Bandits captured by ordinary citizens and burnt alive after being beaten to pulp. The action seems straight out of the Indian movie, Gangajal, but it is true of Karachi too. Social observers here maintain that people in Karachi have taken their cue from the Indian film and are resorting to such acts to get rid of thieves, dacoits and hooligans, whom the police appear helpless against.
In the past ten days, irate citizens of Karachi have burnt more than seven bandits to death. In the busy Timber Market area of the old city, some armed thieves barged into an apartment and held those living there hostage. But as they were getting away with cash and valuables, one of the family members chased them. Out on the street, a whole crowd joined in the chased, grabbed the thieves and burnt them alive. The agitated mob also stopped the police and an ambulance from taking the badly burnt thieves to hospital.
House robberies, mobile phone thefts and mugging are common in several areas of Karachi. People blame it on police saying “it sometimes shields criminals”.
After the Timber Market lynching, cases of bandits being caught and beaten are being reported almost every day. In some instances, miscreants are "saved" by the police in the nick of time. In a bizarre incident, an innocent person mistaken for a thief was also killed by an irate mob.
“It is close to anarchy,” said Dr Shoib Suddle, Sindh police chief. He admitted that public confidence in the police force was at an all-time low.
Fateh Burfat, a sociology professor at Karachi University said: "That mobs are resorting to such acts for instant justice is not only worrisome but also reminds one of the kind of justice meted out by the Taliban and its supporters in other parts of the country."
To address public grievances quickly, even the Supreme Court has started hearing petitions relating to fairly trivial cases ranging from missing persons to Karachi's traffic nightmare.
Rasheed Razvi, a retired justice, says the biggest challenge before the government is providing a quick justice system.