Seven-year-old Subhan Irfan did not live to see the dawn of 2017. His right to life was mercilessly wrenched away with a stray bullet fired at midnight to herald the new year.
The pre-civilisation barbarity of killing humans and animals for the sheer thrill, amusement and pleasure of others has now become the new norm of celebrating the arrival of a new year in Pakistan. Is there a particular method to this madness? Let us consider at least four specific actions of the Sindh government that directly contribute to our rapidly accelerating journey towards becoming a dysfunctional society.
In August 2016, within two weeks of taking over, the new chief minister of Sindh ordered the cancellation of over 550,000 unverified arms licences that had been generously issued by the Sindh government. Little did he know that nearly 15 months earlier, the previous chief minister had already made exactly the same proclamation. Both announcements were meant for public consumption and the licences were never cancelled. The inaction of the Sindh government towards implementing its own orders helped those with fake and untraceable gun licences to continue acts of crime and militancy in the province.
In September 2016, the new chief minister spent billions of rupees from the tax payers’ money in placing scores of advertisements in newspapers to ban celebratory aerial firing that is routinely conducted during wedding ceremonies and on New Year’s Eve. It was expected that the Stanford-educated chief minister must have created a mechanism to ensure the implementation of his orders.
Sadly, no such action was taken. The Sindh police conveniently looked the other way as hundreds of unruly individuals indulged in aerial firing to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Seven-year-old Subhan Irfan lost his life and scores of others were injured. Should these deaths and injuries not be directly attributed to gross negligence by the provincial government?
In September 2016, newspapers also carried large advertisements – of course paid with the taxpayers’ money – to declare a ban on the display of weapons. The citizens were asked to report any violations to the relevant authorities through a specified phone number. This was yet another exercise in posturing without any intention of taking action. The police choose to look the other way as the powerful elite continues to unabashedly display and brandish weapons.
The Sindh government has now taken a new classist position in the application of this law. The rich and powerful continue to display weapons and hire private security guards, but it remains a crime for the ordinary citizens – who either cannot afford to hire private guards or do not wish to indulge in this madness. The Sindh government therefore not only pampers the elite to frighten and harass the ordinary citizens but also violates a citizen’s right to equality granted by Article 25 of the constitution.
The provincial government ought to be held accountable as it failed to implement the Supreme Court’s orders in Suo Motu Case 16 of 2011. The court had directed the Sindh government to take necessary steps to ensure deweaponisation. The Sindh government took no such steps and allowed millions of licenced and unlicenced weapons to remain readily available.
What are the options before the civil society under these gloomy circumstances? Should the death of Subhan Irfan be dismissed and forgotten as one of those things that typically happen in a big city? Is there a need to realise that, through our silence, we may have collectively contributed towards creating a system where the rich and the powerful can kill children for their own thrill and pleasure? Should we not push for the reform, repair and replacement of our dysfunctional and apathetic government machinery?
Perhaps getting rid of the archaic and colonial Police Act 1861 – which was unwisely revived by the Sindh government in 2011 – and demanding the adoption of the Police Order 2002 will be the first step towards reforming the system.?
The writer is a management systems
consultant and a freelance writer on