My cities are burning
Women comfort a Pakistani wife whose husband was shot dead in Karachi on Friday. Security forces were ordered to shoot gunmen on sight Friday in Pakistan's largest city, after three days of violence that killed scores of people and prompted political leaders to call for a day of mourning that shut businesses and kept public traffic off the roads. Fareed Khan/AP (Courtesy: The Christian Science Monitor)
My people are dying
Who else is it apart from us?
We are killing,
We are getting killed
Our land has become a graveyard
The day began with news of Karachi burning, of how 80 people were killed in the space of 72 hours. And then I knew that the city that I called my own, the place I called home, housed cold blooded murderers. That somewhere within the radius of my house reside people who specialize in killing innocent citizens just to further their political agenda. And then it struck me. No one was safe. That the next unsuspecting victim could be my uncle, my brother, father or me.
As I descended down the stairs into the market, a certain gloom, a palpable sense of worry was written on the faces of everyone: the shopkeeper who pondered over the prudence of resuming his business, the passerby who sensed that unidentified gunmen, on the quest for revenge, were on the prowl for their next victim. Most of the shops were closed; fear was roaming the streets. Petrol pumps were the first to close after the violence ensued, and markets duly followed. For households short of food-the mayhem having entered its fourth day- venturing out into the open was nothing short of suicide. Karachi was held hostage by a handful of miscreants-armed with motorcycles- with a license to kill.
The police and the law enforcement agencies have failed miserably, for the senseless slaughter and shedding of human blood continues unabated into the fourth day. 90 people have been killed- 90 families have been torn apart and an entire city of 20 million souls has been rendered paralyzed. Eyewitness recount how the police itself has joined in the carnage and instead of protecting unarmed citizens have become passive onlookers and by extension- accomplices in the gruesome killing spree.
The government, it seems, has woken from its deep slumber. In an effort to restore law and order, 1000 FC soldiers have been deployed in sensitive areas, as per the announcement of Rehman Malik, who arrived at midnight at the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport. In other developments, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah presided over a meeting on the law and order situation. The meeting, attended by police and Sindh Rangers authorities, ended with shoot-at-sight orders to enforce the writ of the government. Somewhat ironic that the government, the custodian of law and justice, has to resort to violence itself, blurring the line between the good and the bad guys, between terrorists and counter-terrorists, between saviors and troublemakers.
A nation that cannot provide justice to its own citizens is a society on the verge of violence and anarchy. When state institutions, defunct and dysfunctional, cannot provide security of life- the most basic of rights as enshrined in the constitution- then the common man will wrest the initiative from the government and take law and order in his own hands. And that-sadly- is the ground reality in Karachi, a city in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Ordinary citizens have set about delivering their own version of “Justice”, shedding the last remnants of state authority in an increasingly lawless city. For the economic and business heartland of Pakistan to be under the grip of anarchy, is indeed very tragic, and the government should act with alacrity if it wishes to restore a modicum of law and order in the “City of Lights”.
School of Foreign Service