The upsurge in target killings in Karachi with the latest number jumping to 30 on Saturday, — 27 of them shot dead in 24 hours — establishes the city’s image as the epicentre of terrorism, organized crime and now a hunting ground for Taliban as well.

The city’s bad luck is that the powers that be, are responding to the challenge with the traditional approach: casual indifference. The thought that has spread all over is what is to be done and whether there is anyone strong and brave enough to swat this maggot of target killing that is proliferating by the minute. There are many security pundits both at the centre and the provincial level who have their own subjective version of the violence and its solution. Every few weeks they air their ‘concern’ but that is all they can do. People are being taught to believe that there is a ‘foreign hand’, but whether the advent of the Taliban is what is meant by such statements is kept deliberately unclear. That these sermons go on while practically they fail to fulfil any of the commitments will be taken as a betrayal. As the bloodshed goes on, or rather the reason that it is ultimately becoming more endemic is largely because all the concerned quarters, especially the federal setup is scrambling for electoral manoeuvrings, winning over turncoats in order to influence the polls in their favour. This is somewhat true of the other parties as well who are worrying more about calculating how many seats they are going to bag rather than grappling with the immutable killings. How much longer will even the Supreme Court go on holding proceedings, listening to the same story, while the city is being devoured by thieves and bandits. Only the other day, it was informed by the police chief that the force was hardly large enough to police the city. This is compounded by thousands of policemen – as repeatedly bemoaned by media – who are deployed on guard duties for VVIPs. Imagine a small, disoriented, demotivated and ill-equipped squad up against a whole legion of Taliban, violent mobsters, snipers, some of them hanging on to the umbilical cord with their political bosses influential enough to stretch the definition of ‘unrest’ to questions of expediency. How easily hardened criminals are bailed out on paroles just shows the scale to which violence is being patronised.

The key to building peace is straightforward; it is that the ‘law and order’ would have to be dealt with as such, which means an impartial and committed force, working with courts awarding strict punishments to culprits. It is totally unacceptable to give freedom to the gangsters they are enjoying at the moment.