A grim reminder

Published: May 12, 2012

May 12 was a valuable learning and training experience. As a citizen, however, it was a painful one as many innocent lives were lost. PHOTO: REUTERS / FILE

People often ask me if it is too risky to be a reporter.

“Not really”, I tell them, “but if you try to be too adventurous, you can get killed.”

I didn’t think of reporting this way until I covered the massacre of May 12, 2007 — a day I will never forget for many reasons: bodies lying in pools of blood, ambulances transporting the wounded and dead, powerful display of firearms by political activists, no policemen for the rescue and escaping bullets. Had I not been adventurous, I would have missed out on what I now consider a lifetime reporting experience that came at great personal risk.

The then-deposed chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) was due in Karachi to address the Malir Bar. Almost every reporter in the city was deployed to cover the most important news event at the time. I followed political rallies going towards the airport in excitement thinking I would come back with the CJP’s convoy. But I failed to calculate what was coming next.

Crossing Malir Halt, I saw that a political party had blocked the entrance to the airport with containers, buses and water tankers. I managed to cross the blockade using my press card, but the CJP’s supporters did not and soon the place turned into a battleground as activists traded fire.

It was one of those unusual days when my editor, like my father, worried about my safety telling me to leave the area and I had to lie to my mother about my location and tell her that I was safe.

Trapped in crossfire, missing bullets by inches, I took shelter underneath a bus along with the bus driver. But an activist advised me to go to the airport or I may get killed. I then tried to enter the airport but was stopped by armed political activists. I tried to exit via the old terminal route but that, too, was blocked. Luckily, one activist let me into the airport after I used the reference of a political figure from his party whom I had interviewed in the past.

I didn’t get the chance to leave until late afternoon when there was a lull in the firing.

As a journalist, looking back, May 12 was a valuable learning and training experience. As a citizen, however, it was a painful one as many innocent lives were lost.

farooq.baloch

Farooq Baloch

A reporter for the business desk at The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Reluctant Fundamentalist

    12th May,2007 will be remembered as the most dreadful day in the history of Karachi as the residents of the city witnessed the worst example of state sponsored terrorism. The city had been taken hostage by elements who claim to be the promoters of peace whereas their acts defy their very claims.

    The worst incident took place at Malir near Security Printing Press (which resembled an area similar to that of Palestine or Iraq) where the “promoters of peace” trapped the people and showed their “power” by firing bullets & throwing hand crackers in the mosques where people took refuge to save their lives. For two hours, they remained lying on the roads as just a slight movement attracted a volley of bullets three or four feet above the ground level. The most noteworthy fact is that during this time no law enforcement agencies were allowed to enter the area. Only after the SOBs had fired to their hearts’ content, the police and rangers announced a “cease-fire” . Not only this, the injured who were successful in reaching JPMC were killed on the spot.

    Immediately after the incident, the government started playing blame games where CJ was held reponsible for all the violence and some people even demanded his resignation. There are numerous examples of dichotomy and hypocrisy like the law enforcement agencies failed to provide security to the citizens but they provided security to the buses and trucks that carried the “promoters of peace”, MQM claimed of upholding peace in the city whereas its armed men wreaked havoc in Karachi. (The attack on Aaj TV bears ample proof of this fact).

    And last but not the least, what could be more agonizing than the fact that people couldn’t reach their homes within the same city just because armed men continued their patrolling in Drigh Road and adjacent areas.

    NB: I was an eye witness to all these events.Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    Why don’t we, as a nation, have the guts to call a spade, spade…!!! Why do people in general and media in particular (including the author) are afraid to mention the name of MQM in the 12th May 2007 incident…!!! Talking of media reminds me of the coverage of Rajni Kant of London’s six hour long speech in which he talked about the balkanization of Pakistan. Now, I leave it for you people to decide as to who is strengthening the forces behind all this?

    Recently, Karachi was once again in the grip of fear as ethnic violence erupted in some areas of Karachi leading to loss of innocent lives. As expected, the “invisible hand” was blamed for the target killings. While the antagonism was going on between two of the coalition partners in the province for quite sometimes, this time it was written “on the walls”, literally speaking.

    I am referring to the walls of Karachi on which one could see graffiti such as “Karachi Bachao Committee” and “Karachi humara hai tumhara nahi” and now most recently, “Muhajir Suba Tehreek”. Now if one is able to read between the lines, one could clearly understand who is behind all this. In my opinion, had the perpetrators of 12th May and 9th April 2007 been brought to books, such events would not have taken place.

    Secondly, the timing of these events is of prime importance. In my opinion, these events appear to be a cover-up in order to distract peoples’ attention from the main issues like opening of NATO supply routes. So, in the light of the above, does this “invisible” hand remains “invisible”?Recommend