Karachi’s killing fields: Gunshots that don’t touch our hearts

Published: June 29, 2012

I met Hafiz Muhammad Waqas a day after he nearly died of gunshot wounds, in a target killing attempt. The electricity was out, Hafiz’s brother led me to a quiet dark room where he lay bandaged on a bed, talking over a cell-phone, assuring a concerned friend on the other side that ‘things were ok’.

A single glance at his family, their traumatised looks, told me that things were not ‘ok’. 

This brings me to the question I want to ask today:

Who do we care for? Our families, friends or friends of friends?

Technically speaking, it has a lot to do with social value, usually derived through memorable interactions, which may be anywhere from real life to strictly cognitive. If you haven’t ever heard of someone at all, they typically don’t have much value for you. The more you learn about them, the more prominence they have in your life and the more likely it is that they will be placed on a higher pedestal.

Hafiz Muhammad Waqas was, sadly, just a number in the newspaper.

A statistical numeric.

He was one of four people shot that day. You may be moved by the number, but the social value to you of any of the victims is likely to be negligible. It may be slightly higher if the paper mentioned names, but not as high as it should have been. This number conveys to you a message, a report and a comparative analysis on how bad the halaat are now.

Don’t get me wrong, of course you care.

But do you care enough to act?

This is what I want to talk about; caring enough to act. You can care, think, express ideas, post self-assuring anecdotes on Facebook, but what value do all of these have without any action?

In theory, we claim to care, however this claim to compassion translates into a real life activity only when the person in question has enough value to you. So technically, your care alone would be useless to that person. This person needs to be at least a friend of a friend of a friend or someone you know for you to act. Otherwise their value is no more than a figure, translating for a newspaper as sales, and translating for the reader as an update on the ‘halaat’.

Being indifferent and saying “I don’t want to think about it” is also a choice. Being neutral without an opinion is a choice, quite a cowardly one in my opinion, but a choice nonetheless.

In this video, I have used this technology to tell you who Hafiz Muhammad Waqas is. I’ve tried to make him more than a number. I wanted you to care about him more than you already did and I hope I was able to.

So I ask you again, choose to act.

Read more by Ali here, or follow him on Twitter @alikapadia


Ali Kapadia

A filmmaker from San Francisco who swings between art and technology. He tweets @alikapadia

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

  • Huma

    so eloquent in its simplicity. thank u for the video and the blog. we need to see each and every victim up close and personal, every day for us to start caring again.Recommend

  • DejaVu

    unfortunately our liberals only care when taliban kill someone so that they can blame mullahs or right wing Nutters … but how can they care abt Karachi Target Killing .. All three forces PPP MQM ANP represent liberal moderate progressive Pakistan Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    “Gunshots that don’t touch our hearts”

    Maybe they should aim better.Recommend

  • Confused

    How can you care when this happens every singe day? If you cared for every other person you would be a wreck. For me, I am sure this will not remain in my mind for more than a couple of days. I am sounding very cold here, I know, but I can’t choose to care.
    I have nothing to say in my defence, sorry about that. I am sure I will just resort to blaming this on the president (or the ‘liberals’) or being cynical (why Hafiz and not another?), because that is just how my mechanism works. Posting it on fb doesn’t do my empathy any good, just makes me think I’m looking at a menace in a cage and typing fake sighs, and then going to the fridge for a coke.Recommend

  • Aaliya

    @Noman Ansari: I think your trying to make a joke, or at least I hope you are, but it’s not funny! Very insensitive comment.

    We care but not enough to act, that’s very true. I think even if people care enough to act what can we do. We’ve gotten so used to hearing about multiple deaths everyday that now its just a number. It’s very sad and it’s literally like you said ‘gunshots that don’t touch our hearts’.Recommend

  • Sane

    Although we need to stand up against all such evils. But, sorry we are evils ourselves. We are law breakers in our capacity. We the common man also abuse power and break laws when it is affordable to us. We break traffic signals, drive wrong way, do nepotism, cheat with others. How, evil can stand against evil.Recommend