Titled ‘Karachi:The State of Crimes,’ the report below was commissioned by the Center for Research & Security Studies (CRSS: www.crss.pk). It has been posted here with CRSS’ permission
One of the three largest cities in the world, and the biggest one in Pakistan, Karachi has a multiethnic population of 17 million people. During the last couple of years, Karachi has seen recurrent outbreaks of violence which have claimed hundreds of lives. As data collected through different sources suggest that of all those 11,990 civilians that lost their lives due to bomb, suicide, and other fatal attacks in the country during the last eight years, Karachi’s share is nearly 50 percent. And thus whereby its business and employment opportunities lure people from all over the country to flock down to the city and try their luck, the growing crime rates of the city create scares among its residents.
From 2003 through 2011, nearly 5,549 people were eaten up by different types of violence in the city, involving terrorism, target killings, and sectarianism. The number is persistently on the rise, in the backdrop of heating up turf wars among land and drug mafias and criminal gangs. The picture looks no different when we look at the trend of other crimes. Be it car snatching and theft or abduction for ransom crimes, all show an upward trend. How the law enforcement agencies are dealing with this recent upsurge in crimes and what steps they are taking to curtail the violence, need further inquiry. The data compiled by the Police Department in Sindh is a good source to begin with; however, it offers no insight into the mechanisms and outcome of its interventions to curb violence in the city. But, there is another private sector organization called Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) that keeps a good record of most of the crimes that are reported in Karachi and it also maintains a record of the cases that were resolved during any specific period. The data maintained by CPLC covers the following dimensions of city crimes:
• 4 Wheelers’ snatching, theft, and recovery
• 2 Wheelers’ snatching, theft, and recovery
• Cell phone’s snatching, theft, and recovery
• Kidnappings and kidnappings for ransom
• Killings or target killings
• Areas where these crimes were reported
Thus, the report is fundamentally based on data compiled by CPLC, yet in order to make it more objective and research oriented, data from other sources is also incorporated. This report analyzes different aspects of all these crimes to see if the crime rates are increasing or declining. It also highlights the discrepancies of the data maintenance and carries out comparative study of the similar data from different locations to determine the areas that are dangerous in terms of crime rates. It is hoped that this analysis would be valuable for the people and the responsible authorities to take a look at these crimes from a different perspective.
1. Karachi: An overview
Karachi is the most populous urban center of Pakistan, and the hub of commercial activities of the country, as it generates nearly 50 percent of the total revenue collected by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 2009, Karachi’s GDP was nearly $78 billion in 2008 and it is expected to touch $120 billion mark by 2020 at a growth rate of 5.9 percent. With a 10 percent of the total population of Pakistan, Karachi contributes almost 20 percent of the total GDP of the country. Two main seaports, Port of Karachi and Port Qasim, play very important role in handling imports and exports of the country. Being a port city, Karachi handles nearly 60 percent of the total trading business. Textiles, pharmaceuticals, steel, and automobiles are the main industries in the city. Most of Pakistan's public and private banks are headquartered on Karachi's I.I. Chundrigar Road. Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) is Pakistan's largest and oldest stock exchange, with many Pakistani, as well as overseas listings.
i) Ethnic groups
Ethnically, Karachi is a highly diversified city of the country where several ethnic groups live, enjoy the benefits of the opportunities it offers, and suffer the brutal competitiveness of a commercial city. The most prominent ethnic groups living in Karachi are Mohajirs (Urdu speaking population whose forefathers migrated from India at the time of the partition of India in 1947), Punjabis, Sindhis, Kashmiris, Seraikis, Pashtuns, Balochis, Memons, Bohras, Ismailis, and others. Afghan refugees are also residing in this city, mainly of Pashtuns and Tajik origins. Proportion of the major ethnic communities living Karachi is: Mohajirs 43 percent, Pashtuns 17 percent, Punjabi 11 percent, Sindhi six percent, Baloch five percent, Seraiki three percent, Hazara and Gilgiti two percent.
Since the creation of Pakistan, Karachi has been going through rapid demographic changes. According to a report, Sindhis were the highest ethnic community (60 percent) living in Karachi during 1941 and Urdu speaking Muhajirs were only six percent. Now this ethnic composition has almost reversed and Sindhi represents six percent of the city population.
Migration of population to this city is very phenomenal and according to Arif Hasan, the well-known city planner and social researcher, nearly 1.1 million people migrated to Karachi between 1981 and 1998. No other place in the country received so many migrants during this period. These demographic changes trigger many socio-economic and political activities in the city and contribute a lot to the violence and disturbance that often grip the city by surprise and cause panic.
Religious composition of Karachi population, as per 1998 Census, is Muslim 96.45 percent (Sunni 65 percent, and Shia 30 percent), Christian 2.42 percent, Hindu 0.86 percent, Ahmadi 0.17 percent and others include Parsis, Sikhs, Bahai, and Budhists.
iii) Political parties
Almost every mainstream political party of the country has its followers and offices in Karachi. However, the leading political party of Karachi is Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and next comes Pakistan Peoples’ Party PPP; and Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim League-N and Q, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), etc., also have palpable representation in the city. Ethnic divisions of the city have a greater role in determining the party position in Karachi. MQM has the support of leading ethnic community of Mohajir population while ANP enjoys the support of the second largest ethnic community of Pashtun population. During last election of 2008, MQM bagged most of the provincial assembly seats from Karachi. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has major followings among the Baloch and Sindhi population.
iv) Jihadi/sectarian militant organizations
Karachi, the thriving urban center is also home to number of lethal jihadi/sectarian militant organizations. According to a report, following militant organizations are operating in Karachi:
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: The banned sectarian outfit is headquartered in Nagan Chowrangi (New Karachi)
Harkatul-Mujahideen (HuM) (also known as Harkatul Ansar): It is headquartered and has recruiting office in Karachi in Haroonabad, (SITE area) Mustafa Masjid near the factory of Altaf Shakoor of Pasban.
