August 20, 2011, Karachi, Pakistan: When the number of dead people goes up like the score at a NBA game, when lawlessness prevails, and when the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan is ignore as the streets are painted with blood, you know there is something wrong.
As I write this, the death toll on day 3 of a fresh round of ethnic violence stands at over 60. The day, which should have started with the blessings of suhoor at the sound of the fajr adhān instead began with the news of a police van ambushed, four of its occupants taken off the vehicle and shot.
“What sort of animals are these that they are killing so many in Ramadan?”
The violence is a mixture of ethnic based strife between the residents of the multi-ethnic city of around 18 million people and gang wars within the mafias that have come to claim certain fiefdoms within the city. The fact that the members of these outfits of terror have patrons within the major political parties serves only to worsen their senseless killing sprees.
The residents of Karachi are fearful of going about their business but how does one stop everything? With the inflation that has been spiraling upward one can not afford to stop going to work. The danger for some exists when gangs stop buses and go through your identification, pulling you off to kill you if you happen to be of the “other ethnicity”. An employee at my factory recounted how he was pulled off the bus on way home and the only thing that saved him was his heavy Memon accent (Memons being an ethnic community that is not directly involved in the strife).
“I'm depressed. Don't understand who's doing it and why,” said one young businessman I spoke to. “Just want it to get better somehow. What sort of animals are these that they are killing so many in Ramadan?”
Indeed that is the feeling echoed by many in the city. And for many like myself is the feeling that the violence is slowly spreading, no longer confined to certain hotspots in the city but slowly creeping forward reaching for us with its tentacles of terror. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 800 people were killed in Karachi in the first seven months of this year due to political and ethnic violence. Around 300 were killed in the last month or so.
Last month the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, trivialized the situation of Karachi by claiming "According to my personal experience in Karachi, if, let's say, it is said that 100 people have died in target killings, when I did the investigation, I found that there were only 30 target killings. Seventy per cent were those people who wanted to be rid of their wives and girlfriends or girlfriends who wanted to be rid of their boyfriends. All the figures are with me, they killed them." The death toll in the last few days speaks otherwise.