KARACHI: In a shocking incident of vigilante justice, a mob in Karachi on Wednesday burnt three bandits alive near the Timber Market, venting their anger and disgust over the rising crimes.

We all came across this gory news and were trapped in the whirlwind of frightening thoughts. Where are we heading? Was it right? Was it justified? And a million such questions pop their ugly heads every now and then, and I wonder how long before we turn into Afghanistan or Somalia?

Before stating the arguments put forth by all those who were a part of this act and judiciary’s take on it, let me refresh your memory and state the facts for all those who might not know or have incomplete facts.

On May 15th 2008 four robbers barged into Akbar Soomro’s apartment situated near Timber Market, Karachi. Posing as KESC workmen, robbers held the children hostage at gunpoint. They cut the telephone line and electricity wires, locked the doors and misbehaved with the women. Robbers threatened and proudly warned them of the dire consequences, that if they raised hue and cry, they would not be hesitant in increasing the number of people they have killed from 30 to 34. When they were done looting cash and jewelry and were ready to flee, the head of the family, Akbar, walked in and was shot. Although he was gravely injured, he was successful is raising enough hue and cry to gain people’s attention. More than 800 people gathered around the bandits and beat them up with everything that was within their reach, including fists, sticks and blades. Some people resorted to aerial firing and also shot the bandits. The act was given the final touch when some people brought kerosene and petrol and sprinkled it over the bandits and torched them.

Now that the picture is clear for all, I can’t seem to decide whether to sympathize with the corpse that was mercilessly burned or for that mob that was sick of heartless dacoits robbing them of their hard earned revenues.

When I stand among the crowd who torched the bandits, I am one of those people who is happy for what she did. These people looted my area and had been killing us for just a cell-phone or some cash. Due to this I was taught by my parents to surrender, to give up in face of adversity. I had an option to hand them over to the guardians of law but I also knew that soon I’ll come across the same sinners for they would be bailed out sooner than later. A senior doctor of CHK Dr Ali Nawaz very correctly opined that the incident reflected extreme anger of people who had been frustrated over the lack of justice and peace. By burning the suspects, the people wanted to draw attention of the authorities to their problems.

Mohammad Nawaz, a driver for the Edhi Foundation who was present at the location, said that he would certainly kill the people who rob his house mercilessly. He also stated an incident when his hard earned life’s savings were robbed at gunpoint by three men clad in burqas. ‘You can’t imagine the intensity of my anger against this episode,’ he said. Another volunteer Bilal said that people have become ferocious owing to inflation, poverty and lawlessness. “Now the citizens have been compelled to take matters into their own hands,” he said, adding that it was like holding ‘jirgas’ on the pattern of rural and tribal areas to dispense ‘justice’.

This is what happens when people have no hope in the Justice System. Street justice, according to many, was inevitable. Since citizens aren’t allowed to protect themselves, carry weapon for self-defense, this will change things and will fix the criminal aliments by itself. It also served as a warning to all the bandits and makes a fair statement that when they steal from honest hardworking people, they give up their right to live.

Many people argue that the mob was unfair to propose that either police kill them then and there, or the mob would handle it themselves. Well, its Pakistani police, need I say more? Not only do we have excessively lengthy records of corruption and injustice, but police has been caught as the culprit as well. I would personally never trust the “guardians” of law, so it comes as no surprise when the mob did not either. This incident only confirms how people have lost all hope in the system and are ready to let go of the human element in them to clean the system themselves. The IG police in a ceremony said that our social system has collapsed and due to this reason the citizens have started to take the law in their own hands. Well I don’t know why didn’t he say that police is also playing an equal role and helping the criminals and providing them a safe passage.

Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri was reported to have said that the people’s reaction to crimes in Karachi is the outcome of nine years of undemocratic rule; the past government has caused so much harm to society that it has impaired people’s tolerance and they have lost confidence in institutions. She said that the new government was working to curb these incidents and crimes resulting from persistent unemployment. New government, right? Now I wonder why this statement appears so redundant. Haven’t we all heard it almost a million times from all those who crowned our government?

Now let’s stand on the other side of the line of justice. Barbarism! That’s what it is. Most of the arguments are based on religious and moral grounds. Burning is a punishment only Allah can give and such an act transgresses into shirk. It is heart wrenching that after death no one from hundreds came to at least out some water over the dead bodies. It is not only inhumane, illegal but also un-Islamic. This is not justice by any standards. The punishment for robbery is Islam is cutting the man’s hand, so how is burning to death justified? If you aren’t satisfied with the system of Law and Justice, then vent your anger out on them instead of insanely taking the law in your own hands. And as if our fears were answered, we all recently witnessed how hazardous this trend could be. Two bandits looted two young men and when they saw mob approaching them, they started shouting that the two young men were bandits and tried to loot them. Not only were the two youngsters badly beaten, some people from the mob were very close to burning them as well. And for a change, our police did come on time and saved the two young men from being burned to death. This is a clear indication of where we are headed. Soon we’ll hear about some innocent burned and claimed to be a dacoit. Also, it proves that we are falling into mob-rage mentality. It is a perilous trend and one that can ruin our nation and break us apart in smithereens.

Next in the line of participants in this whole affair were the doctors. After being admitted into the hospital, the suspects were not treated for over half an hour. The injured suspects were wrapped in a sheet inscribed with ‘Edhi’ while a policeman stood there like a statue. According to Medico-Legal Officer Dr Nisar Shah, the suspects had received ‘multiple wounds’ caused by hard and blunt weapons apart from burns. The suspects received around 10 per cent burns, which could not cause their death.

And finally the “guardians”. They too were there and tried to control the masses but FAILED. They were given the option to kill the suspects or the mob would burn them, and their tactless refusal ended up in three human beings burned to death. One of the policemen narrated an incident when they encountered a bandit and thought that he was dead, and when the policemen went to collect his body, he shot fought 4 policemen then and there. So this is why even police has to be careful. I was truly astonished at this comment and wondered if these petty weasels realize that they are supposed to protect masses. The job they have demands action in the face of danger which ordinary citizens cannot handle. They chose this profession voluntarily and are trained to be prepared to carry out their duties instead of being bystanders or avoiding trouble when they can sense any.

Another sordid detail of this affair: A private television channel representative claims that SHO Nasir Mehmood slapped him when he tried to record footage of the scene. However, the SHO said that the situation was quickly getting out of hand; with only five to six police officers, two men dead and the third critically injured, they had to push the media back for safety. Now, we do understand the need for safety and was personally appalled with the coverage they showed on television, but slapping? How is that justified?

Conclusively, there can be numerous dos and don’ts for the masses, the police, the television reporters, medical professionals, but none would be either effective in long term. What we need is a system we can rely on, a force of guardians whom we can trust, and patience. People going crazy over any hint of lawlessness can be dangerous and it’s a harbinger of looming distress and frustration among the masses. Something dire ought to be done soon or else…


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