Jaish-e-Muhammad’s (JeM): It is a religious militant organization and has its office is in Hyderi, (Noth Nazimabad) Batha Masjid. It was founded by firebrand cleric Maulana Masood Azhar in late 1990s to fight against Indian forces in Kashmir, but in recent years, it has turned its guns on Pakistani security forces.
Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT): It is also a religious militant organization banned by the United Nations Security Council for its alleged role in terrorism in India and the region. It has its main office in Gulshan Chowrangi, Yaqoobia Masjid.
v) Underworld gangs
Most notorious underworld gangs of the region are also allegedly residing and operating from Karachi. Among these Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, Shoaib Khan, Khalid Shahenshah and Haji Ibraheem aka Bhulu are the famous ones and these are involved in running their rackets, illicit drug businesses, human trafficking and gangs in Karachi.
vi) Criminal gangs
Two organizations, Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) and Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC) came to the limelight during the last year when target killing incidents in Lyari, Shershah and Kharadar areas brought the civic life to standstill. PAC is supposedly enjoying support of the PPP and KRC has a backing of MQM and the killings in these areas are considered as a result of the turf war between PPP and MQM. The persons leading both of these organizations are:
(Late) Rehman ‘Dakait’ Arshad Pappu
Baba Ladla Ghaffar Zikri
Zafar Baloch Akram Baloch
Uzair Baloch Bilal Sheikh
Among these Rehman “Dakait” was killed last year in an encounter with the police, while Arshad Pappu was arrested in 2006 but he was released on bail in February 2012 and acquitted in about 60 cases.
2. Underlying issues at a glance
The recent history of violence in Karachi underscores one point lucidly that the city is rapidly falling victim to the temptations of ‘power and influence’ on the part of political players. These political players base their legitimacy on ethnic lines in the city. Thus politics plays out brutally in the city, while other factors such as ethnic tensions, sectarian rifts, gang wars, drug dealings and land grabbing, flourishing under the political umbrellas. The dynamics of political violence revolve mainly around political turf wars between the various stakeholders of the city.
The political dimension of the violence is so unequivocal in the city that almost 1600 people lost their lives in 2011 during target killing spree. And the targets of the killings were purely selected on political grounds. The political dynamics is badly entrenched in the city that former Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza once declared on the floor of the house that had he been given a free hand without having to cater to the dictates of political expediency, he would have eradicated the perpetrators of deadly violence, most of whom, he alleged, enjoyed the backing of political parties. Such a statement by a responsible government office bearer underscores the role played by politics in fuelling violence and shielding its perpetrators.
Moreover, ethnic factor is deeply embedded in the ongoing criminal and political violence in the city. Pashtuns, who are estimated to constitute 20-25 percent of Karachi’s population has been remained politically marginalized in the city, but now they are asserting themselves and consequently readjustments in political spectrum are causing violent episodes. And thus close observers of the city's politics agree, however, that the central actors in the bloodshed are competing ethnic political parties and the criminal gangs linked to them. At the heart of the conflict is a fight for control of the hugely lucrative tracts of public land that are being illegally developed, both for profits and cementing control of turf and political power. Turf wars between drug cartels, land mafia, organized crime syndicates and extremist groups complicate the difficult task of policing vast slums.
Furthermore, the flocking of suspected terrorists from tribal areas due to the ongoing military operations in tribal region further complicates the situation. These elements have had links in Karachi since the early 1980s. They can easily find refuge in the religious seminaries and slums. Also, they can easily make their way from tribal areas to Karachi due to thin security presence at provincial borders. According to recent reports, militant groups having links with the Taliban generate millions of dollars through criminal activities in Karachi, such as kidnappings for ransom, bank robberies, drug dealings, etc. So, today’s Karachi has become a spider’s web with scores of parties vying for ‘power, control and influence’ at the same time in the city and in the process leaving the law enforcement agencies, permanently grappling with the consequence of violence.
3. Crime assessment and mapping
Like kidnappings, killings or murders are also committed for some reasons. Sindh Police maintains data for “murders” and “murders in the form of target killings”. CPLC, on the other hand, maintains data of the killing incidents alone. Since Karachi is heavily affected of target killing incidents, no data short of this information can be of much help in understanding the exact nature of this crime and its effects on the city. The problem with the Sindh Police data is that it is not much reliable, doesn’t go beyond 2007 and it covers target killing for the year 2011 only. To cover target killing incidents, all one can do is to make use of other sources like the newspapers or HRCP reports and shed some light on this horrendous crime that has been going on in this city for a long time.
Killings or target killings
Cases of murders or killings are reported from everywhere in the country and Karachi is not alone in this case. What makes Karachi killings more alarming and concerning is the magnitude of these cases and a very selective pattern of them. Most of the killings taking place elsewhere don’t carry the kind of pattern that we observe in Karachi. The particular pattern of Karachi killings brings it the name of target killing to differentiate it from other cases of killings. The terminology of target killing is basically used for intentional killing of a person or persons to achieve certain political or non-political agenda. In the words of CCPO of Karachi, Waseem Ahmed, the definition of target killings is:
While “every murder” is technically “counted as a target killing”, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Karachi Waseem Ahmed says “[Personally] a target killing is a murder with a motive of sectarian, ethnic, and terrorism violence. On average, some 3.6 murders have taken place in Karachi every day since January 2010.”
