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Killings in Karachi - Dawn, Karachi,

Editorial ()
November 13 1997

Title: Killings in Karachi
Author: Editorial
Publication: Dawn, Karachi,
Date: 13 November 1997

WHAT is there to say about the killing of four Americans in Karachi and
a Pakistani who was with them except to express a sense of profound
dismay? Karachi can certainly do without any further reminders of the
violence and mayhem for which it has become infamous. Now comes this
latest incident which, not surprisingly, has hit headlines all across
the world. There is speculation that the killing of the Americans may be
related to the sentencing of Aimal Kansi in the United States. Even if
this be the case, it scarcely is of much comfort for the families of the
victims or for Pakistan which is sure to be lambasted for harbouring
terrorists. There will be much hand-wringing and much official
expression of sorrow. But at the end of the day what will remain is the
sorrow of the bereaved families and an impression of Pakistan being a
country where incidents such as this occur with surprising ease and
The Kansi connection is a possibility but obviously nothing can be said
definitively at this stage. There could be other groups wanting to make
a violent statement against the Untied States, or elements whose wicked
designs require Pakistan's relations with that country to be strained or
foreign investors scared away. The only thing that can be said with any
degree of certainty is that the killers must have known of the presence
of the Americans. They were certainly followed and the actual attack
took place in what can only be termed a highly organized and daring
manner. Incidents such as this could occur anywhere in the world but
when they happen in a country like ours the negative impact is greater
because of the assumption - at times unspoken, at other times expressed
- that some states are more prone to violence and instability than
others. It is Pakistan's misfortune that over the last fifteen years or
so it has come to acquire in many eyes the unenviable reputation of
being such a state.
Beyond the immediate task of tracking down the perpetrators of this
particular foul deed lies the necessity of improving the law and order
climate in the country at large. Obviously, when foreigners and
especially Americans die they make the international news. This does not
take away from the fact that in recent months more Pakistanis have died
as a result of terrorist attacks than is good for our collective
comfort. The government is somehow convinced that it has found the
answer to terrorism and violence in the shape of the Anti-terrorism Act.
But as the killings in Karachi all too vividly illustrate, its optimism
is unreal. The roots of violence go deep in Pakistan. They have been
nourished by our recent history, especially our long involvement in
Afghanistan, and they are also connected to the general breakdown of the
administrative, especially law enforcement, machinery in the country as
a whole. This state of affairs is not going to be set right with
gimmicks or other catchy formulas. We need to get down in earnest to
badly-needed administrative reform, not so much for how this might
affect our international image (in need of a paint job though this is)
but for the sake of making the country a better governed place.
Sadly, successive governments, while remaining devoted to the most fiery
rhetoric, have never understood the gravity of the crisis we face in
this regard. That is why tough decisions keep being postponed from year
to year. Given this attitude, it is hardly surprising if the harvest of
our neglect keeps getting bigger and bigger with the passage of time. In
this particular case, it can lamely be argued that Union Texas, whose
personnel were the victims of yesterday's killing in Karachi, should
have been more vigilant about the security or its employees in Pakistan,
especially when, immediately after the sentencing of Aimal Kansi, the
American government itself had warned its citizens abroad to be extra
careful. Ultimately, however, it is the state of Pakistan which is
responsible for the lives and safety of everyone on its soil. One such
incident and twelve months of salesmanship about ours being a glorious
country to invest goes down the drain. We better get serious about law
and order.

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