Young boys armed with guns surround a red Suzuki Cultus on all four sides as the driver tries his best to shift the gear in reverse and get away as quickly as possible. One of the boys pulls the trigger of his shotgun while the other ducks down and fires back from behind the car. Two more boys join in as a motorcycle speeds off in the other direction and the boy sitting on the back turns around and aims his gun at the already struggling car.
This was not a real attack that was witnessed in Karachi. Neither was it a gang fight. It was not even a shooting scene from a movie. These are scenes witnessed by Karachiites in the streets and public spaces on Eid, as children run about toting all manner of toy guns, from pistols and shotguns to Kalashnikovs.
The sight of children playing with guns is not new to Pakistan. What has now become astounding is their sheer number, the straight-out-of the-movie stunts enacted by young boys and the monstrous size of their weapons.
Read: Sale of toy guns banned in Peshawar
According to a salesman at a toy shop in Mehmoodabad, Anees Ali, the interest in guns is increasing every year. From water-guns available for a mere Rs30 to rifles costing Rs400, kids are armed with their weapon of choice. "Every year huge containers carrying kids' weapon are unloaded at Boulton Market. You will find guns costing as much as Rs600," he explained.
Children even as young as the one above are being allowed by their parents to carry toy pistols. PHOTO: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS
While kids mimic killers and murderers with rubber and plastic pellets, more commonly known as charras, Ali is of the view that parents cannot help but give in to the pressure from their kids. "I have just one son. I wouldn't refuse him anything in the world. Plus, if six kids in the streets are playing with them, it's only natural that your kid wouldn't want to feel left out," he reasoned.
Aliya Rizwa, mother of 10-year-old Raiyyan, says that just last year on Eid she bought her son a water-gun. "When the kid won't listen to you, what else can you do but buy them one. You see all the kids in the neighbourhood playing with them. Unless the state bans them entirely, the trend can't be curbed," she said.
Unruly and unsupervised
Similar incidences were witnessed at other public spaces too. At the Karachi-Landhi Zoo, scores of children, some as old as 14 years, had jumped inside the boundary surrounding the monkey cage and shot plastic pellets at the animals.
Read: Teenage boy shot by police over 'selfie with toy gun'
According Shujauudin Qureshi, a visitor who had taken his kids for a visit, there were no guards present to control the children. "I had no choice but to report it to the man behind the ticket counter and he said that earlier a guard had shooed away four boys on the same issue," he said.
Sharing his own account, Qureshi said that he maintains strict control over his kids as far as playing with guns is concerned. "It has to be banned from the manufacturing level. These toys shouldn't be brought into the market in the first place," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.