For over two decades, Karachi has been an epicentre of target killings for reasons ranging from ethno-political to sectarian disputes and from land mafia rivalries to personal vendetta. Since 1994, Karachi has lost 9,696 human lives and majority of them are victims of these conflicts and there appears to be no end to this human killing madness in the near future either. A good number of the victims are the activists belonging to different political or religious parties functioning in the city. The report issued by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies for 2010 indicates that the political activists who became the victims of target killings during 2010 belonged to the political parties like PPP, MQM, and ANP but it doesn’t identify as to how many activists from each party were affected. On 6 January 2011, the Dawn published the following data from HRCP report for 2009 which identified the names of the political and religious parties whose activists were targeted in Karachi:
“A total of 748 people lost their lives to targeted killings in the city last year, up from the 272 victims in 2009: The report says that of the 215 victims who were killed reportedly due to their association with political, religious and nationalist parties, 64 belonged to the MQM, 44 to the ANP, 43 to the MQM(H), 32 to the PPP, four to the PPP(S), one each to the PML(N), PML(Q), PML(F) and Punjabi Front, eight to the ST, three to the JI, two to the JUI, 15 to the JAS [Jamat Ahl-e-Sunnat], seven to the PPI and two to the JSQM.”
Another report that appeared in the Express Tribune on 12 December 2010 provided information about the victims of Karachi killings and the major causes of these deaths were attributed to kidnapping, gang war in Lyari, sectarian conflicts, ethnic killings, political rivalry, police encounter, and many others(Refer to Table 4).
Table 1: Source: Express Tribune – 12 December 2010
Although ethnic and political killings are shown as two different reasons in the table, the root causes of both of them are the same if we look at them from the on-going feud among the different political parties functioning in the city. MQM is considered as a representative of the Urdu speaking population while ANP has an overwhelming Pushtun representation. PPP represents Baloch and Sindhi population of Karachi. Any conflict that takes place among these political parties generates ethnic hatred and results in ethnic killings that go side by side with the killings of political activists. By putting ethnic and political killings into one category of target killings the total number of victims goes up to 405, which is the highest among all other categories. The causes of Karachi killings as given in the Table 1 makes it easy to figure out that the target killings is only 25 percent of the total killings in Karachi. However, the data available on the CPLC website doesn’t provide any information as to how many of 1339 people killed in 2010 were victims of target killings.
The CPLC website shows the number of people killed every year but it remains short of identifying the victims and the causes behind those killings. Sindh Police, on the other hand, maintains data of target killings separate from the data of murders and it shows that the year 2011 had only 60 deaths due to target killings while 1604 persons were murdered for causes other than target killing. The negative part of this data is that showing only 60 persons as victims of target killings appears to be like an attempt of manipulation. During the whole last decade, the year 2011 was the worst year for Karachiites when they had to bury over 1644 (CPLC data) or 1664 (Sindh Pollice data) people who were murdered by some unknown assailants. After 1995, it was the highest number of people who had to meet with such a fate in this mega city of the country. Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Iftikhar Ahmed Choudhry, is on record saying that in January 2011 alone there were 75 deaths due to target killings in Karachi. The Dawn of 6 July 2011 also reported:
A report issued by the organisation’s [HRCP] Karachi chapter on Tuesday said that a total of 1,138 people were killed in the city during the first six months of the current year and 490 of them fell prey to targeted killings on political, sectarian and ethnic grounds.”
What led Sindh Police to register only 60 out of 1664 murders as victims of target killings when the rampant killings of people on daily basis had led the Police and Rangers to carry out Karachi Operation in August 2011? Is it a kind of apathy of the Sindh Police to let the deaths of hundreds of people go un-investigated by registering them as mysterious cases of murders with no obvious intentions?
Karachi chapter of HRCP has been working very diligently to keep a good record of all those human killings that occur in the city and they always come up with information that helps to identify the cases that fall into the category of the target killings. They also identify the association of the victims with the different political and religious organizations as well. In a culture of denials, their data helps a lot in understanding the nature of conflicts and the parties that are somehow or other involved in it. Table 2 shows that majority of the victims were from four political parties of the city; MQM, ANP, MQM-H, and PPP. Except MQM-H, all other parties are actively functioning in the city, enjoying large political base compared to MQM-H, and none of them have their leaders in jail. Yet, MQM-H has the highest number of victims of target killings after MQM and ANP. Not only the political parties but the religious organizations (JAS, ASWJ, JUI, ST, and JI), ethnic parties (PPI, MQM-H, JSQM, and Punjabi Front) and banned organization (SS – Sipah-e-Sahaba) have also lost their activists in target killing incidents in Karachi.
Table 2: Source: Dawn
Who is targeting who and what instigates them to indulge into this horrific crime? Can it be attributed to political, ethnic, or sectarian rivalry? Political rivalry mixed with the sectarian and ethnic hatred makes everything so blurred that no line can be drawn to delineate one form of killings from another. A political activist can be targeted on ethnic ground and a common man can be targeted for political reason because he belongs to an ethnic community that is represented by a certain political party. Once the target killings on political reasons subside, another wave of target killings erupts on sectarian line and starts targeting people belonging to a certain sect irrespective of which political party they belong to. Later, enters the gangsters or land mafia to make their presence felt as well. This whole game continues on with intermittent intervals and the interesting part of this whole episode is that despite being a part of the game, all players shamelessly deny their involvement in it and point fingers at all others except themselves.
According to the Table 2 above, MQM appears to have been hit hard by the incidents of target killings that have gone rampant during the last three years. Because of having large portion of the population under its influence, the number of victims belonging to MQM is supposed to be on a higher side. However, the surprising part of it is that despite the biggest victim of the target killings MQM is still blamed for its major role in this crime.
The [Police] official, who requested anonymity, said the police were currently investigating the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) as a group of special interest in some of the alleged politically motivated target killings.”
“Condemning the target killings in Karachi, the Chief of JI, Munawwar Hasan said that international mafia wanted to annihilate Pakistan and there were conspiracies to tear apart Karachi and Balochistan from the country. The MQM was the local actor in this plot, he alleged, adding a situation was being created in the country that could create a justification for placing our nuclear installations under international control.”
