Once a city bubbling with the gaieties of life, Karachi the sprawling Sindh metropolis has fallen on bad days, so bad that death and destruction, depression and despondency now rule there. Where the people used to stay out till late hours making social calls or eating out without the thoughts of fear crossing their minds, they scurry back home as soon as their job outside is done. The atmosphere is charged with the dreadful feeling of insecurity. Nothing, neither life nor property, is safe. Target killings on political, ethnic or sectarian grounds, or simply for not obliging the extortionist mafia with the demanded sum of money; abductions of the well-off for ransom; or just acts of terrorism – all of these have become the stuff of life in Karachi. And one should not be surprised if in this mayhem all sorts of criminals – thieves and robbers, scoundrels and pickpockets – could make hay without let or hindrance. On Thursday alone, 18  Karachiites were lost to this lot of trigger-happy thugs and many more were wounded and this was not an unusual day. This time it were the clerics and students of a well-known seminary, who were the main target, though dead bodies dumped in gunny bags or casually thrown by the wayside were also discovered.

But the question is where is the government whose justification for existence lies, if for nothing else, in providing security to its citizens? The federal government unfailingly speaks through its mouthpiece Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the Cassandraesque voice of a looming danger; and then he disappears in the safety of his heavily guarded abode, as if his job ends with sounding a note of warning. He promptly appeared on the scene some days back alerting the already fright-stricken citizenry to the dangerous days ahead of February when his little bird warns of a big terrorist onslaught on the city. What precautions he has taken to ward off the danger is not known. Apparently, not any! As experience shows, Karachi suffers laden with bleeding sores. The provincial government, rarely if ever, turns up to meet the challenge. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has ordered the police to shoot the miscreants at sight, as if they were supposed to be waiting for his orders to control the situation. Quite naturally, concerns are being expressed all over the country, with the political parties in the forefront, some sensing the murderous spree in Karachi as a ploy to put off the general elections. PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has accused the government of leaving the people at the mercy of blood-thirsty gangsters and maintains that they have to be dealt with an iron hand. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif opines that a determined leadership alone could root out militancy.

The situation in Karachi or, for that matter, in Balochistan and KPK where Karachi is enacted, albeit with lesser frequency, cannot be left to chance. The three ruling coalition parties must bear responsibility for the chaotic situation; pointing fingers at the government of which they are a part cannot absolve them of the blame. They have to act and act fast before the tragedy of Karachi spills over to the relatively safer parts of the country.