The attack on an off-duty policeman in Karachi over the weekend is indicative of the state’s failure to monopolise the use of violence. The shocking incident saw a police constable in civilian clothes brutally beaten due to a mild disagreement over seating arrangements. The problem here is not that a policeman was attacked; if anything, it shows that ‘might is right’ is employed as a very successful policy by many powerful people. If this had not been a policeman, the case might not even have been reported.

Of course, ensuring that those involved in the incident are found and punished is essential. But perpetrators of crimes like this often escape scot-free due to the influence and power their families possess. This must not be the case. Backdoor dealings and out-of-court settlements only erode trust in the system and allow for perpetrators to carry out such attacks in the future with impunity, without redressal, regret and rehabilitation. The state has a duty to all of its citizens, especially those that have been victimised in some way. All eyes will be on the police first to carry out a successful investigation and nab the suspects—there is already information on the vehicle license plates so this should not be too difficult.

The question of why the group was armed is also something that must be addressed. Were the guns in possession of the suspects registered under their name? This must be looked into once the perpetrators are found. But beyond this, we also need to change our approach to handing out gun licenses willy-nilly to simply anyone—there must be checks and limits that are not adjusted simply because we have a different interior minister in power. There have been many reports of gun licenses of the most advanced weapons being granted in bulk due to connections in the government. This needs to end. The debate on guns for safety versus their misuse is endless, but improving checks and a limit on the type and number of guns must immediately be considered.