“MQM is being maligned…how MQM can be accused of involvement when we have lost so many workers ourselves?” argued MNA and senior MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi. Rizvi said that although “seemingly politically motivated target killings” were taking place in Karachi, no political parties were engaged in these activities as a matter of policy.”
Would MQM ever be able to wash off these dirty spots from its identification is a question that will remain unanswered as long as the true democratic norms in our polity don’t take strong roots where the strength of vote and not of the bullet becomes the real deciding factor in winning or losing the political power.
Orangi Town was hit hard by the incidents of target killings in the year 2011 followed by the Old City that includes areas of M.A. Jinnah Road, Kharadar, and parts of Lyari. The other areas highly affected of target killings were New Karachi, Lyari, Gulshan, Malir, and Korangi (Graph 1).
Graph 1: Source: Dawn
Kidnapping is a crime that doesn’t happen because of a sudden outrage. A reason has to be behind it in addition to proper timing, planning, and well calculated execution. Unfortunately, the data available on this crime is generally divided into two categories; one is kidnapping and the other is kidnapping for ransom whereas most of the kidnappings that are carried out in the country can be divided into the following three categories:
• Kidnapping (for personal enmity or any other reason)
• Kidnapping for ransom
• Kidnapping for political reason
Kidnapping (for personal enmity or any other reason)
Sindh Police maintains data for kidnapping and kidnapping for ransom whereas CPLC has no category other than kidnapping for ransom. Kidnapping for no reason is a kind of misnomer and the next chapter discusses it in detail.
Kidnapping for ransom
Kidnapping for ransom is a crime that keeps traumatised the victims and their whole family until the abducted person is released safely. It may go from weeks to months or years even. Kidnappings are carried out for various purposes involving political rivalry, personal enmity, and economic issues. Kidnapping for ransom at least gives a hope to the victim and their family that there is a possibility of safe return of the victim once the demands of the perpetrators are met to their satisfaction or a miracle may take place. All other cases of kidnappings are more serious in nature because most of them end up in death of the victims.
The data CPLC maintains on this crime draws a very satisfactory picture of the problem as it claims to have a 98.86 percent recovery rate of all kidnapping cases. From 2002 to 2010, CPLC was able to recover all kidnapped (517) persons successfully. 2011 is the only year where they show 10 unresolved cases. Sindh Police data disagrees with the CPLC data and shows that there were 4,558 kidnappings and 285 kidnappings for ransom in Karachi during 2008-2011. CPLC shows 395 cases of kidnapping for ransom during the same period but remains silent about the large number of other kidnapping cases (Table 3).
Table 3: Source: Sindh Police and CPLC
Sindh Police: http://www.sindhpolice.gov.pk/annoucements/Crime_statistics/crime_data_upto_october_2011_with_graph/Karachipercent 20Range/Crimepercent 20datapercent 20Karachipercent 20Rangepercent 202011.htm
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is another source that annually issues a report covering different crimes committed in the country. In its annual report for 2008, HRCP makes the following comment on kidnapping cases
“Thirty-seven policemen were killed in Karachi during that period. As many as 173 people were killed there in 2008 after being abducted, many for ransom.”
This HRCP report and Sindh Police data raise a question about the fate of several thousand people who were kidnapped from Karachi for various reasons and to this date their cases may be lying unattended somewhere as there is no information available on Sindh Police website about the recovery of these kidnapped persons.
What worries further is the growing trend of kidnapping for ransom cases. In last five years, kidnapping for ransom has grown four folds from 25 cases in 2006 to 106 in 2011. If crime rate continues growing at this pace despite a recovery rate of 98.86 percent it calls for a further look at the current methods of control and the causes that render these methods ineffective.
Taliban factor is suspected to have a major role in bolstering the kidnappings for ransom in the city. Since Lal Masjid operation in July 2007, Pakistan Army carried out several operations against the Taliban in Tribal areas and Swat. Drone attacks also went up from 4 in 2007 to 118 in 2010. Faced with an adverse situation and dwindling monetary supports, Taliban are reported to have resorted to other methods of fund raising and one them is kidnappings for ransom. Karachi, being the commercial hub of the country and having a large population hailing from the Tribal areas and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, has become the best spot for them as a place where they can find shelter from the on-going military operation and drone attacks besides carrying out their kidnapping-for-ransom operation as well. The following comments from HRCP and CPLC also point fingers at the Taliban for their involvement in this crime:
“The HRCP assistant coordinator, Abdul Hai, said the increase in crime and terrorism in the city is because of the Taliban. “The Taliban want to derail the Pakistan government and so they are attacking every aspect in our society that can become a centrifugal force, like sectarian and ethnic violence.”
“At least five of over a hundred kidnappings in 2011 have been committed by “jihadi” groups, according to the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) — an increase from just one or two last year.”
Irrespective of the ratio of “jihadi” groups’ involvement in kidnapping for ransom crime, the concerning issue is that the trend is growing and a large number of cases are either improperly recorded or left un-investigated.
“The year 2009 saw a sharp increase in violence against women and religious minorities, while new incidents of enforced disappearance continued to be reported throughout the year from across the country, said a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here on Monday.”
Kidnapping for political reasons
While the newspapers were voicing their concerns on the upsurge of mysterious cases of “kidnapped and dumped” dead bodies in Balochistan, a wave of similar events occurred in Karachi last year and scared the Karachiites for their lives and security. The horrifying stories of kidnappings and dumping of dead bodies in Karachi became daily headlines of the newspapers while the law enforcement agencies appeared helpless in bringing the situation under control. Dawn, on 19 August 2011, reported: “At least 21 bullet-riddled and tortured bodies stuffed in gunny bags were found in different parts of Karachi on Thursday as more than 30 people were killed in the city on the second day of a renewed wave of violence that police saw blended with an ‘ethnic colour’, taking the two-day death toll to nearly 50.’
