KARACHI -- Pakistan's law enforcement agencies have made visible progress in combatting violence in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, since the start of a concerted crackdown against criminals and militants five years ago.
Karachi, one of Pakistan's most violent cities, has been gripped by violence over the past decade, which peaked from 2007-2013. During that period, thousands of residents were killed in violent crimes, including terrorism, targeted killings and sectarian attacks, according to Karachi Police.
In 2013 alone, the uptick in violent crimes resulted in an estimated 2,700 slayings, making it by far the deadliest year in Karachi, the Express Tribune reported in January 2014, citing law enforcement statistics.
In response, Pakistan's government at the time, headed by then-Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, initiated a major crackdown on September 5, 2013, targetting various criminal groups, local gangs and proscribed militant outfits.
The Karachi operation, aimed at ridding the city of security and criminal threats, has been effective in curbing all kinds of violent groups, according to an assessment of the effort published August 30.
Crackdown on outlaws
Stability returned to the city thanks to operations conducted by the Sindh Rangers, said the Rangers' five-year performance report (2013-2018).
"Networks of Taliban militants, criminal gangs, sectarian outfits and militant wings of ethno-political parties have been shattered over the past five years," a senior Sindh Ranger not authorised to speak to media told Pakistan Forward.
The Sindh Rangers have carried out 14,327 raids since the start of the operation in September 2013, arresting 10,716 suspects whom they handed over to police, according to the report.
Those arrested included 2,189 terrorist suspects and 1,826 accused of involvement in targeted killings, the report noted. Another 786 were allegedly involved in extortion cases and 193 were accused of kidnapping for ransom.
During the past five years, the Sindh Rangers have lost 29 soldiers during their operations in Karachi. Another 103 of their personnel were injured while performing their duties, said the report.
Kidnappings for ransom, targeted killings, extortion and other crimes have drastically decreased since the start of the operation, said the report.
Terrorist incidents in Karachi decreased from a peak of 66 in 2014 to zero in 2017. Similarly, targeted killings plummeted from 965 in 2013 to 45 and two in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of extortion cases declined from 1,524 in 2013 to 31 in 2018. Cases of kidnapping for ransom dropped from 174 in 2013 to five so far this year.
The marked improvement in law and order in Karachi can be attributed to the security crackdown launched five years ago, said Saqib Sagheer, a Karachi journalist covering security operations.
"Karachi, with its affluent residents and big businesses, has proved to be a fertile ground of financing for all sorts of criminal activity, whether [it involves] Taliban militants, ethno-political parties or criminal syndicates," Sagheer told Pakistan Forward.
The city's law and order situation has clearly improved, agreed local traders and industrialists.
The occurrence of extortion and kidnappings for ransom has declined significantly in the past five years, said Atiq Mir, director of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad, an alliance of trade associations in the city.
"[Karachi in the past] would be shut down on a few hours' notice by unknown miscreants -- popularly known as 'na maloom afrad' [unknown individuals, a term used for militants] -- causing huge losses to the national exchequer," Mir told Pakistan Forward.
"The Rangers and police have successfully cracked down on the criminals who wanted to cripple the country's economy," he said.