The recent story out of Karachi, regarding an alleged love-suicide incident, leaves us wanting more information. A 16-year-old boy in Patel Para shot a female classmate dead, possibly a love interest, before killing himself during a school assembly. While the details of the case are sensitive and while it must be a trying time for both families, the blaring fact is that an armed student entered a school unchecked. This needs urgent attention and reminds us of the necessary steps that authorities are yet to take in mitigating gun violence in Karachi. Guns are easily obtainable, legally or illegally and for purchase or for rent, for just a few thousand rupees. Indeed, the ease with which weapons are available has become evident with the increasing prevalence of ammunition stores across Karachi, even in areas that had once rarely seen gun violence — displaying the backward trajectory of safety and security in the city. Contrastingly, our prime minister recently stated that the government will carry out a complete de-weaponisation drive. However, with even schoolchildren and minors having easy access to guns, the success rate for such a drive will remain poor.
Another problem highlighted by this tragedy that goes unchecked is adolescent mental health, especially for children of less-privileged backgrounds. It would serve society well if the government invested more in providing free mental health checks across schools. We need to also recognise the fact that issues may arise in children’s lives when parents are unable to understand the stress and pain their children may be going through. Whatever the specific details of this case are, family dynamics sometimes lead to unnecessary stress for children, resulting in risk-taking behaviour, such as the violent outcome in this case. The authorities must now take notice of the urgency to prevent ease of access to guns through strict implementation of gun control laws so as to curtail unnecessary loss of precious lives. In addition, schools, parents and society at large need to seriously focus on the area of adolescent mental health.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.