KARACHI - Junior partners of the provincial ruling coalition as well as opposition parties flayed PPP for not taking action against the extremists and criminals responsible for the growing lawlessness in the country’s commercial hub as a result of which dozens of innocent people are being killed every day.

They seemed so frustrated with the situation that they accused the government of having entered into an agreement with the outlaws owing to which it was difficult for the law enforcers to eliminate them.

The PPP, however, shifts the blame on the courts and says the criminals and terrorists arrested by the police are granted bail by judges because of which the government efforts yield no results.

Talking to The Nation on Tuesday, leaders of various parties said an all-out military operation should be launched to purge Karachi of all criminal elements. They said the operation should be across the board and nobody involved in criminal activities spared, irrespective of his political affiliation or influence.

A large number of people have either fallen prey to target killings or have lost lives in bomb blasts over the past several months. There are still others who have to meet the demands of extortionists, leaving little for their own families. Many businesses stand destroyed. A large number of industrialists have shifted their businesses to other countries where they think they will be able to work comfortably without any threat to their lives.

The Nation talked to a number of political leaders to seek their views on the likely causes of the growing lawlessness in the city and solution to the problem.

The MQM and the ANP, two major allies of the PPP, held their senior partner responsible for its lack of interest in taking action against the criminals. Opposition parties also alleged the government was not taking any step against the criminals because it had reached some kind of understanding with them.

Sindh PPP General Secretary and former Senator Taj Haider dispelled the impression. He said some 400 workers of his party had been killed during the last four years in the city. He said it was the state structure of military regimes which encouraged extremist thoughts and was one of the reasons behind the ongoing killings and lawlessness in the city.

The PPP leader complained that the law-enforcement agencies arrested the terrorists and criminals, but when they were produced in courts, judges granted them bail. The ruling party leader said even the criminals investigated by the joint investigation teams were released by courts, which discouraged the law-enforcement agencies. He suggested that judicial magistrates should be made part of joint investigation teams. He appealed to the judiciary not to be lenient to criminals involved in bloodshed.

Senator Taj Haider said that former ISI DG and other secret agencies, during in-camera briefings to the parliament, had disclosed that at least 22,000 terrorists and other criminals arrested by the LEAs had been set free by courts.

Sindh Awami National Party General Secretary Bashir Jan said a number of factors were responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. He said the elements working on foreign agenda were active in the cosmopolitan city and trying to weaken Pakistan. He said there was need for a ruthless military operation to clear Karachi of all terrorists and criminals. He called upon the political forces having stakes in the city to sit together and find a solution through consultations.

Senior MQM leader and former provincial adviser Wasim Akhtar said that the government was totally non-serious in handling the law and order problem.

Wasim, who is an MNA at present, said people were being killed and Talibanisation was increasing in the city. But, he regretted, no action plan had been prepared to curb the menace.

“Instead of taking concrete action against terrorists and extortionists, the PPP government is withdrawing the announcements of head money for gangsters of the banned People’s Amn Committee,” he alleged.

He believed that no one was safe in the city as killers were free to kill the people on the grounds of language, sect or community. Even, Bohris, a peaceful community of the country, and the business community, were being targeted, the MQM MNA said, adding the writ of the government was not visible anywhere. The MQM leader said the law-enforcement agencies were aware of the locations of Taliban, criminals and extortionists, adding the situation could be set right only by launching a targeted operation against them.

Former law minister and PML-N leader Saleem Zia was of the view that political parties created on ethnic basis were also an important factor behind deterioration of law and order and killings in the city. The police force had been politicised, he said. He referred to the statements of former home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza who had alleged that the political parties which were part of the government managed release of the criminals arrested by the law-enforcement agencies. He demanded depoliticisation of the police as well as recruitment and posting of officers on merit to improve the situation.

THE PML-N leader emphasised the need for across-the-board action against criminals, irrespective of their political affiliations. Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, chief of Jamaat-i-Islami, Karachi, criticised the government for its failure to track down the criminals. He said the outlaws were moving freely in the city, but the law-enforcement agencies were watching them as silent spectators. “It seems the PPP government has entered into some kind of agreement with the criminals,” he observed. He said the Sindh governor and chief minister should step down immediately because of their failure to protect the people.