Stop pointing your gun at me

Published: September 10, 2010
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The writer is head of Public Affairs and Policy at Pfizer Pakistan Limited
ahmer.ashraf@tribune.com.pk

The writer is head of Public Affairs and Policy at Pfizer Pakistan Limited ahmer.ashraf@tribune.com.pk

Growing up as a child in Karachi, I was exposed to naked guns, on the streets, in the papers, and everywhere. When children are so exposed it desensitises them to the concept of violence and replaces fear with resistance. It also fosters the desire to own a gun and then use it.

What happened recently in Karachi when over a hundred people were killed last month is testimony to this fact. Truman Capote wrote a book about the brutal murders of a family – the book was called In Cold Blood – and about the experience of writing it, he wrote: “No one will ever know what In Cold Blood took out of me. It scraped me right down to the marrow of my bones. It nearly killed me. I think, in a way, it did kill me.” It makes you wonder what kind of courage and heart you need for such criminal and brutal acts. But if you juxtapose it to our society, it may just become easier to interpret. It is partly a crime of the society too. Not that I am defending those who commit such inhumane acts by shifting the burden of these crimes partially upon our society. But the overall environment of where we live, what we see around us greatly shapes our thoughts and actions.

Whoever wants protection, wants to possess a gun because they are against a force with weapons. Everywhere you go, you see a gun. From the security guards sitting outside to the Ranger’s cars, gun nozzles are pointing at you. Official motorcades also have police protection mobiles with men thronging out of the back with their huge guns pointing right at your faces as you drive your car behind them. Such lavishness with weaponry fuels resistance and an eventual acceptance to guns and that in many ways could be a reason why Karachi has suffered the most gun crimes.

Is keeping a gun, an answer to the mode that everyone else has one? Does it give you a false sense of security, providing you with the thought of protection against a potentially fatal attack? But what most people do not realise is that in most cases, it will remain an illusion and will not translate into any real security.

So, the choice is ours, and that means each and every one of us. We can continue to live with the insensitivity going on with our daily lives while dozens of people are being killed in the city or we can choose to actively address this issue: to de-weaponise. Once we kick in this thinking and change our mindsets, only then can we start this process.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Behzad Khan
    Sep 10, 2010 - 2:56PM

    It’s very aptly put that we have become insensitive over the years as we have sort of become immune to violence. Public display of weapons seems to be the norm and it no longer infuses a sense of fear. We cannot expect the drive to de-weaponize to stem from the government as those in power are the ones that have instigated the gun-culture in the first place! We will have to become more sensitive and recognize this as a plague that is slowly disintegrating our societyRecommend

  • Asim
    Sep 10, 2010 - 3:44PM

    I always believe it is the showcasing of guns in our faces which lead to gun cultureRecommend

  • bilal khan
    Sep 10, 2010 - 3:50PM

    i completely agree ..
    guns are a part of our culture now .. just like lack of courtesy, decency, morals or manners, now you also get to see guns every time you step out of the house .. its jsut normal .. Recommend

  • Adnan Khan
    Sep 10, 2010 - 3:55PM

    Very well-written, and have exceptionally underlined the horrors we Karachiites have to face everyday with gun nozzles pointing at our faces.

    I, for one blame a military dictator who left his legacy in the form of guns, drugs and Afghan refugees. Recommend

  • Zafar Quraishi
    Sep 10, 2010 - 4:08PM

    A brilliant piece Ahmer., much needed to get our people to realize that we have to de-weaponize in order to move towards a secure and calm society. I might add here, in Malaysia guns are banned ! They discourage their children to play with toy guns and I have not seen any child playing with one.

    Possession of a gun leads to capital punishment i.e: Death sentence. Usually the police is authorized to shoot to kill if they nab a person with a gun, thus parting justice on the spot – no lengthy trials or pardons. Recommend

  • Z. Waseem
    Sep 10, 2010 - 4:53PM

    Well written. It is absolutely essential to support and demand deweaponisation with the amount of illegal possession of weapons and unmonitored usage of ammunition existing in Karachi today. It should also be noted that the CCPO of Karachi, Waseem Ahmed has been actively calling for a weapon-free Karachi, and the de-weaponisation of this city. He has constantly proposed his ideas to the Government but little has been done with regards to the punishment issued for possession of illegal arms, or with regards to the necessity of registration of illegal weapons. It makes one wonder why little action has been taken from officials higher up in the government, as the security-insecurity paradox gets even more complicated. Recommend

  • aesha arif
    Sep 10, 2010 - 6:04PM

    Well written and echoes the feeling of lots of people like me………Recommend

  • Sep 10, 2010 - 6:31PM

    Our society acts hypocritical on almost all issues, and might is always right. Eliminating weapons in a city like Karachi wouldn’t be a very easy task, considering the political and cultural element attached with owning a pistol or rather a klashinkov. The allure of such weapons for our young men, who have rarely experienced periods of peace and tranquility in a country like ours, where scores are settled through power play .. it will be difficult to convince that we are actually safe. Our society needs to openly exhibit its loathe for this show of weaponry every now and then and also express complete disapproval of acts of violence, how necessary the use of force might have been. I hope Karachi does return back to the tranquility that existed until the mid 1970s, when the rumor of someone seeing a pistol lying in the infamous Ranchore Lines led to a midnight curfew and the army being called for a house to house search. Recommend

