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In the last two weeks, two men I knew, have lost their lives at hands of merciless muggers, in the “City of Lights” aka Karachi, . Both men were married, had kids and were in their late thirties, and sadly both got shot at close range after midnight, but at different places and different times and dates. It has saddened me to know that one of them was returning from a marriage ceremony and the other from shopping in Ramzan. The reason for this rather long premise is that I want to write about street crime in Karachi; in detail. I guess we are already very late in controlling this menace, and if some very urgent and stringent steps are not taken I fear a very serious consequences for everyone living in this city.
I will write about the types of street crimes, the uncontrolled and free availability of weapons, the weaknesses in the system in checking the illegal trade of weapons, the role of police, the role of a common man, the reason and need to arm the normal civilian and last of all the most important role of judiciary. This is going to be a long series of articles and I hope somewhere someone sitting at a responsible position reads it and broods over it for the benefit of society and our country.
The following are the types of street crimes in Karachi:
Muggings. Most common and very dangerous. Two thugs or even more armed with TT pistols riding motorbikes, round up a lone man or a helpless family and deprive them off their cellphones, money and other valuable items. The victims have little choice other than to acquiesce, or else they get a bullet.
Target Killing: After careful reconnaissance assassins follow the victim and shoot him at the place of their choosing. The assassins are mostly hired, well trained and hardly ever the victim escapes or survives.
Bank Heists: A gang of masked or even unmasked men will barge into a bank or money exchange, get hold of the guard(s) and rob the bank/exchange.
Kidnapping for ransom: There are two categories, short term and long term. In short term mostly it is a random thing, where a man/woman or a family is kidnapped for a short time (sometimes in the victim’s own vehicle) and deprived of valuables. They may also resort to emptying his/her bank account through an ATM and in some cases call the victim’s family to a lonely spot with large sums of money in return for the relative’s life. In long term the victim is taken to an unknown place and huge sums of money is demanded from the family.
Minor Offences: Like stealing hub caps from cars, side view mirrors, gutter covers or pickpocketing.
I remember coming to “The city of Lights” aka Karachi in 2006 for a few weeks, but back then this menace was not as prevalent as it is now. Whatever has caused this is beyond me but it sure looks like very organized crime syndicates are at work. And with each passing day they are becoming more and more daring, devising new tactics and striking at places from the once considered safe areas of DHA to Clifton or any other area of Karachi.
From what I have heard, there isn’t a place in Karachi that is considered safe anymore. Its that simple and straight. In fact when I was shifting to Karachi a couple of months back, one of my friends who is a Karachiite gave me a few tips on what to do if rounded up by muggers. To give up my cellphone, not to carry a lot of cash, do not argue with them and most important of all to try to forget the incident as soon as possible, after it has happened. This, I would say is a “short guide to survival on the city streets.”
No dark alley, any unlit lane, a U turn, traffic signal or any bottle neck which chokes the traffic is safe. The robbers will strike at will, sometimes in broad daylight as well. Although I have seen Police and Rangers checking motor bikers randomly but whether this has had the desired effect or not is debatable. In my reckoning its not that simple, the rabbit hole goes quite deep. There is, to be precise, abject lawlessness in Karachi. These men will spare no one, for them the rules of engagement are clear, acquiesce or be damned. And so for the general public it is not very different, acquiesce or be damned. So much have we become indifferent to the whole situation that I once saw a cousin jokingly telling me, that he got mugged while going to buy Ice cream. In his own words, “Ice cream mehengi par gaye” (The Ice cream cost me more than it should have). Really, I would not never joke about such a thing, but then I guess like all other tings we Pakistanis have become used to muggings and being mugged. Most street muggings are over in less than a minute, whether successful or not.
So what is the “common man” supposed to do? Should he act like the rabbit or the pigeon? Should he take up arms? Can he rely on the law? Can it be avoided? How to beat a mugger? How to avert a kidnapping? What little or more can one do to stay safe? I guess this needs a lot of deliberation and psyching up. For one can only act if he/she is mentally prepared and this calls for doing a lot of thinking, discussing, talking, reading and sharing. Or else, we can keep on playing the pigeon, or the rabbit if you will.
In the next part I will write about the free availability or weapons, arms and ammo. And I would really love your feedback on this and other posts.