Waqas Iqbal is one of around four dozen Karachi residents who were injured while resisting attempted robberies in the holy month of Ramazan. While Iqbal lived to tell the tale, 10 others were not as lucky.
Iqbal, however, does not believe he is lucky. He has been unable to get out of bed since the incident and gunshot wounds he sustained are a constant reminder of that dreadful night.
On July 18, Iqbal and his colleague, Noman, were on the way home in Gulshan-e-Iqbal when they were intercepted by two young men on a motorcycle near Masjid Baitul Mukarram. The assailants gruffly ordered them to hand over their wallets and cell phones.
"The attackers were terrified and appeared to be novices in the world of crime," said Iqbal, speaking slowly and in pauses. "They grabbed my wallet as soon as they saw it," he recalled. "The problem arose when I reached for my phone in my front pocket. The young man sitting in the back opened fire at me." Iqbal reckons the robbers must have been spooked by his hand movement when he reached for the phone. He was hit in the thigh and in the elbow and the trauma knocked him unconscious. When he came around, he found himself at Aga Khan University Hospital.
Karachi police has repeatedly claimed to have brought about a decline in street crime. Notwithstanding the rhetoric in press conferences and statements, the situation on the ground is much graver. The 10 people killed in attempted robberies and four dozen others scarred with gunshot wounds are a question mark on the law enforcers' claims.
When the matter was raised with officials of the police department, they said that they had focused on providing security to markets, bazaars and mosques during the holy month. The city's police chief, in various meetings with his subordinates, had directed them to ensure the provision of security at all shopping centres.
The personnel deployed for snap checking near shopping centres, meanwhile, busied themselves with the collection of Eidi. Visitors to Zaibunissa Street in Saddar complained of police personnel compelling them to give bribes in the name of Eidi. "They asked for my motorcycle documents which are registered in my elder brother's name," said Kamran, a resident of Korangi who had gone to Zaibunissa Street for Eid shopping. "The fact that the motorcycle was not registered in my name suddenly became a big issue and I had to give Rs200 as Eidi to be let off." He questioned how a police force could be expected to protect the citizens when they were so busy collecting Eidi.
With the presence of law enforcers restricted to shopping centres and malls, the majority of the robberies in Ramazan have taken place when people have been on their way home. "Shopping centres are already relatively safe as any robber would think twice before trying to commit a robbery in such a massive rush," said Sultan Shah, a resident of Keamari, who recently fell prey to muggers on MT Khan Road, on the way back from Boat Basin. "The problem is on the dark roads where there are no police or Rangers."
The police, when questioned on the issue, repeated the same old excuse about numbers. "It is common knowledge that we are terribly short on strength," said Karachi police spokesperson inspector Atiq Shaikh. "We can provide police to the markets but we do not have enough resources to man every street in the city."
When the issue of Eidi trend in the police department was raised before him, Shaikh was quick to say that he preferred to call it 'corruption'. "We will take strict action against those officials and personnel who are involved in corruption," he stressed.
Police kill two suspected robbers in encounter
Police claim to have killed two suspected robbers in an alleged encounter in Clifton on Monday.
The encounter occurred in Clifton Block 7 according to district South police chief Abdul Khalique Shaikh, who said that the two criminals were killed when the police thwarted an attempted robbery at a money changer’s office. On the other hand, the police said the suspects were looting citizens who withdrew money from the bank and the money changers. Both suspects were injured during the encounter and died on the way to Jinnah hospital. Their bodies were later shifted to the Edhi morgue, where one of them was identified as Shoaib Bengali.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.