Stories about guns

Shot over a game of volleyball

In January 1998, my family received a slightly incoherent call from an uncle. He didn’t make any sense when he said: “Bring all the cash you have.” An hour or two later, those words made sense. My cousin had been shot in Islamabad by one of his peers and his family needed money urgently to take care of matters. We did not tell his mother what happened but informed her that he had been in a fight and was injured. He was nineteen-years-old. The boy who shot him was 20. A court case, countless days of mourning, and many unanswered questions. Now, 13 years later ...

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Making sense of the Sarfraz Shah verdict

On August 12, history was made. A paramilitary soldier, standing trial in a civilian court, was sentenced to death for extrajudicial murder in Karachi – the city that lives under the watchful eyes of over 10,000 Rangers. This verdict has not only criminalised an unlawful killing but has also declared that an act of terrorism is just that, even if the perpetrator is a security official. This anti-terrorism court has upheld “the rule of law”. However, the judgment – and the precedent that it has set – has, at best, received a mixed response. One section of the people, although without outrightly ...

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I am a sardar

I am a Sardar. I am six feet tall and came out of my mother’s womb ready to raise hell. To borrow from Isaac Babel, if rings were fastened to the sky I would have pulled it down to the earth. Yes, I have men and guns but these are just the traditional trappings of power. I look after my men and their families. They are my clan; we are bound together by ancient geographies and histories. They are my children. I uphold tradition but know that in order to survive in today’s world an education is essential. I studied Agriculture ...

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“Who is going to save you from me?”

The first time someone pointed a gun at me was a policeman. I can never forget the perspiring sight of the officer with rabid blood shot eyes, who breathed heavily while holding the trigger to a pistol pointed straight at my teenage face. The year was 1999 and I was studying at DJ Science college in Karachi. My friend Faraz had offered me and another buddy Imran a ride home on his motorbike after classes. Little did we know that there was a ban on pillion riding at that time. And to add insult to injury, we were not two, but three ...

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Should we report aerial firing in basant?

If I had a brother or even a close relative, who enjoyed aerial firing, especially during weddings or birthdays, I honestly doubt that I would ever report them to the police for a measly Rs5,000. Activities such as kite-flying and aerial firing, particularly amongst the youth, have to be dealt with through a stronger hand. Basant, a festival for which kite-flying is an essential aspect, is especially prevalent in Punjab. Kite-flying there is not only to entertain the masses, it is part of a much larger tradition that resonates heavily in the region. That’s my point — tradition, much like a habit, ...

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Basant is banned for the right reasons

I have vivid memories of Basant.  Everyone would be caught up in the spirit and festivities of the season. Maybe it’s because all one really needed to celebrate was a long string and a kite. And if you still couldn’t afford that, you could snatch one that’s drifting awayin the sky. But alas, the festival which once attracted tourists from far and wide to Lahore is now a thing of the past. Anger at the government’s ban The Punjab government’s decision to ban Basant sparked a hot debate on Twitter. Pro-Basant activists believe the onus is on the government to provide ...

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Raymond Davis: Who dare point a finger at an American?

Earlier this week a US ‘diplomat’ shot two Pakistani men in broad daylight. Despite the dramatic nature of events there have been rational elements in our society who are still trying very hard to look at the issue objectively. In the interest of presenting a fair picture the media has produced criminal records of the men who were shot, there have been those who have tried to justify Raymond Davis’ actions by saying that Qartaba Chowk, the area of the shooting was unsafe and there are even some who have maintained that a ‘gora’ in Pakistan is always at risk. While many ...

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Pakistan needs a gun-control law

Has your car ever been stuck behind a police mobile in a traffic jam? If yes, then you may have found yourself staring in to the barrel of a rifle that lay snugly on a police officer’s lap. There is probable a security lock on these guns that are pointed directly at us, but the thought of an accidental shot always makes me move a little further away from the vehicles to ensure the gun is not pointing at me. What bothers me is that I have never seen the rifle pointing towards the vehicle, at another officer or the driver ...

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Robots with guns (and morals?)

Robotic warfare is here. US soldiers are killing insurgents across the world with remote controlled drones. A worried UN investigator Christof Heyns has urged the UN to set up a panel on the ethics of robot weapons. We in Pakistan are fighting faceless machines now, they appear out of nowhere, shoot us down and disappear. The right kind of war Would you want a war where your sole existence depends on the decision of a machine which cannot see, hear or feel? War is supposed to have consequences that may be lost if the current trend of robotic warfare continues. When war is dehumanized and ...

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Karachi doesn’t need Rangers!

Increasing the powers of the para-military troops to police Karachi is supposed to help control the law and order situation. But has it? Ever since 1993, when the Rangers became a visible force in the city, what have they really achieved? Political forces have awarded Rangers funds and powers which seem to allow then to get away with committing crimes instead of preventing them. Many in the city believe that Rangers go unpunished because of their position. They are superior in rank to the Police and just below that of the Army. But in Karachi, they are supposed to be ...

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