Men with guns call the shots in city of fear


KARACHI: US President Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I am killed, I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again.”
Lincoln’s words adequately sum up the state of mind that most people living in Karachi share and the agony they have to suffer every day. They are hapless souls residing in a city that is gripped by fear and taken hostage by those who possess not only arms but also the callousness to kill without any pity or remorse.
The extent to which fear ingrains the minds of the Karachi residents can be gauged from the fact that though the MQM had not announced a call for strike or mourning for the day when the body of the party’s slain leader, Dr Imran Farooq, was flown to Karachi from London, even then the financial hub of the country appeared as if it were a city besieged – paralysed as if frozen in time, giving the impression that not even a bird was allowed to flutter a wing.
Did the people of Karachi actually shut down the city out of grief for the deceased political leader? It is anybody’s guess. One can only wonder how many would have been deprived of their life-saving drugs or other important medications because even chemists had not dared to open their shops. Countless matters of immense importance were put on hold as businesses were closed and the public transporters, learning from the bitter experiences of the past, decided to keep their vehicles off the roads, not giving much consideration to whether there was a strike call or not. Numerous patients suffered, initially while trying to reach a hospital and then due to the shortage of doctors there.
At times like this shopkeepers are usually asked by a band of political party activists – belonging to whichever party rules the roost in that area – in a somewhat polite manner to pull down the shutters. However, some shopkeepers say they were given strict orders this time to ensure the closure of their shops otherwise they would have to face the consequences of which they were well aware.
“There was a bullet waiting for anyone who did not follow the orders,” said a shopkeeper who kept his shop closed, but covertly kept selling his merchandise throughout the day, probably because he could not afford to spend a day without earning in these times of high inflation. The charge of security in some areas of the city was handed over to political activists-cum-volunteers and even though it turned out they were more effective than our overweight, lethargic and corrupt cops.
The people of Karachi have probably come to terms with the notion that might is right, as they would not want to see their shops or vehicles torched or worse yet, end up lying dead in some bushes at some isolated spot.
In a city where the man with the gun calls the shot, the prevalence of fear among its residents is natural as it serves as a necessary instinct for survival, even if it kills them over and over again.