The ongoing ‘targeted’ operation in Karachi, being carried out by the Karachi Police and Rangers, is becoming increasingly controversial. The diverse and densely populated mega-city has not seen peace for years now. It is home to mafias, terrorists, target killers and criminals affiliated with political parties and other groups aggressively pursuing vested interests. Karachi’s problems have taken years to accumulate owing to negligence and complicity, and the result is an extremely convoluted mess, which the current operation is supposed to deal with.

Karachi’s largest party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), has been complaining about the abduction and extrajudicial killing of its members at the hands of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). The possibility of the presence of criminal elements within the MQM cannot be ruled out, especially since a JIT report submitted in the Supreme Court (SC) not too long ago pointed out the same, and action must be taken against such individuals, regardless of their associations. However, this doesn't give anyone the license to torture and murder people. Most recently, tortured dead bodies of four alleged MQM members were found dumped on the streets, which resulted in the complete shutdown of the entire city as the MQM announced “a mourning day” to be observed on Friday. As the aftermath usually entails, two more people lost their lives as ‘unknown’ armed men roamed around freely to ensure that businesses and everything else remained closed.

Firstly, who is responsible for the alleged murder of the four individuals? If they were indeed arrested by the LEAs as the MQM claims, how did they end up getting killed? If it is assumed that they were involved in criminal activities, then why were they not presented before a court of law for the purpose of prosecution?

Secondly, who is really in-charge of the Karachi operation? Is it Nawaz Sharif’s federal government, the PPP Sindh government, the Karachi Police Chief or the DG Rangers? Such an important and sensitive exercise cannot be allowed to take place without political ownership, as that is the only way to ensure accountability for actions taken therein. The provincial government has been hesitantly claiming that Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah is the one with ultimate authority on issues related to the operation. This raises more questions.

If the Sindh Chief Minister is actually calling the shots, then what to make of MQM’s strikes and protests while the party is in fact part of the Sindh government at the same time? Is the party suggesting that someone else, and not the provincial government, is in control? Either way, illegal activities, by state or non-state actors, cannot be tolerated or excused.