WHILE the armed forces are fighting in Swat and tribal areas to crush extremism, violence is on the rise in Karachi, threatening to disrupt economic activity and everyday life in the country's largest city. Incidents of target killing, mostly politically motivated, have suddenly multiplied. On Sunday, 17 persons were gunned down in incidents of the sort. The present wave, which began a week ago, has so far resulted in the killing of 30 people. According to the Karachi police chief, majority of those targeted belong to MQM Haqiqi. These include a member of the lawyers' panel fighting the case of the group's leader Amir Khan, who has recently been cleared by courts in some of the cases registered against him. There is a perception that the attacks are meant to demoralize the group which expects the release of its leader soon. Four members of the MQM, two of PPP and one each of the PPP and the ANP have also lost their lives. In one case, a person had been kidnapped and tortured before being killed. Allegations and counter-allegations have been levelled by the rival factions of the MQM against each other. The Jamaat Islami, which took out a protest march last week in the city against the killing of an activist, pointed a finger at the MQM. It is ironic that political parties in Karachi should be blaming each other for the type of atrocities that they condemn when committed in the tribal areas. The incidents have spread panic in the areas where they took place. Karachi has already suffered a lot on account of the violent clashes that took place in the city between the activists of the MQM and the ANP, leading to transport closure and losses to industry. That the graph of the ongoing killings continues to rise should alarm the administration. Karachi is the industrial hub of the country and any widespread disturbance in the city can adversely affect the economy. Before the target killings become a free-for-all affair, leading to the stoppage of transport and closure of businesses, strict measures need to be taken to improve the law and order situation. Expressing concern over the brutal killings, President Zardari has called for an enquiry. While this is fine, what is needed most of all is a determination among the ruling coalition to rise above party affiliations and maintain peace at all costs. When the PPP, MQM, and ANP joined hands to form the government in Sindh, many had hoped that, having a stake in the system, all three would work concertedly to improve law and order in the province. The leadership of the coalition not only failed to promote peaceful relations with the opposition, but has also fallen short of controlling the animosity among their own activists, leading to mutual accusations of target killings.