By Zia Ur Rehman
November 27, 2013
KARACHI – Pakistani authorities are carrying out a major anti-crime operation in Karachi meant to restore the nation’s once-booming commercial capital to its glory.
The Pakistani cabinet September 5 gave the green light to engage in “targeted operations,” with the Rangers springing into action that very day.
The operation aims to rid the country’s financial hub of security threats from serious criminals, including militant groups, targeted killers and extortionists, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said during a visit to the city November 8.
Since the operation began more than two months ago, security forces have arrested about 6,000 suspects, of whom 4,780 remain in custody, the Pakistani premier said.
Cracking down on outlaws:
The operation by police and the Rangers seems to have had positive effects, officials said. Karachi traders and industrialists agree that they’ve perceived an improvement in the city’s law-and-order situation.
The frequency of extortion and kidnapping has declined significantly in the past two months, Atiq Mir, chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (All Traders Union), a city-wide traders’ body, said.
“The Rangers and police are cracking down on the criminals who want to cripple the country’s economy,” Mir told Central Asia Online.
“Police and the Rangers have successfully shattered the network of extortionists and criminals, and now traders and the business community are ready to invest billions of rupees,” Boltan Market shopkeeper Abbas Jaffery said.
Expressing satisfaction at the performance of the Rangers and police in Karachi, Nawaz Sharif asked the Rangers to make ridding the commercial community of extortionists their focus.
Civil society organisations and major political parties also expressed satisfaction with the progress shown in the crackdown on targeted killers and other criminals.
The operation drove down the number of targeted killings, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said.
In August, the last month before authorities cracked down, 121 targeted killings occurred in Karachi, according to HRCP statistics. In October, the number fell to 74.
Parties whose spokesmen or leaders praised the operation and said that they were co-operating with it included the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan-Noorani.
Bringing back and keeping bussiness:
Karachi contributes about 42% of Pakistani GDP and 70% of tax revenue, AFP reported last year.
Because of Karachi’s outsized economic clout, lawlessness there has undermined the entire country, so business leaders asked the provincial government to curb the devastating violence.
Violence in Karachi — which dates back decades and is linked to tensions in the diverse, fast-growing population — is wrecking businesses and industries, Mir said.
The violence and disorder have compelled a large number of traders and businessmen to flee to Punjab Province, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, Wakil-ur-Rehman, a Karachi-based journalist and analyst, said.
The violence’s total financial impact on the city might be incalculable, Rehman said. By some estimates, a single day’s shutdown of the city costs Pakistan Rs. 7-12 billion (US $64m–$111m).