Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi is the country’s economic engine and home to some 20 million people. It is also the country’s most violent city, where gangs aligned with local political parties settle scores with shoot-outs. The violence is taking a toll on the country's commercial hub.
Political killings, honor killings, kidnappings and gang warfare are not uncommon in this city.
Violence taking a toll
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 1,450 people including children were killed in Karachi in the first six months of this year. That’s an average of about 6 people a day.
Karachi produces more than 50 percent of Pakistan’s revenue. Businessmen like Naeem Ahmed, a member of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, say the daily violence is impacting the country’s economy. “If Karachi is not working well, it does not just mean that Karachi is not working, it means Pakistan is not working,” he explained.
Police say they don’t have the manpower to secure such a large city, where there is high unemployment and poverty-driven crime.
Beyond law enforcement
Businessmen say political parties also are also using violence to gain economic power. Police chief Ahmed Farooqi says political violence is beyond law enforcement's ability to control.
“Police can stop them for a little while, [stop] this violence to happen, but for larger stability, and a larger improvement in the law and order situation, the political forces must come into play,” he said.
There is also a lot of wealth in Karachi. And people want protection. Despite strict licensing procedures, gun sales are up. And not only among men, says shop manager Mahmoud Salim.
“Besides hunting and paper target shooting at the range, people also buy guns for personal protection, and that also includes women, even young women," he added. "They come and they want to have a license, they want to have a weapon for their personal security.”
Businessmen say the only solution will come from political parties joining forces, and tackling the problems, rather than being a part of them.