KARACHI: Never before had the city witnessed 800 Santa Clauses walking along with 50 camel-carts. On Sunday, it did.
The Christian community of the metropolis had organised a peace walk from Gora Qabristan to the Karachi Press Club as part of their Christmas celebrations. Thousands of people who arrived had decided, in the wake of the carnage in Peshawar on Tuesday, to mute their festivities as an expression of solidarity.
The predominantly young participants began gathering outside the graveyard in the afternoon. “We had planned to decorate our entire route with stars and bells,” said Anneil John, one of those present. “But we have toned down our festivities because of the Peshawar massacre.”
Her sentiments was echoed by Irene James, an airline employee who had brought along her seven-year-old son, dressed as a Christmas tree. “We were happy because it was Christmas, but the tragedy in Peshawar has filled our hearts with so much grief that we cannot bring ourselves to celebrate it with full zeal,” she said.
Raza Ilyas from Essa Nagri, along with a few dozen of his friends, wanted to do something different: they had all donned colourful wigs and masks. “I was coming here to celebrate a religious festival,” he said. “I bought this peacock-feather wig from Saddar and I had planned to dress up more fancily, but what happened in Peshawar made me downplay my outfit.” His friend Amir, pointing to his own white wig, added that since everyone was dressing like Santa Claus, they took it up a notch.
Sharing the sorrow
Victims of the Baldia factory fire and students of the Army Public School share one thing in common – they had both left their homes in the morning but never made it back. Sharing the grief of the families of the martyrs of the Peshawar incident, the victims’ families of the Baldia factory fire took to the streets on Sunday to express solidarity with them and raise their voices against the Taliban militants.
“Those students were the same as our children – their killers would not find peace,” said 70-year-old Syed Nazif Shah, who lost his teenage son in the factory disaster. “The Taliban and their abettors, who are responsible for this attack, should not be spared at any cost.”
Another protestor, Jamil, whose younger brother died in the factory, lamented that had the government taken concrete measures to crush militancy, this crisis could have been averted. “This was the outcome of the state’s negligent policies towards radicalisation.”
He added that committees were also made at the time of the Baldia factory incident and the leaders had promised action, but nothing productive had yielded yet. “And yet again, the government is sticking to its usual rhetoric.”
The rally, which commenced at the Arts Council and culminated at the Karachi Press Club, was organised by the Baldia Factory Fire Affectees Association and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) to condemn the Tehreek-e-Taliban and their apologists.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the deputy general secretary of NTUF, Nasir Mansoor, said that the government should focus on making Pakistan a state based on principles of social justice rather than a security state.
“Two things are the outcome of anti-public policies and injustice: one is anarchy and the other is revolution,” he said. “Today we are fighting those militants, who were once our strategic allies.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2014.