from different parts of Karachi in the two months in 2022.
These statistics also indicate that 6,378 robberies and muggings were reported in Karachi in February alone. The criminals took away 14 four-by-four vehicles, 375 motorcycles and 2,113 mobile phones in February 2022. Six people were killed.
The CPLC statistics also show that in the month of January, citizens lost 200 vehicles, 4,327, motorcycles and 2,499 mobile phones. Last year in the month of January, 170 four-wheel vehicles, 3,925 motorcycles and 2,013 mobile phones were stolen.
The Police Department’s annual budget is just Rs 106 billion. 84 percent of the budget is allocated for the salaries so that only 16 percent is available for operations.
The principal suspect in the Athar Mateen case was killed in a joint police operation in Qambar Shahdadkot district. The Karachi West police jointly conducted this operation with Shahdadkot police after they received reliable intel regarding the murderer.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Qambar Shahdadkot, the suspect, identified as Anwar Hasani Brohi, was killed in a joint operation of Qambar Shahdadkot and Karachi police on March 1. “Ashraf, an alleged accomplice, was arrested from Manghopir near Sindh-Balochistan border on February 26,” officials say.
According to CPLC statistics, 214 four-wheel vehicles, 4,702 motorcycles and 4,612 mobile phones have been snatched from different parts of Karachi in two months.
According to official police statements, a Rs 2 million reward had been fixed for the arrest of Anwar Brohi. There were 13 cases registered against him. He had prior criminal record, having been arrested three times. The Karachi Press Club, Karachi Union of Journalists and various associations of journalists had been protesting the killing of Ather Mateen.
“Two motorcyclists stopped me near Tariq Road at gunpoint and took my phone, as well as a friend’s at 3:00am” says Israr Shah. “I am a technician. I repair cell phones at Tariq Road. The phone they stole belonged to a customer. I was going to return it to them,” he laments.
Shah says that his friend Haji Tanveer, who was visiting from Mailsi in Vehari district in the Punjab, had also lost his cash and phone. “There were no police or rangers on the road at night and criminals were easily looting people at gunpoint,” he says.
On March 2, street criminals robbed an elderly woman at her doorstep in FC Area of Liaquatabad and fled. Her son, Gul Khan, tells The News on Sunday that his mother was just stepping out to buy some groceries when the robbers took her cash at gunpoint and then fled. “It is hard to move in the city as everyone has to carry necessities such as a phone and cash,” he laments.
“In the past, plainclothes officers called “Specials” were performing duties in all police stations,” says Mubashir Farooq, a senior investigative crime journalist. He explains that these “Specials” would monitor the overall situation in their police station’s jurisdiction. “Based on their intel, police parties used to conduct raids and operations to combat crime, ‘’ he says.
“Unfortunately, this sector has been closed down. Informants are now used to collect information regarding criminals and terrorists,” he explains, adding that sometimes police officers stage encounters and kill or injure the suspect in what they term “Full and Half Fry”.
According to Farooq, gangs from outside Karachi are largely responsible for street crime and theft.
Ghulam Nabi Memon, the additional inspector general of Sindh Police tells The News on Sunday that 150 to 160 cases of crime occur daily in the city. He says most of the criminals are caught by the police. “Due to lack of evidence and lack of interest on the part of complainants, the criminals get bail from courts,” he says.
“Ather Mateen’s killer Anwar Brohi was involved in 13 cases. He had been sent to prison three times,” he says, adding that some of the criminals have made robbery their primary source of livelihood. “Some of the drug peddlers are also committing street crimes in the city,” he laments.
“There are 8,000 to 12,000 criminals and 25,000 to 30,000 drug peddlers in Karachi,” says Memon. “We have killed 15 criminals, wounded 146 and arrested 1,460 in the past two months,” he says.
Ghulam Nabi Memon also states that Sindh Police are planning to put e-tagging trackers on criminals to monitor them and prevent them from committing crime. “Karachi is the economic hub of the country and the police are trying their best to combat crime,” he concludes.
“Under the police law (The Sindh Repeal of the Police Act, 1861 and Revival of Police Order, 2002) (Amendment) Act, 2019 the provincial government formed the Public Safety and Police Complaint Commission for the safety and protection of people, but the commission is now inactive,” says Karamat Ali, a member of Public Safety and Police Complaint Commission.
“The commission is chaired by the Home minister but Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has kept this portfolio to himself,” says Ali, adding that no meetings have been held in the past two years regarding the matter.
“The commission comprises 12 members, including four MPAs from the provincial government, two from the Opposition and six independent citizens. In December 2021 the members were informed that the next meeting of the commission will be held in January 2022 but it is already March and no meeting has been held,” he states.
A proactive police response and prior planning are needed to tackle crime, which has now become a systemic issue in Karachi.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5