  • Sep 10, 2010 - 8:33PM

    very apt and to the point- you speak on behalf of all of us-kudosRecommend

  • Asim
    Sep 10, 2010 - 8:53PM

    Where this piece hits the most is the outcry for the DISPLAY of guns, like one reader has commented that in Malaysia, guns are banned, but here, the very authorities are competing each other in the worst, shameless display. I have been shown a gun many a times when I get scuttled behind huge vehicles with armed guard vans and police vans harrassing you with huge guns. We need to start this de-weaponisation from them. If they are so popular and so powerful, why do they have to roam around with ten guards with ten guns, isnt this a crime against humanity, to harrass people and to show them guns?Recommend

  • ali zhoraiz
    Sep 10, 2010 - 9:02PM

    its really an astonishing thinking
    deserves good comments Recommend

  • Fayaz Hussain
    Sep 10, 2010 - 9:14PM

    Writer has highlighted the issue perfectly fine but however i disagree with him regarding not going to obtain a gun!
    In cities where law and order situation is good, in those socities ordinary citizen should not go to obtain a gun for the puspose of self defence but for the sports purpose only. Here in our city, Karachi just guees when some one tries to break up your front door or you find someone climbing in your outer boundry wall, what being an ordinary citizen will we do? our first option definately would be to call the police by informing them about the situation and seek their help at the earlist to save us from likely damage of our property, cash, lives honour, etc. based on experience, the personnel responsible to maintain the law and order situation will reach very quickly by reaching a couple of hours after the after the crime is done.
    so here i would say all the peace loving ordinery citizens should opt for a legal weapon with the intention of self defence not the offence. having a gun in hand he can atleast fire a few round in air to inform the intruder that the occupants are armed which will most likely result in peaceful night sleep.Recommend

  • Manizhe Ali
    Sep 10, 2010 - 9:16PM

    It is so true what you say — eventually you want to buy a gun and use it.

    all of us in Pakistan at one time or another have been stuck behind a hilux with a gun / guns pointing straight at you — and there is nothing you can do to make them point away — we have all felt the frustration.

    A heartfelt pieceRecommend

  • Imran Ahmad
    Sep 10, 2010 - 9:46PM

    Weaponise the whole society(i.e not limiting the access of weapons to few individuals with privileges either political or by virtue of their richness).It is the only solution and it will automatically leads towards de-weaponisation.It will create fear and simultaneously eliminates it.When the possession of weapons is wide spread it will loose its threatening power.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Sep 10, 2010 - 10:49PM

    The hatred among different political and religious groups, from snatching an ordinary cell phone to looting a bank and target killings have made the live of a common man miserable.

    Let us start from there as why gun culture was introduced in Pakistan? What were the reasons behind it? Why it became so important for people to purchase a gun with or without license for personal security.

    The answer lie with the good governance of the government, bureaucratic inefficiency and black-sheep’s in the Police force.

    The day our Police will become honest in every sphere of life, crimes will reduce up to that extent that there would be no need for a person to keep a gun for self protection.Recommend

  • Waqas Haider
    Sep 11, 2010 - 5:00AM

    An interesting and thought-provoking piece. I strongly concur. The seeming lavishness with weaponry in our midst has unfortunately lead to its eventual acceptance and resistance. Blatant misuse and desensitization have further obscured its actual signifiance and purpose, which ironically is to curtail crime and provide a sense of security to the society. The latter’s desensitization reeks of morbid complacency.
    Hope to read more stuff from you in the future! Recommend

  • Waqas Al-Shafi
    Sep 13, 2010 - 12:25PM

    Hmmm….if i think the logic through the topic you have persuasively discussed, not only me but most of the readers would undoubtedly agree with you. However, there is a very huge journey between the situation in karachi now and the one you have fantasized above i.e. de-weaponized. The ground reality predicts that during the de-weaponizing era we will see even worse situations, as people continue to stop holding guns or take them as means of security, the mobs will definitely take advantage of it. Thus, now gangsters in karachi will then move on with greater confidence, because they know that their adversary or the ‘will be victim’ of their brutality will find himself/herself defensless against him. I believe that de-weaponizing should occur but now is not the time as it will only help exacerbate the plight of the already frightened people of karachi and rise the morals and cofidences of many mobsters and criminals.Recommend

  • Fayaz Hussain
    Sep 13, 2010 - 2:41PM

    Agreed with Waqas.. this is not the time.. let us protect ourself as you (government) have proved urself not been able to protect the public.
    our interiror minister have good knowledge and is willing to investigate any situation which breach the personal safety, security wall of an ordinary citizen by saying FOREIGN HAND COULD NOT BE RULED OUT, and that I GAVE ORDERS TO FORM A COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE INCIDENT SO THAT CULPRITS WOULD SOON BE BEHIND THE BARS, when have that happened ?
    please share if any one of us have witnessed results of those so caled committeesRecommend

  • Schaze
    Sep 13, 2010 - 8:32PM

    Mind you brother ‘GUN’ culture was introduced by Karachi Walas in 80’sRecommend

  • Ashutosh
    Sep 13, 2010 - 9:05PM

    Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.

    Hey! This applies to swords only … Not Guns! Recommend

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