Why Karachi is seething

Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, is once again paralyzed by ethnic and political violence that has killed at least 65 people. In the past year, an estimated 1,300 people have died in the fighting.

2. What role does organized crime play?

Organized crime networks mainly operate in the city’s labyrinthine district of Orangi, considered to be biggest slum in South Asia, and Lyari district, which has been center stage to the recent violence, as well as other adjoining areas with populations in the millions. Equipped with automatic weapons, rocket launchers, and GPS technologies, these groups have made neighborhoods inaccessible even for police.

In addition to serving political and ethnic parties, organized gangs extort money from private business. “We do business in a death trap. We get threatening phone calls and are sent warning notes,” says Siddiq Memon of the local group Chairman Traders Action Committee. “They extort money worth 50 million rupees [$575,000] a day from the traders in Karachi.”

According to an estimate, the monthly turnover of Karachi’s extortion rackets is $15 million a month, excluding accelerating bank robberies and kidnappings for ransom.

Police officials say several Taliban militants were arrested recently for bank robberies and kidnappings. “Karachi is like Wall Street for all the militant groups and mafias,” says Prof. Tauseef Ahmed, an analyst.

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