The report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on killings in Karachi paints a gloomy picture. All told, there were 1726 people killed there in the first six months of this year, including victims of sectarian violence, targeted killings, and those whose murdered bodies were found. This represents a sharp upsurge in violence, as there had been, according to the report, 1215 killed in the same period last year, a 42 percent increase. In this period, the province, including the city, has gone through an election, and has had first a PPP coalition with the MQM succeeded by a caretaker government, and now a PPP government with the MQM in opposition. The fatalities never went below 200 in any month this year, and the trend was not showing any sign of coming under control, let alone coming down, with 313 killed in June alone, up 12.6 percent over the 278 killed in May, and 36.7 percent over the 229 killed in June last year. It is particularly noticeable that the victims included 92 policemen and 18 personnel of the military forces.

This is not a situation to be tolerated. The figures show that the anecdotal evidence is accurate: Karachi is out of control. Once the country’s industrial hub and the main focus of attracting foreign capital, it has now got a law and order situation – with the extortionist and land mafias and fearless murderers at loose – which acts to drive away investment, both local and foreign. As the country’s only port, and the location of its main stock exchange, it cannot afford such violence to continue. More importantly, the provincial government cannot claim exclusivity, as the federal government also not only has a responsibility towards citizens, but formed by a party which has promised an ‘economic explosion’, it cannot afford to pay less than the closest attention to the situation in the country’s largest and economically most important cities.

Karachi deserves better. The kind of increase in the numbers killed is not tolerable, and the PPP should work hard to bring the situation under control. It was in power in both at the Centre and in the province during 2012, when so many killings occurred, and now that it has been re-elected, it must get down to improving the law and order situation of this metropolitan city. It has already got a major problem in its stronghold of Lyari, from where thousands have already fled. It cannot afford another in its capital as a whole.