Cycle of violence: Mr Rehman Malik, meet Karachi’s wives and girlfriends

The minister trivialised the killings by pegging them to domesticity and romance, but these women beg to differ.

Saba Imtiaz August 19, 2011


In one of his usual ill-timed platitudes last month, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said 70% of target killings in Karachi were courtesy wives and girlfriends looking to get rid of their partners and vice versa.

But for the wives, girlfriends and fiancées of the victims of target killings, the blame - all 100% - lies with the government and criminals linked to political parties locked in a hellish cycle of revenge.

Maria is one such wife. Her husband Irfan Gulzar told her he was stepping out close by and would be back shortly.

His mangled remains came back to her in a body bag on Thursday evening. A relative who went to the morgue said he counted 25 bodies in a similar state.

“He was a good husband,” she says in a faint voice, labouring over each word. Her mother-in-law makes her sip a glass of cold water. The two women - a grieving widow and mother - have no idea where their life goes from here. Remarrying is for now a distant, unthinkable concept for Maria. This Eid would have been the couple’s two-year anniversary.

Another victim, Azhar, 26, had never ventured into Lyari’s Jatpat Market before. He made a living each day by embroidering Baloch designs on fabric. As business had been slowed down in four days of violence, he decided to try the market to look for work.

His fiancée cries. His mother sits, wailing, clutching her daughters. Her son, Khizr, holds her head in his hands, imploring her to stop.

A few paces away, her son’s body - beheaded, pockmarked with bullets and scarred by torture - lies in a wooden coffin, waiting to be taken to the graveyard.

The house and courtyard are crowded with women, some sobbing, others speaking in hushed tones. “His body was cut into pieces,” whispers one. Another says she had heard of girls being kidnapped from Liaquatabad, “injected with drugs” and then “photographed”.

“The boys were riled up on Thursday,” says Mohammad Usman, who used to be councillor in the area. “They wanted to retaliate but we stopped them. Killing each other is not the solution.”

Women flood into the houses in Liaquatabad to mourn, their young children in tow, who appear entirely at sea. Nine-year-old Huzaifa confidently remarks that he knows the ethnicity of the man who killed Azhar. When the gunmen came, he ran inside his house.

At Irfan’s house, Kanwal, 11, sits among the mourners. “I hear bullets at night,” she says. “It scares me, I cannot go to sleep.”

She lives near Haji Camp, explains a woman sitting nearby. “Her other siblings are so scared because hand grenades were lobbed into their neighbourhood. They have been moved to their grandmother’s house in Malir. Only Kanwal has stayed back with her mother.”

Mothers are concerned about their young children’s mental state. “My son doesn’t want to go to the mosque because he’s scared of dying. What happens if we cannot even go to God’s house?”

As mourners amassed at Azhar’s house on Thursday evening, a couple of men passed by and shot at the marquee pitched outside the building. “Our boys also got their arms out and took up positions,” says Azhar’s cousin, Suraiya. “They have to defend and protect us if these things happen. Will everyone now need to be armed?”

“What else do you expect when men have no jobs?” says a former Peoples Amn Committee member on Wednesday. “Of course they will take up arms.”

Across town, Khizr agrees. “There is a lot of anger.”

The rage among Karachi’s young men has manifested itself as target killings, which have constantly ticked on for over a year now. The guns are whipped out seconds after the news spreads of the death of a political party member or an ill-timed speech. And the outcome of the ‘revenge’ fills the morgues.

Near Liaquatabad Daakhana, a few tyres are set on fire. It is a warning sign: the real fire and anger lies ahead, glowering in the young men’s minds.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.

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