It was a Saturday —– Mar 17 to be precise —— when the city of Karachi was shut down in protest against extortionists. It was a good move…but what about the fact that some of us work even on strikes/national holidays/natural calamities etc….and we have to commute to work and we are exposed to the petty criminals prowling our streets targeting us. Who is going to protect or protest for us?
What is the point of protesting about ‘A’ which affects a smaller group, while ignoring ‘B’ which affects a much larger group?
Coming back to that Saturday, I drove my sister’s car (since I do not have a car of my own) to office because there was no public transport and parked the vehicle smack under the office…on one of the most important roads of the city. I was extremely nervous and kept checking on it from my window, praying that it would be still there after my shift eight hours later. After my shift around 7 30 ish I came down and saw that the car was still there, the stereo still intact but the criminals had broken off the side view mirror. This would have to be the fifth or sixth mirror we have lost in one year. I mean what does it take to have ones car in one piece in this city, apparently nothing. And you can’t even go and seek legal help, because the police will only laugh in your face. Heck, they don’t even register FIR for more important crimes, so you can’t expect them to register an FIR for the theft of a side view mirror; you could be booked for wasting their time. The Ranger HQ down the road, and the multitude of their people hidden in the scanty bushes in the park opposite are no use for a civilian like myself, they have much more important things to do like fend off imaginary enemies attacking the HQ and the secure governor house further down the road.
People like myself and those even below the ladder should just shut up and live out the time they have on this planet and not make too much noise or the beauty sleep of the residents of the citadels of power will be disturbed and they will not be able to focus on their duties (what these duties are, is still a mystery to low lives like me, who keeps paying taxes and keeps having my constitutional rights (if they exist outside the pages of the constitution) infringed by the lowly criminal on the street to the decorated criminals sitting on the highest posts in the society).
Since I am not going to get even a reaction out of the high and mighty, I might as accept my fate and just stand on the roads of this wild city and hand out wads of thousands of rupees, since that is what it costs me for existing and moving around the city.
But I can’t be selfish and claim that this is a personal woe; a large number of people of Karachi face criminals on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day. If it isn’t the street criminals taking their personal property, they are pulled over by the custodians of law standing in strategic corners of the roads demanding ‘fines’ without challans and degrading a person’s self esteem by feeling them up in the name of security looking for ‘terrorist equipment – like guns, bombs, suicide jackets’. While they are busy doing their ‘duty’, petty criminals (who could be classified as terrorists in their own way) and other criminals hiding behind official cars and license plates slip away right under their noises to feast on the general populace.
The list of crimes is endless, but we will only focus on the street crimes, which are on the rise in Karachi. Sometimes it is a vandalized car, sometimes we are relieved of our personal belongings example cell phones that most of us buy with our hard earned money. But we are helpless when a criminal walks between cars at a traffic jam or at a signal and demands your property.
Hundreds if not thousands face this ordeal on a regular basis…where are our political parties then….why is the country not closed down until we get rid of this grim of petty criminals, who like scavengers pick and choose and take our property from us and there is nothing we can do about it. The police and rangers are useless as they patrol our roads and streets and try to look all important in uniforms while the rest of us sit there and get mugged. The politicians sit in their secure citadels in secure locations screaming hoarse about God knows what idiotic issues, while the rest of us face crimes on a daily basis.
Everyone in Pakistan, and mostly Karachi have a story to tell about their brush with criminals (to which our leaders’ proud explain that all great cities of the world face the same problem of street crimes, Karachi is no exception). I will share a few recent ones which I have heard from friends in this situation:
For the majority of people, corruption at the highest levels doesn’t immediately affect our lives, it is these scums who live off us on a daily basis that makes intolerable. Women of Karachi stopped wearing gold several decades ago because they were unsafe, now people are scared to talk on their phones outside the walls of a building (not that the building is any safe). This was evident when we had some guests from abroad and the first question they asked us, when they saw us using our phones in public…”is it safe”. We didn’t know what to tell them: yes it was safe to use a cell phone in public if you kept an eye out for suspicious people around you and managed to outwit or outrun them….it was safe because we have an old battered phone we may not attract attention….or we have been mugged recently so that gets us off the hook.
When will the political parties wake up and realize that the hundreds of thousands who inhabit this country are in dire need of help. Their silent pleas are falling on deaf ears. If they are silently bearing all kinds of atrocities in their daily life, the leaders should be very scared because this quiet multitude of frustrated and angry people could blow up in their faces and the situation could be worse than any revolution ever seen in history. The French Revolution and the recently celebrated Arab spring will look like festivities.