THE governments failure to control and stop the reign of terror in Karachi is a big question mark on its ability to govern. Complicating the situation are of course the decades old turf wars between rival political groups ruling over the province and presently forming a coalition set-up with the PPP. Target killings followed by reprisal killings remain the order of the day. The ethnic bloodletting, however, has taken on a slightly different character as this time around prominent political leaders, party workers and office bearers are also being targeted along with the general public. The murder of a political worker invariably sets off a cycle of violence with the rival group springing into action and retaliating with brute force. This is exactly what happened moments after the killing of the ANP leader on Thursday. The entire city was thrown into a state of wild commotion and when the chaos had momentarily subsided eight people had died and many more were critically injured. That the city gets immersed in a bloodbath, whenever someone is killed on account of his political or ethnic background is a sad reflection on the state of political sagacity of the Sindh-based political groups. Karachiites are bearing the brunt of this bloodshed. They are condemned to a life of fear and blackmailing by armed militias roaming about the streets, which are once again proving that their strength to cause mayhem and destruction is far greater than the power of the state and its law enforcement agencies. The political groups have time and again been denying that they have militant wings or that they patronise criminals and thugs; yet the endless violence flies in the face of all such claims. Interior Minister Rehman Malik definitely got it right when he commented earlier this year that there were no similarities between Swat and Karachi, but actually sidestepped the point that the common problem was that of terrorism. It is quite evident that Karachi has also been held hostage by a band of thugs, though of a different philosophy, to blackmail the entire state. Law and order in Karachi needs to be high on the list of the governments priorities. While extreme measures like calling in the army must be avoided, the rangers and police ought to be made effective and freed from all sorts of political influence. Most important, the political groups involved in fomenting criminal violence must be brought to justice. Unless and until the hand that controls the puppet is grabbed the actual malady cannot be cured.