I witnessed murder in Karachi

Published: October 8, 2013
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Karachi is not safe anymore. We all know that to be absolutely true since a while now. Pursue deweaponisation before we are gunned down.

Last week, someone was murdered very close to my house and a friend of mine witnessed the crime. Three men mugged my friend and then asked the person in the next car to give them her phone. She resisted. They pulled her out and shot her dead, just like that.  

Two nights ago, while I was still reeling from the shock of this incident, I witnessed two murders myself. Two friends and I were on our way home after dinner. We took the Nursery Bridge to drop a friend and right when we turned from Allahwali Chowrangi we heard gun shots.

Terrified, the driver stopped the car not knowing where exactly the sound was coming from. We told him to continue driving since stopping in a situation like this could be fatal. He sped onto the bridge.

There was a rickshaw and a white car right in front of us and two bikes on both our sides.

The bike on the left had three boys on it and each one of them was carrying a gun. They were pointing the guns everywhere and shooting without even aiming at any particular target. Panicking, my friend started reading the Ayatul Kursi aloud and then we heard more gunshots. At this point the driver stopped the car. We screamed at him to keep driving. The rickshaw swerved onto the side walk of the bridge toppled sideways and a man was thrown out of the rickshaw. That’s when we heard more gun shots.

I turned to see the bikers and noticed that they were staring at us. We were all girls. I yelled at the driver to speed up. The poor man, still in shock himself was not able to drive but somehow managed to get us away. The bikers followed us till the tail end of the bridge and once we made a turn, they stopped following.

After dropping off my friend, we were all too frightened to go back on to the bridge and so we decided to take the longer route via Shahrah-e-Faisal. On our way back, we saw ambulances heading in the direction of the bridge. That’s when it occurred to us that we should have called the police or an ambulance or informed someone about what we saw so they could help, but we hadn’t quite understood what had happened at that point and were too shocked to react proactively.

When I looked at my friends, one was still shaking and did not even want to talk about it while the other one, who we had dropped home , was praying for the two of us to get home safe. I told my parents what happened the minute I got home, which was followed by a long lecture on how this is exactly why I should be home early these days (mind you it was only 10:30pm).

I messaged both my friends before sleeping and the only thing we could all hope for was that the man who fell out of the rickshaw was alive and alright. Just when I was about to doze off, my mother came rushing to my room and said that the incident was being reported on the news.

A man and his son closed their shop at Tariq Road and were heading home in a rickshaw. They were carrying money from the shop and some men followed and killed the father. The son was in critical condition at the hospital.

I gasped. I didn’t know what to do. What had just happened? I messaged both my friends. I couldn’t stop crying. I cuddled up with my mum to fall asleep only to be woken by a text from a friend that read that according to the news, the son had passed away too. Uncontrollable tears gushed forth and I cried until my dad scolded me to think straight and thank God that my friends and I were safe.

I tried to think straight. I remembered the face of the biker who kept pointing the gun at us and then at the rickshaw. I told my dad that I could recognise the men and so I want to go to the police station to try and identify them. He said unless I am 100% sure of what I saw and remembered it perfectly, there was no way I was going to get involved. He said it was too much of a risk to my life to go to the police over a mere hunch.

I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even cry anymore. The tears had all dried up.

Did I really witness two murders, on a well lit bridge at 10 in the night, and do nothing but drive away?

What if we had stopped?

What if we had made the driver run over those men with guns?

What if they had come for us even after we turned?

What if it was some personal enmity and not just mugging?

Nine gunshots; aren’t those too many for just a mugging?

There are too many what ifs, too many abuses I want to hurl at those men with guns, too much guilt for witnessing two murders and doing absolutely nothing about it.

I can’t say I remember his face now. I can’t say I remember the face of the man who fell out. I can’t even say I noted down anything at all about the bikes or the rickshaw.

All I can say is I’m sorry to the family of the men who passed away, for doing nothing for the men who may or may not have died if we reacted any differently.

And most importantly, to the men with guns, I’m sorry for not having enough courage or resources to get out of the car and kill you instead. You deserve to be hanged till death in public for what you have done and I hope God settles this matter with you soon.

To the people reading this, I am sorry I told you one more of the many stories you’ve started hearing day in and day out but it’s time to face the reality. Incidences like these happen right in front of our very eyes now and we do nothing but drive by, say a few prayers, blame the government and pass on the stories to the next person.

I don’t know what we can do to actively alleviate this problem, but one thing I know for sure is that we need to deweaponise Karachi. These arms need to go. We, the public, need to force the authorities to take whatever action they need to and stop this easy accumulation of weapons, with or without licenses.

I know many friends who have started keeping guns for their own ‘safety’ or for the purposes of shikaar. That is how easy acquiring arms has become. Pay a small some of money, get a quick license and buy as many guns as you like.

Keeping a weapon on yourself for your own defence should also be a crime! The argument ‘we don’t trust the authorities anymore’ baseless. You cannot expect the authorities to help you if you don’t place your trust in them and let them do their job. There may be corrupt people in the authorities but it is the responsibility of the citizens to wash them out through actively speaking out and holding these institutions accountable.

Karachi is not safe anymore. We all know that to be absolutely true for a while now. It’s time we act and pursue the deweaponisation of this city before we are gunned down ourselves.

Say no to guns.

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un

Bemisal Iqbal

Bemisal Iqbal

Currently running Orange Tree Foundation - A mother and child support program. She tweets @bemisaliqbal (twitter.com/BemisalIqbal)

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