Kidnappings and killings in Karachi were not exact replica of the similar cases in Balochistan. In Karachi, political parties were blamed for having their involvement in these cases while in Balochistan the accused were security agencies (FC and ISI). In Karachi, dead bodies of the abducted persons were found the very next day of the incident while such victims in Balochistan went missing for weeks or months before their dead bodies appeared at any remote place. In some cases, the missing people in Balochistan did come back home alive but in case of Karachi the kidnapping was like a death warrant. Once a person was picked up there was hardly any chance for him to reappear alive. However, one factor was the same in all these cases in Balochistan and Karachi; they were all triggered by the political issues.
Eyewitnesses and political observers say ethnic and political rivalries were the dominant factors behind most of the killings over the past three days. They point out that while most of those abducted and gunned down earlier in the week were pre-dominantly Lyari’s local Baloch, including footballers and a former MNA, many of those forcibly taken away and shot dead in overnight violence belonged to the Urdu- speaking community.
Allegations levelled by the PPP-backed Lyari Amn Committee and Muttahida Qaumi Movement against each other confirm that divisions during the current wave of violence in old parts of Karachi are along ethnic lines.”
In an interview that appeared in the Dawn of 14 July 2010, Nazim F. Haji, founding chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC)] has said:
“The political parties are inextricably involved in this issue…they talk about target killings and land mafias as if some outside force is behind it…when truly it is a battle for their respective turfs and these murders are a significant, real feature in that battle,”
No exact numbers are available for those unfortunate people who were killed after kidnapping in Karachi last year. While their dead bodies were dumped into gunny bags, the number of those bodies was probably dumped into the total number of target killings:
“According to police records, 1,241 people were killed during the last seven months in the city, while last year the metropolis had witnessed a total of 1,339 killings. “Yes, there is a sharp surge in the number of bodies being found every day in the city,” said Anwer Kazmi, a senior official of the Edhi Foundation.” Dawn 19 August 2011.
While so many innocent lives were lost to the political rivalries among the different political parties, the police or any other agency failed to record these deaths under proper category. What it shows is that police should have a category of killings after kidnapping in their recording system to know how many people were victims of this crime and one day it might help to uncover those who are responsible for them.
Car (4 Wheelers) snatching, theft, and recovery
From 2002 to 2004, car theft and car snatching cases were close to each other. From 2005 onward, this trend took a change and car theft cases went two to three times higher than the car snatching cases and this trend is still continuing. However, the bright side of it is that these crimes have been on a sharp decline since 2008. From 4505 cases of car theft in 2008, the number came down to 2813 in 2011, nearly 38 percent reduction in the cases. Surprisingly, the recovery rate of car theft cases also declined proportionately to the crime rate during this period. 2565 cars were recovered in 2008 compared to 1605 cars that were recovered in 2011, a 38 percent decline in recovery rate which is surprisingly the same for car theft crimes as well. Maintaining a better recovery rate could have brought significant improvement in curbing of this crime in the city.
Car snatching is a more daring crime than car lifting and according to CPLC data nearly 1527 cars on an average were snatched every year in Karachi during the last ten years (2002 - 2011). With an exception of a random reduction in these crime rates, this crime continued maintaining this pace during the whole decade. From 1645 car snatchings in 2002 the figure came down to only 1520 in 2011. It appears to be no big change in this crime if we don’t compare it with the significant surge in the number of cars within this period. The number of cars almost doubled during this period (From 767,913 in 2002 to 1,377,332 registered cars in 2011). Yet, car snatching rate remained even lower than what it was back in 2002. This tells a lot about the crime control the law enforcing agencies have managed to maintain during this period. Unfortunately, the recovery rate of the snatched cars in the same period doesn’t match with the crime rate. Out of 1645 cars that were snatched in 2002, police were able to recover 1094 cars, nearly a 66 percent recovery rate. In 2011 the number of recovered cars go down to 517 out of a total of 1520 snatched cars. From a 66 percent recovery rate, it tumbled down to 34 percent. Had there been no improvement in crime control, the dismal record of recovery rate in both, car snatching and theft, would have been a great cause of concern for the people and to the police authorities.
What factors played their roles in maintaining the car snatching cases to below 2002 level and bringing down the car theft cases from 4505 in 2008 to 2,813 in? Can this be attributed to the Police Department’s good performance or the use of advanced detective methods by the CPLC? May be both of them or the use of tracking system mostly used by the car owners deserves a credit for it. Assumptions are the only tools to draw any conclusion from whatever little data about the snatched cars and their makers is available on CPLC website. In the month of November 2011 alone, 189 Suzuki cars were snatched while the next targeted cars were Toyota (75) and Honda (22). These figures are exact replica of the market positions these three automakers enjoy in Karachi and in the country as well. Although Suzuki has the leading position in the market, the cars it sells fall into the category of medium range and the majority of their owners do not use car tracking system. Toyota and Honda are of higher range cars and most of them are equipped with the tracking system.
Assuming that the car tracking systems are playing very effective roles in restraining these crimes, the next question that arises is; “are our law enforcement agencies so ineffective in keeping the crime rate under control?” This may not be very true but there is hardly any evidence to prove it otherwise. According to some reliable sources, not a single vehicle, either a car or a motorcycle, is ever recovered by the police. Luck, in many cases, is what one has to depend on to have his/her vehicle recovered when the police and tracking systems fail. Quite often, the car and motorcycle lifters abandon the vehicle after accomplishing their required missions and the police go get it under its custody as if. Unfortunately, most of the criminals involved in such cases remain at large no matter how often the crimes are committed and at what location. This is another aspect of the inefficiency of the police department in handling this crime in the city.
