Written by 02:16 World

Muggings, Murders and Mob Justice: Violent Crime Roars Back in Karachi

The terrifying stories are sprawled across local newspapers and recounted in hushed tones at tea stalls and bus stands: another day, another brutal death during an armed robbery in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Last Wednesday, a car mechanic was shot dead by muggers trying to steal his phone. The day before, robbers in two separate incidents killed a secondhand shoe seller who refused to hand over his phone and a businessman who had just withdrawn cash from a bank. A few days earlier, robbers killed a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, stealing his phone, cash and motorcycle.

Across Karachi, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse, the rate of violent crime has soared. That has created a sense that no place is safe in this metropolis of 20 million people, and led many to worry that the city is returning to its violent, chaotic past. The country’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has called for a “large-scale operation” against the street criminals.

“The fear of mugging hangs over you every time you step outside,” said Shamim Ali, 43, a factory worker who said he was mugged twice in recent months. “Criminals operate with brazenness in broad daylight.”

The number of reported homicides, extortion attempts and motorcycle thefts has nearly doubled this year compared with the same period last year, according to the government-backed Citizen-Police Liaison Committee. At least 58 people were killed in muggings in the first five months of 2024, nearly double the number in that period in 2023, police records show. Rights activists say the true toll of violent crime is most likely higher, as many victims are hesitant to report cases.

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Last modified: 13 June 2024
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