Karachi violence: Murder on their mind
Suicide bombings, target killings and a whole myriad of other types. Karachi has become a lab to test all these.
Several decades ago I read in an issue of the Time magazine about a murder in the woods somewhere probably in Ireland that frightened the song birds into silence. For nearly ten years no bird was heard chirping in the forest.
For some days now I have been haunted by the report which I mentioned in a column in the good old days. When I visit Lawrence Gardens, the city’s central park, in the morning the thought that the birds continue to sing despite the many murders all around us is disturbing.
Could it be that the birds here have grown as unfeeling as the people?
Then I remember that the place used to resonate this time of the year with koel’s song and am shocked that this year the cuckoo seems to be on strike. You still hear it from somewhere in a thicket but it is quickly gone.
I am reminded now of Hijab Imtaiz Ali. I think it was the year when we were receiving a lot of bad news from East Pakistan. One morning she called to say she had not heard the koel sing although it was mid-season and asked if I had.
I had not.
“Then why have you not written a column about it,” she asked. “It is a bad omen.”
I am remembering, let me admit, a lot of what was seen as a bad omen. Safdar Mir had once shared a ‘joke’ about some Lahori learning about the Great Delhi Massacre and inviting friends to go see the exciting festival.
Today such thrill seekers need go nowhere. In fact there is so much killing, it has stopped shocking us.
We are indebted in this regard, first and foremost, to the suicide assailants. With their exploits they made killing look so easy others decided the job could not be left to them and came up with ‘target killing’ which has been no less successful.
Other forms of killing – some traditional, some new – too have proliferated. Honour’ crime, some might argue, is traditional. But it is no longer just brothers killing sisters; an ‘honourable’ father has recently killed his daughter for not agreeing to a match he proposed. Then there are children being raped and killed. A bodyguard kills the person he was meant to protect and is admired for it. Our clerics too find it easy to declare all kinds of errant people worthy of death.
If a man has murder on his mind there are excuses galore. Even Saleem Shahzad’s killers must have found some justification.
So murder is passé. Only when significant protest follows does it become worthy of prominent coverage by news TV and headlines in newspapers. For this Karachi is the biggest laboratory. It has all kinds of people, explosives, weapons and so many groups willing to start a killing spree. It does not take much to provoke them. They take to the streets in no time and start with burning tyres. From there on it’s now a familiar routine.
Burning buses and trucks are a favourite with the TV channels. If you are so inclined, you can watch the scenes all day. But most viewers now get weary after a while and start looking for other kinds of programmes.
At the heart of our society, it seems, there is a mass murderer.
From the outside, it must look like we are a people whose favourite pastime is murder.
Can that be true?
Will somebody take it upon himself to make the people realise where this path leads?
Will somebody make Pakistan’s guardians realise what honour demands from them?
*Translated from UrduPublished in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2011.