Areas of crime
Gulshan Town had the highest number of car snatching and theft cases in 2011 while places like Nazimabad, Jamshed Town, Shah Faisal Town, and Gulberg had the next numbers of these cases (Graph 2).
Graph 2: Source: CPLC
Motorcycle (2 wheelers) theft, snatching, and recovery
Motorcycles’ snatching and theft are the crimes that have been constantly going up in Karachi. From 2002 to 2011, it has inclined up to 300 percent (6138 versus 18,906 motorcycles) while the recovery rate has registered only 130 percent improvement during the same period (1878 in 2002 and 2545 in 2011). However, the number of motorcycles registered in the city has also gone up nearly 350 percent during this period (400,338 in 2002 vs. 1,789,429 registered motorcycles in 2011). If we draw a graph of the recovery rate as the percentage of snatched/theft motorcycles the picture is not quite satisfactory either (Graph 3). From a recovery rate of 31 percent in 2002, it has now come down to 15 percent. Currently, people of Karachi experience loss of 46 motorcycles every day due to theft and snatching and only 6 to 7 of them get recovered.
Graph 3: Source: CPLC
Areas of crime
Gulshan Town is again on the top of all other towns of Karachi in having the highest rate of motorcycle snatching/theft cases in 2011. Saddar including Preedy Street is the second highest victim of this crime (Graph 4).
Graph 4: Source: CPLC
Cell phone theft and snatching
Cell phone theft and snatching are crimes that have affected almost every household in the city and many people have lost their lives while putting up a resistance to it. During 1 Dec 2010 to 31 November 2011, there were 23591 cases of cell phone theft and snatching in the city and there is no data of apprehension of the culprits involved in these crimes.
Areas of crime
Gulshan Town and Saddar are the highly affected places of cell phone snatching crimes. Trending high next to them are Ferozabad, Shah Faisal Town, and Malir (Graph 5).
Graph 5: Source: CPLC
As Karachi is rapidly turning into a hub of crimes, so is the issue of extortion getting chronically endemic. It has emerged as an easy and effective tool of plundering money for the criminals linked, at some level, with the political parties in the city. According to media reports, criminals throw the value of money written on paper (parchee) in front of the gate of a shop or an industry, demanding the business to comply at the earliest or face consequences. The consequences include either the killing of that particular businessman or abduction of his family members. “It has become very violent. They are simply killing people who don’t pay up, we have had two deaths because of this recently,” said Mian Abrar Ahmad of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce. Recent reports also suggest that criminals are sending text messaging to the business community, asking them to pay money or face consequences.
The government tried to take action against those involved in the crime, yet the political expediency always hindered the progress. Meanwhile, political actors in the city continue to blame each other for collecting extortions from the business. As, Mohajir Qaumi Movement Chairman Afaq Ahmed on March 21, 2012 accused Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for introducing and collecting extortion in the city. He accused the MQM’s industries minister of collecting more than Rs50 million from the city’s industrial area alone, including an additional Rs2-3 million from the Builders Association. Meanwhile, MQM lawmaker in National Assembly Haider Abbas Rizvi underlined: “It seems [like] it is all by design and planned – as if the police in the areas where such incidents are rampant are deployed on the will of the extortionists. He specifically mentioned Karachi’s biggest flea market in Sher Shah where he said that more than 6,000 shops are stripped of Rs600, 000 every day.”
The government introduced some steps in the past to beef up security around the industrial areas and launched Anti-Extorition Cell (AEC) in the police department, but all these steps are falling flat; because, the number of extortion cases continues to swell. Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) received 20 complaints in March alone. While in January it got 39 and 21 in February. “We agree with statements being made that extortion is on the rise and if you look at the numbers in March so far, it is particularly alarming,” said CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy. Mapping the area of extortion cases in recent months, CPLC chief narrated that most of the callers, complaining about the issue belong to districts in the east and south of the city.
4. Decoding crime and violence
CPLC is a reliable source for collecting data on different crime rates in the city. Sindh Police also maintains good data on crime rates but the reliability of their data becomes highly questionable when it is compared with other sources like CPLC, HRCP, and the newspapers. For example, Sindh Police shows that there were 1277 cases of car snatch/theft and 6224 cases of motorcycle snatch/theft during 2011 while CPLC record shows 4,726 cases of car snatch/theft and 18906 cases of motorcycle snatch/theft during the same period. Such a big difference between the Sindh Police and CPLC data leaves an analyst wondering as to which data be considered as authentic. While CPLC can be commended for doing a very good job in keeping a database that appears to be very authentic, the need of improvements can’t be ruled out. They should at least start maintaining data for the following crimes:
o Target killings
o Kidnapping for ransom
o Kidnapping for political reason
Maintaining data of the area from where people are kidnapped and those who commit this crime can serve as a good source for an analysis by the law enforcing agencies and the researchers.
Unfortunately, data recording is not very reliable in the country and the format of data recording is not same either. One example of the unreliability of Punjab Police data is that they use only one category for Motor Vehicle snatching and theft cases. It is not clear whether they use this category for car (4 wheelers) or for motorcycles’ (2 wheelers).
Let’s take another case. Punjab Police maintains data for the whole province while Sindh Police maintains Karachi Range Crime Data in addition to a Monthly Heinous Crime Report that contains crime data for the whole province. According to Punjab Police data there were 6,666 murders in the whole province of Punjab during 2011. Sindh Police shows that there were 3511 murders in the whole province in the year 2011 and out of them 1,664 were killed in Karachi alone. Since the data for Lahore City is not available, we can compare the data of Sindh with Punjab and the crime rate in Sindh is nearly 50 percent of crime rate in Punjab. However, the crime rate of Karachi alone is almost 50 percent of the total crime rate of the whole province of Sindh. Normally, the total figure of murder in Karachi is taken as the victim of target killing which isn’t true. Nearly 25 to 30 percent of the people murdered in the city are victims of target killings.
