The sight outside the Karachi Press Club on June 6 was a horrific one. A 40-year-old man named Khalid Mehmood, dressed in a crisp white shirt and black trousers, set himself ablaze after distributing pamphlets that stated that “Aslam and Razzak were responsible for his death”. Shocked spectators, passerbys and some journalists tried to save Mehmood but they appear to have failed in their efforts. Doctors at the Civil Hospital, where he was immediately whisked away, said that there is very little chance he will survive since 97 per cent of his body is inflicted with burns.
This act of self-immolation is unusual; unlike others, it does not involve a very poor man unable to put food on the table. Mehmood took this drastic measure after incurring a hefty debt, which he could not pay back. Belonging to a middle class family, he had reportedly borrowed a large sum of money from the two men he mentioned in his note and owed them over a million in interest. The inability to pay them back had apparently resulted in the men threatening to “kill him and take over his house”. There is no third party — otherwise known as a court of law — for people like Mehmood to turn to when faced with a dire situation. Neither is the economic situation in the country conducive to business ventures and others, too, have failed to set up enterprises, which can bring in money. We assume Mehmood also fell into the trap, which is seen to be engulfing more and more people in our country.
Today, it is not only the poverty-stricken who face trying times. The white-collar middle class is also stricken. In the past, banks and credit card companies have been responsible for harassing those who owe them money and sometimes they, too, have driven people to take extreme measures like suicide. This time, unknown private individuals are apparently responsible. The full story is still to unfold but it is undoubtedly a tragic tale, which leaves another scar on the country that is Pakistan.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.
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