Target killings in Karachi continue to consume the lives of its citizens. Although the ongoing Rangers operation and police action has brought figures down, the situation remains highly unsatisfactory. A series of killings have been carried out in identical fashion; perpetrators approach their target on motorcycles, open fire and then make a safe exit in broad daylight. In Karachi, far too many people are killed by a variety of attackers for different reasons; political, ethnic, sectarian, personal enmity, business and so on.

On Wednesday, unknown assailants shot dead Assistant Professor Syed Wahidur Rehman of the Karachi University. Mr Rehman had also been working as a journalist for 17 years. Last year, Professor Dr Shakeel Auj and Professor Syed Sibte Jafar of the same university had also been killed. Earlier this month, Debra Lobo, vice-principle of the Jinnah Medical and Dental College, was seriously injured in a similar attack. At this point in time, it is unclear why Mr Rehman was targeted. Some allege that it may have to do with his Shiite faith. Others say that it is not clear whether he was a Shiite in the first place. There is also speculation over his possible involvement in the upcoming seminar on the Balochistan issue to be hosted at the Karachi University. In any case, the authorities would do well to explore all possible scenarios to ensure that justice is served. Unlike Sabeen Mahmud, an activist who was killed after hosting a similar seminar, Mr Rehman’s colleagues claim that he was not at all involved in arranging the seminar. The two may have been killed for different reasons, but culprits in both cases remain at large. That murderers are so often able to get away with murder contributes significantly to the cycle of violence in the metropolis.

Political parties in Karachi too have grown accustomed to a violent political culture. Perhaps the situation could be managed if those with power were not either involved or indifferent. Even if Rangers are able to clean a little bit of mess, it is difficult to see how the police will sustain the situation once they retreat from the streets. Previous military operations have failed to yield results. Why would the outcome be any different this time around?