What makes it further difficult is that no alternate source like CPLC-Karachi is available in Punjab for verification of the data posted by the Punjab Police. The CPLC-Lahore has a website but it contains no statistics on crimes unfortunately. Use of different formats for crime data recording by the different Police departments in the country hinders a reliable comparative study of crime rates in all provinces. Interior ministry needs to issue a guideline to the Police departments of all provinces to follow one standard format for data maintenance.
The continuous problem of target killings in Karachi calls for soul searching for all those who want to pursue their agenda through this method. Loss of a large number of party members and followers by MQM prove that despite being highly organized and disciplined political party, it appears to have been failing to ensure safety of their followers and guarantee peaceful environment to the city dwellers. The same is true for the extremist jihadi organizations and other political parties as well.
The economic conditions of the areas affected of different crimes varies from poor to richest and it appears that the economic denominators have not much influence on the crime rates. Look at the areas like Orangi Town and Lyari that have majority of population in between poor to lower middle class. Both of these places have very high rates of target killings but very low rates in other property related crimes. Likewise, the areas like Old City and Saddar are business hubs and most of the inhabitants are very rich with the exception of some peripheral poor localities. Yet, the Old city area has the similar crime rates as of Orangi. Saddar, on the other hand, has very high rates for car snatch/theft, cell phone snatching crimes, and for target killings as well. Target killings in these areas are basically the result of political conflicts while occurrences of other crimes are related with the economic conditions of the peripheral areas. The political activism in Saddar and Old City is very prominent among the peripheral areas of poor localities like Lyari and Lines areas. The opportunities of car and motorcycle snatching and theft are not as good in poor areas as they are in the middle and upper middle class income localities. If we distribute the areas of Karachi on the number and frequency of all crimes we observe that the places like Gulshan, Shah Faisal, New Karachi, and Saddar/Preedy Street have the highest crime rates compared to other locations (Table 4 and Graph 6).
Table 4: Source: CPLC and other reports
**Note: The identification of economy of the areas is based on an assumptive assessment as there is no study available to put a proper identification of it.
Graph 6: Source: Based on the total number of crimes as listed in Table 4 above.
Although most of the perpetrators of these crimes are still at large, the indicators discussed in previous chapters point to some of the possibilities that could have led to these crimes. Political rivalries among the different political parties are not the only drivers of target killings in Karachi, sectarianism and gang wars have significant contribution in it as well. Sectarian feud between religious parties like Sipah-e-Sahaba (also known as Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat – ASWJ) and Tehrik-e-Jafaria or Sipah-e-Mohammadi, have caused several deaths in the city. North Karachi has been the center of this rivalry last year. Jihadi organizations also have their presence in the city and the most daring attack on PNS, Mehran last year and the latest targeting cell phone company (Telenor) franchises in Karachi are examples. All cellular companies operating in the country have recently approached the government to seek necessary protection from the threats they received from TTP.
TTP and ASWJ may appear as two different organizations but their enemies and targets are one and the same. TTP tried to target SSP of CID, Aslam Choudhry on September 19, 2011. Nearly three months later, a series of attacks on the cellular companies coincided with the target killings on sectarian grounds in Karachi. On 3 February 2012, CID arrested three suspects for Shia killings who belonged to ASWJ. In retaliation, ASWJ announced its plan to start a campaign against the CID SSP. On 14 February, cellular companies approached the government to seek protection from the TTP threats. Next day, TTP released a video showing the suicide attack that was carried out on September 19, 2011 to kill CID SSP, Aslam Choudhry. Acts of terrorism and sectarianism have merged with each other and both of them often appear as two sides of the same coin. During last two years, it was Karachi that had the highest number of sectarian attacks in the country (Graph 10).
Graph 7: Source: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/database/sect-killing.htm
What surprises the most is that the majority of the sectarian and terrorist attacks take place in areas that are well off in terms of economy and education like Old City, Nazimabad, and North Karachi. Poverty and illiteracy have no or little relationship with these acts.
The crimes in Karachi have two basic divisions; political and religious. Political rivalry is basically driven by the desire of having a greater share in the local economy and governance. Religious rivalry has its roots in the broader scheme of things that are linked to the struggle between liberals and fundamentalists on the agenda of how to run this country; through religious bigotry or religious freedom. These rivalries are constantly eroding the writ of the government and impinging on the ability of the law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement agencies not only miserably failed to bring down the crime rates but are facing issues in getting prosecute these criminals in the courts due to backwardness of their investigation and interrogation techniques. Is it the deficiency of the police department or any lacunae in the legal system that results in these acquittals? An inquiry is essential to determine the real causes behind these acquittals to devise methods that can minimise such occurrences in the future.
Police departments and other law enforcing agencies need to improve their investigation system to save them from a blame of not providing enough evidences to prove the charges against criminals. Police also need to improve their data recording system so that the nature of crime and their perpetrators can be identified easily. Challenges are too high for the law enforcing agencies and other stake holders as well. The cost of human lives and properties affected by the growing crime rates in the city demand befitting answers to these challenges.
(This report is also available on CRSS website in PDF form: http://crss.pk/downloads/Reports/Research-Reports/Karachi%20Violence%20Report.pdf)
 For details, CPLC website: http://www.cplc.org.pk/
 Nadeem F. Piracha, “Karachi: The past is another city”, Dawn, 25 August 2011, available at
[Excerpts] Mohajirs (Urdu-speakers) constitute 41 per cent of the city’s population followed by the Pushtun (about 17 per cent), Punjabi (about 11 per cent), Sindhi (about 6 per cent), Baloch (about 5 per cent), Sariki (about 3 per cent) and those from Hazra and Gilgit (2 per cent). Pushtun as 17 percent of the total population Karachi is quite often refuted and claimed to be around 20 – 25 percent.
