My neighbour was mugged today, but we are too scared to go to the police

Published: March 31, 2016
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Imagine your child asks for permission to go out to play in the street in the morning. You kiss him on the forehead and leave for work, content thinking he’ll be safe right outside the house, surrounded by neighbours, away from any real threat.  

You’re driving to work when your phone rings and you’re being told your child was held at gunpoint, and that too right outside the gate of your house. The natural reaction to such an incident would be fear, dread and helplessness.

Today I saw something similar on Facebook and the video has left me terrified. It is a CCTV footage of my neighbour’s tenant’s friends. The friends were waiting outside my neighbour’s gate, when two young boys, who seemed to be around 14 or 15-years-old, arrived on a motorcycle and attempted to mug the friends. This happened in Block 3 of Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

This didn’t happen at night, no. It happened today, in broad daylight, between 8:00am – 8:30am. What’s worse is that the boy riding pillion had a gun on him. Luckily nobody was injured, but this video raises various questions.

It’s a given that over the years street crimes have increased in Karachi, but seeing a mere child with a weapon was profoundly disturbing. Why was this child carrying a weapon when he should have clearly been sitting in class, studying? Moreover, where did he get the weapon from and how? Was he even remotely aware of what he was doing or the consequences of his actions?

Somebody could have died in the process.

After watching the video, I called my neighbour, Hassan Shaikh, who had posted the video and he was equally shaken. He told me that he thought the boy was carrying a toy-gun, but when he heard the gun shot, he knew for sure it was a real gun.

The unfortunate part is that we only came to know of the incident because my friend had personally gotten CCTV cameras installed outside his house gate. This is obviously a necessity considering there is no such thing as government installed CCTV cameras, at least not in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Does the government expect each and every neighbourhood and household to install a CCTV camera themselves to record such unprovoked attacks? Do we have to prove to the government that miscreants exist in our society and we do not appreciate being left feeling scared about the security of our families? Especially in a country already fighting terrorism?

Would it not be a smarter move for the government to install such cameras on every street in the country to help them fight the bigger threat of terrorism? Would it not be helpful in finding out exactly who the culprits of these attacks are, in order to prevent them from happening again? Would this not help in taking them into custody?

This was a child for God’s sake. You can just imagine how far the influence of petty crimes goes if there are children stealing and carrying guns.

I don’t think it’s our job to patrol the streets and watch out for criminals – I remember paying my taxes for this purpose. I remember electing a government for this purpose. I remember paying, through my taxes, for a competent police force to protect me. If you can’t do the job, give me my money back so at least I can manage the safety of my own neighbourhood.

You know what is the saddest part? That we fear taking something like this to the police, for fear of either being ridiculed or somehow being framed. We are afraid of the police turning on us. What kind of security is this?!

Remember, a child lost is a child lost, whether he is holding the gun or being held at the gun point.

This isn’t just another issue; this is a serious issue which our government needs to look into. The way street crime is tackled has become a joke. We appreciate the operation taking place in Karachi, but this happened today. How effective was the operation then?

What is sad that our reaction to a friend’s mugging has become a joke too,

 “Oh you got mugged as well?”

It’s just another Facebok status. Why are we treating this as a rite of passage for each and every citizen? Are all of us going to be as brave as the men in the video working on the house being constructed opposite the street? Will we also have the courage to come out and throw stones at the miscreant to shoo him away temporarily? I doubt it. Karachi has become so desensitised that if there is a man being mugged right in front of us, we will turn our backs to him and mind our own business. This desensitisation is a plague. It is not resilience – please do not confuse it. It is hopelessness.

So, this is an earnest appeal to our government, please take this issue in your hands and treat it with utmost importance. This was only one incident recorded today, I am quite certain if you ask around you will be surprised by how many people have been through the same thing today.

And I will also appeal to the citizens of Karachi – don’t let them mug people right in front of you – unite for the right cause and fight them. We are much much much bigger in number when we stand together. Let’s protect each other. Don’t let the streets of Karachi turn into a hell-hole.

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Arsalan Siddiqui

Arsalan Siddiqui

The author is an entrepreneur. He loves travelling around the world. He tweets as @arsalan912 (twitter.com/arsalan912)

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