Zohaib has not called for his father since Tuesday evening when he saw him being shot in the chest four times by a member of the paramilitary Rangers in Karachi.
A day later on Wednesday, as the one and half-year old boy jumped up and down on the sofa of his uncle’s home and played with a pen he got hold of, his tearful mother Dua said softly, “He has not uttered Papa since he got home. Maybe he is frightened or too engrossed in playing.”
What should have been just another day for the family turned into a tragedy in a flash.
Taxi driver Murad Ali was driving Zohaib to a doctor near their home in Gulistan-e-Jauhar for an upset stomach, before stopping to buy fruit for Iftar when he was shot dead by Ghulam Rasul, the Rangers soldier responsible for the incident.
At Murad’s brother’s home, Dua and other relatives claim that Zohaib was in his father’s lap in the car before Murad was pulled out from the taxi by the Rangers.
“There was no blood in the car so he was killed outside,” said a cousin of Murad. He added that there were no bullet marks on the back of the taxi which meant that the taxi driver had no intention of speeding away when signalled to stop by the paramilitary personnel.
According to the family, after the body was taken to Jinnah hospital, the police took away Zohaib in their vehicle and asked people on their way if they knew whose child he was. When Dua came to the Johar police station to collect her child, she saw police officers trying to console him with a banana.
“Only time will tell if my boy remembers the horror he saw,” cried out Dua, as she clutched the boy in her arms.
Haider Rizvi, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at Karachi University’s psychology department, said that while it is likely that such minor children do not register such incidents, it is probable that the incident might haunt Zohaib when he grows up.
“He can get frightened of gunfire or blood if he had heard or seen it,” said Rizvi, adding that older children can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder when witnessing violence.
Worried about the future of her two minor kids – the younger son, Nabeel, is eight months old – Dua wants the killers to be sentenced to death. “Can the Rangers get my husband back? Can they support my two children?”
Her husband, whom she was married to for three years, had hoped for a better future for her children. “He wanted to do all the hard work so that he could educate his kids and give them a good future. But that is all finish now. How will I support them?”
Just recently, the family had moved into a two bedroom house in Chisty Nagar, a slum area in Gulistan-e-Jauhar. “He loved his children. The day he died, he went to buy fruits for them,” said the family’s neighbour Shahnawaz. Shahnawaz also wants the accused to be executed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.