Note: Not only that Nadeem F. Piracha used this figure but another well-known writer and researcher, Dr Qaiser Bengali, also used a similar figure in his lecture that he recently delivered at a seminar organised by the Shehri CBE:
‘Karachi’s ethnic composition undergoing radical change’
He [Dr Qaiser Bengali] said Pakhtuns only represented three percent of Karachi’s population in the year 1941, but now that figure has risen to 15 percent. He estimated that by the year 2045, Pakhtuns would increase to 19 percent of the city’s population, while the Urdu speaking population would fall to 40 percent. As a result, he said that by 2045, Karachi would be home to the largest Pakhtun population. He said these demographic changes were creating problems, due to what he labelled the politics of control.
 Imtiaz Ali, “Karachi’s ethnic composition undergoing radical change”, The News, November 1, 2011, available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=75494&Cat=4
 Arif Hasan, “Sindh local government: The real issues”, The Express Tribune, January 10, 2012, available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/319333/sindh-local-government-the-real-issues/
 Faraz Khan, “Lyari braces for battle as Arshad Pappu returns”, The Express Tribune, February 18, 2012 available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/338124/lyari-braces-for-battle-as-arshad-pappu-returns/
 Qurat ul ain Siddiqui and Sadef A. Kully, “Karachi target killings – contradictions and denials”, Dawn, July 14, 2010, available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/07/14/karachi-target-killings-contradictions-and-denials.html
 “Karachi targeted killings claimed 748 lives last year” , Dawn, January 6, 2011, available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/06/karachi-targeted-killings-claimed-748-lives-last-year-hrcp.html
 “Target killing statistics – MQM hardest hit, ANP close behind” The Express Tribune, December 12, 2010, available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/88995/target-killing-statistics-mqm-hardest-hit-anp-close-behind/
 “Is IG Sindh given contract of killing, CJ asks”, available at http://pakistanpal.wordpress.com/tag/is-ig-sindh-given-contract-of-killing/
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muammad Chaudhry during hearing of Hajj scandal case expressed concerns over the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. The CJ in his remarks, questioned was the IGP Sindh given contract of killing in Karachi? He added that around 75 people have been killed in January alone.
 “Targeted killing claimed 490 lives in six months” , Dawn, July 6, 2011, available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/06/targeted-killing-claimed-490-lives-in-six-months-hrcp.html
 Siddiqui and Kully “Karachi target killings contradictions and denials”.
 “JI expresses solidarity with people of Karachi” , Dawn, August 27, 2011, available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/27/ji-expresses-solidarity-with-people-of-karachi.html
 Siddiqui and Kully “Karachi target killings contradictions and denials”.
 Sindh Police website http://www.sindhpolice.gov.pk/
 HRCP Report for 2008 http://www.hrcp-web.org/pdf/ar2008.pdf
 “Target killing statistics – MQM hardest hit, ANP close behind”, The Express Tribune, December 12, 2010, available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/88995/target-killing-statistics-mqm-hardest-hit-anp-close-behind/
 Shaheryar Mirza, “Jihadi kidnappings as the year ends a new trend in crime reveals itself to experts”, The Express Tribune, January 1, 2012, available at
 Iftikhar A. Khan, “HRCP report portrays dismal state of affairs”, Dawn, March 23, 2010, available at http://archives.dawn.com/archives/43931
 Imran Ayub, “Karachi in a daze after another 30 killed”, Dawn, August 19, 2011, available at
 Siddiqui and Kully, “Karachi target killings contradictions and denials”.
 S. Raza Hassan, “Sharp rise in roadside dumping of bodies”, Dawn, August 19, 2011, available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/19/sharp-rise-in-roadside-dumping-of-bodies.html
 Shehryar Mirza, “Extortion is numbers game, as police discovers with first arrest”, The Express Tribune, March 17, 2012.
 “Afaq accuses Altaf of introducing extortion in Karachi”, The News, March 20, 2012, available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-98593-Afaq-accuses-Altaf-of-introducing-extortion-in-Karachi
 Mirza, “Extortion in Karachi: MQM threatens boycott as govt not serious about crisis”.
, March 17, 2012, available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/351139/show-dont-tell-extortion-is-a-numbers-game-as-police-discover-with-first-arrests/
 Sindh Police Website:
 Khan “HRCP report portrays dismal state of affairs”. The report questioned the interior ministry’s figure of 256 target killings in Karachi, saying that according to its database, 747 persons were killed in the metropolis during the year. “Target killing statistics: MQM hardest hit, ANP close behind”, The Express Tribune, December 12, 2010, available at
[..Excerpt of the report] However, in the first 11 months of this year, the total number of killings in the metropolis stands at 1,860 including 711 target killings [ Note: CPLC data shows 1339 persons as killed during the whole year 2010. Out of the 711 murders, 218 were politically motivated while 283 were non-political in nature.
 Asad Kharal, “TTP threats to cell companies”, The Express Tribune, February 14, 2012 available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/336124/ttp-threats-to-cell-companies-mar-investment/ and “Target killing statistics: MQM hardest hit, ANP close behind” The Express Tribune, December 12, 2010, available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/88995/target-killing-statistics-mqm-hardest-hit-anp-close-behind/
[..Excerpt of the report] However, in the first 11 months of this year, the total number of killings in the metropolis stands at 1,860 including 711 target killings [ Note: CPLC data shows 1339 persons as killed during the whole year 2010. Out of the 711 murders, 218 were politically motivated while 283 were non-political in nature.