KARACHI - Target killings, mafia rule and gangs of extortionists were almost institutionalised following the 2008 elections when the PPP formed government at Center and shared power in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and Sindh; in the latter province with the support of MQM and ANP. Instead of marking any improvement over the last three years, the situation has slipped from bad to worse as the frequent battles between mafias have become the order of the day and claimed hundreds of innocent lives. The latest killing spree in Karachi has come only a week after President Zardari assured coalition partner MQM that things would be brought under control and there would be more effective law and order and governance. However, it proved quite the other way with a spur in violence that has cost more than 60 innocent lives and crippled businesses throughout the metropolis. Some may perceive the situation as reflective of Zardari either losing his grip on power or turning a blind eye to what is happening in the metropolis. Karachi is slowly dying economically because the Centre and the provincial government have failed to carry out what was expected of them. The rulers are supposed to provide safety to citizens and businesses, but it is quite the contrary in Karachi, with people calling it an open game of the ruling party. Hawks in the PPP in the persons of Zulfiqar Mirza and Sharjeel Memon are issuing inflammatory statements every now and then. It would be nave to say they could go off the hook all the time, without it serving any purpose of the top man in the Centre. MQM is treading the path cautiously. They were so upset that after meeting the President, they only hoped Presidents assurances will be honoured. Some also say that after Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan made his first telephonic contact in three years with the MQM chief, violence increased in the city. Some others may say the ruling PPP is arm-twisting own coalition partners to protest its own political interests. MQM which announced its boycott of the assembly suddenly took a U-turn because they knew that if they do not sit across the table and talk and do not accept the conditions of its bigger coalition partner, they may end up as losers. PPP might move arrogantly dumping its coalition partner and get approved legislations of their own choice on the local bodies system, which is a matter of life and death for the urban-based political party (MQM). There is also a general impression that the PPP is twisting arms not only in Sindh but also in Punjab where it is trying to corner the PML-N. The open threat made a few weeks back that no PML-N office would be spared if PPP was thrown out of coalition in Punjab, was a signal for PML-N that it would be cornered if it failed to protect PPP interests in the province. Federal Law Minister Babar Awan can be seen as doing the same job in Punjab as Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza in Sindh. They both issue unparliamentary statements. Previously, tensions prevailed only those neighbourhoods where MQM and ANP had strained relations. But this time round, the mafias are creating havoc all over. Surprisingly, the Sindh Home Ministry, though well aware of what is happening, seems to be in a devious spasm. If immediate steps were not taken, Karachi may lose its position as hub of economic activity for good.