On Tuesday, my brother-in-law who lives in Gulshan was robbed at gunpoint for the fifth time. It happened in the forenoon when he went shopping near his home with his wife. He was sitting in his car while his wife was in a bakery when this young man came with a gun. He was apparently on foot and quickly disappeared after snatching my brother-in-law’s cell phone and wallet.
So, what does one do in a situation like this? I am sure a very large number of people in Karachi have lived through such encounters. This has happened to quite a few of my own close relatives and friends, in numerous cases more than once. There was a robbery in my younger brother’s house earlier this year and only my sister-in-law and young niece were at home at that time in the early evening. Incidentally, they live in the same neighbourhood.
In fact, there is this parlour game that I play. At dinner parties and small gatherings, I ask guests who have recently been victims of violent crime to raise their hands. Invariably there is someone to narrate a dreadful occurrence. Sometimes there are two or three persons who have a story to tell. When it comes to recounting the experience of friends and acquaintances, the topic of discussion can change entirely from the day’s political headlines.
That is what I am doing this week. Otherwise, major developments have taken place in the political domain. On Friday, the Supreme Court delivered its initial judgment on petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act 2012. It has surely raised the spectre of confrontation between the parliament and the superior judiciary. Expectedly, the ruling alliance is all set to flex its parliamentary muscles.
A great stir has also been caused by a fiery exchange of accusations between Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League and Imran Khan. This time, the first salvo was fired by PML-N’s Khawaja Asif. On Friday, Imran Khan made his foray with eleven questions – deadly bouncers – for Nawaz Sharif. It is interesting that the questions posed are exactly eleven – the number of players in a side.
This is a game that that the two teams – of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif – have played for some time even when their common adversary is ruling coalition led by Asif Zardari. This latest boxing match is quite intriguing. What is not new, however, is the quality of the debate and the passion with which the protagonists get sidetracked into counter-charges. I had a glimpse of this in a talk show when two participants lost their temper.
In a larger context, this is what politics has become at a time when very serious questions about our society and our collective waywardness need to be explored. I have repeatedly been saying that the crisis of Pakistan is neither political nor economic. It is moral and intellectual. Without accepted moral principles and an emphasis on integrity, the quality of governance cannot improve. Without wisdom and an objective understanding of issues, problems that have afflicted our society cannot be resolved.
Coming back to the widely shared trauma of living in these treacherous times, it is very obvious that the present administration does not have a clue about the impending breakdown of society. Yes, everyone talks about corruption and how it has infected all sectors of our national existence. But there is little evidence that this predicament is being carefully investigated and analysed to devise workable strategies to contain this contagion.
For instance, little attention is being paid to the steady decline in law and order in Karachi. This urban expanse is gradually degenerating into a tribal territory. Ordinary citizens feel insecure and live in fear. Targeted killings have become endemic and there is a daily count of fatalities that get lost in a feverish concern for political squabbles.
To be sure, Karachi is not the only part of the country that has become dysfunctional. Every day, something happens somewhere to highlight the inability of the ruling authorities to discharge their functions in a judicious manner. There are instances that show that the criminals and the crooks are more powerful and more efficient than the legitimate agencies of the state.
Remember the failed police operation in Lyari in Karachi? The newly appointed Inspector General of Sindh Police said on Thursday that the police was no match for the gangsters who were armed with weapons usually used in warfare. But how do they explain this disparity and who is responsible for allowing the criminals to acquire such weapons?
Be that as it may, there is this case of Roohullah, who is alleged to be involved in the high-profile murder of former attorney general of Pakistan, Sardar Khan, in Islamabad about four years ago. Reports said that he had escaped to Amman on a fake passport and was extradited to Pakistan last year with the help of Interpol after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the case.
Last Sunday, he escaped again, from a hospital where he was taken ostensibly for treatment of hepatitis. At sehri time, he ran out of the hospital and a car was waiting for him. He went to the airport and was able to take a flight to Dubai. This time, it was reported, he had a genuine passport.
A report published on Friday said that they found seven cheques signed by him in the pillow of the hospital bed, including one for Rs500,000. Investigators also believe that a man arrested in Dubai as Roohullah, to be repatriated to Pakistan, was a decoy and not the real Roohullah. The question is: what weapons did he and his accomplices use to defeat the police? Is this not a story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster?
In passing, let me refer to another story that has its lighter side. We know about ghost schools. It seems that the Sindh government has a number of employees with better credentials to be called ghosts. On Monday Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that 338 employees who have died were still receiving their salaries. In addition, over 12,000 employees who are very much alive were receiving two salaries, from two government jobs at the same time.
To conclude, I should explain that I have chosen the title of this column to describe the condition of ordinary people who feel exhausted but they keep going. But I would not mind if you are reminded of the claim made by an engineer that he can run cars on water. The manner in which this story made waves in the media also reflects our collective state of mind.
The writer is a staff member.
Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail. com