and be heard
The forsaken breed
TO LAST WEEK'S
Away from life
Mystery shrouds the suicide killings in Gujjarpura where a boy shot three of his brothers, himself and the mother
By Saadia Salahuddin
Ramzan, 25, was waiting for his brothers to arrive home after sunset on March 2, Friday. One brother had gone to get some groceries, another had gone to offer prayer in mosque. Bilal, 14, the youngest, was at home. When the two brothers came back, Ramzan asked for the lock and key from Bilal and put the lock on the main door of the house from inside. Bilal had one of the two keys in his pocket.
The family used to lock the gate like this everyday before going to bed. Then Ramzan took out a pistol from his pocket, turned the nozzle behind him and fired at Bilal without looking at him. Bilal pulled his elbows together. The bullet passed through both the elbows and he fell down. Ramzan did not look back. He heard him falling and moved ahead, then he shot one brother after the other. Bilal meanwhile managed to open the door and run away. He collapsed on reaching the third house from his door.
Back home, the mother rushed and bolted the gate from inside again. Ramzan then shot down his mother. The two sisters escaped his eyes. They had run upstairs. Ramzan kept calling them, saying he would not say anything to them but they did not come. Then he shot himself in the head.
All this was told by children who survived, Bilal, Maryam and Ayesha, to the neighbours. TNS learnt all this from the first person, Ali Raza, who rescued Bilal and came to know about this tragic incident from him. Other neighbours agreed with what he told. Ali lives in the same street and his house is in the same row as Bilal's. The three survivors have been taken away to Karachi by their maternal uncle whom the neighbours find a kind man. The children's father refused to talk when approached, saying he had already too many worries and begged to be spared. So here is the story from the neighbours who rescued the boy and the girls and looked after them till their departure to Karachi.
There are certain questions that intrigue people. Why did the mother bolt the door? Why didn't she run away to save her life? Ali Raza says Bilal told the neighbours that his mother, Nighat, had threatened to commit suicide and had run out of the house at night more than once. This was the reason why they put the lock on the main door of the house.
Then there are other things that baffle people, like the note left by Ramzan. The neighbours say Ramzan knew how to read and write. Those who went to the house after the incident, say there is a potrait which Ramzan made of his father which shows his eye for detail and definitely that he was intelligent. The neighbours quote Bilal as saying, "Ramzan had threatened to kill everyone before. He would say, 'nobody likes us, nobody wants to meet us. What kind of a life are we living? One day I will kill all of us'." The neighbours say there was a consensus among the family members that life was no good and they were all prepared to die, from what they gathered from listening to Bilal.
After listening to the people who lived around this family, the neighbours, I gather there was a death wish inherent in this family. The boy who murdered his two brothers and mother and committed suicide on Friday, March 2, did so more out of prolonged seclusion and lack of education than because of poverty. New people bring new hopes, new thoughts, new information while this family led a life cut off from the world and were just making a living by making belts day in and day out.
Raashid Anwar, head of the ill-fated family, moved to Kot Khawja Saeed in Gujjarpura, north Lahore, six years back. There were ten family members - six sons, two daughters and their parents. The neighbours living in the street say they did not interact with anyone in the mohalla. Only the youngest boy, Bilal, who was 14 years old, was the type who would talk to others. He once said to Ali Raza, who goes to school and is older than him: "Our father never sent anyone of us to school but put us all to work." The family had a workshop inside their home where they all made raxine belts. "There were no signs of abject poverty apparently," says Ali. Bilal, the boy who liked to mix with others, looked liked an eight year old instead of 14, says a neighbour.
Man is a social animal while this family led an isolated life as they met no one; no relative, no neighbour. 18-year-old Ali, the first person to see wounded Bilal and the one to take him to hospital, says, "Rashid Anwar's wife's brother took her to Karachi last year. She met her brother's wife for the first time in 28 years. You can imagine what kind of a life this family led. Then the eldest son ran away to Karachi to his maternal uncle in 2002. Some time later another brother escaped from this repressive household and joined his brother in Karachi."
The neighbours, especially the elders, hold the father responsible for this tragedy. Many of them say he is a hard-hearted man who did not send his children to school when he could have and maintained an atmosphere at home where nobody interacted with the world outside. Nobody knows what went inside this house. These children did not even get religious education, they say. They were surprised that he was not taking care of his children in this hour of distress.
A neighbour Muhammad Rafique says, "My wife once went to give niaz at their house. Raashid's wife Nighat opened the door, brought a plate, shifted the niaz on that and shut the door. Asking my wife to come in is a big thing, she did not exchange a word with her."
Another thing the mohalla people note as extraordinary, is that not even the next door neighbours had seen the girls of this family even once in these six years. The children do not talk against their father at all, say the neighbours, but live to tell this tragic tale. Now only their father lives in that house in which nobody can say for certain what actually happened to bring this tragedy upon the inmates.
By Farah Zia
I still haven't gotten used to the now ubiquitous Allah Hafiz. Actually I have distaste for the phrase and would prefer nobody ever said Allah Hafiz... I'd rather have the good old Khuda Hafiz to send people off. Many of my colleagues agree with me, though I must admit some are more vociferous critics than me. There are a few who are either noncommittal or dare not disagree for fear of castigation by the rest. Democracy's virtues, you see.
But together we have yet to figure out why we prefer one over the other; and we haven't stopped short of looking for explanations. All of us agree on one thing -- that Allah Hafiz is exclusionary and seems to address people of one particular faith, as opposed to the all embracing Khuda Hafiz.
People in this office just love the past and are really fond of tracing the historical antecedents of anything that comes their way. In the true spirit of the place, I try to recall when exactly did the phrase first come into our lives, with vengeance no doubt. I suspect it was Mehtab Rashdi (then Mehtab Channa) who first uttered it in a television programme in order to assert her individuality during Ziaul Haq's martial law (She left the programme in the middle for some other reasons). But a colleague corrects me by saying that with her progressive leanings, Mehtab could not have invoked Allah as opposed to Khuda to bless anyone. I am still not convinced because if it wasn't her, I don't know who else it was.
But I am sure it must have been Ziaul Haq's Islamisation drill that started it. That was also the time when the fruits of the Gulf contact were being increasingly felt in this society. And the next I remember of Allah Hafiz being uttered is in the irritating chirpy voice of an FM DJ (female, of course) and I can't recall the exact year. I think the way those DJs uttered it (somewhere in the 1990s) made us all just hate it, to put it mildly.
The two words Allah and Hafiz have co-existed in this part of the world even before this, though in a not-so-positive connotation. We've all been quite used to the phrase Allah hi Hafiz to explain something getting out of human control (already destroyed basically). Maybe it's this ambivalence that makes Allah Hafiz look so odd as a send-off greeting.
I also have a problem with a Persian phrase being changed so arbitrarily. I mean if we are so fond of Arabic, why can't Fi Aman Allah do for us. I mean why not?
But as I said democracy has its virtues. So sometimes those who disagree also speak out -- in the name of a dissenting note. Hence a colleague, the non-comittal one, shuns us for our colonial mindsets, referring of course to the Persian and not the British influence, and suggests that we must go back to our original roots. 'Rab Rakha' is what connects us to the land and the people. The rest is all hogwash, he says.
Another colleague walked into the office on March 8, looking slightly harassed. He'd just been greeted 'Happy Women's Day' by three students. They were obviously not very pleased with the dazed look on his face and he wanted to make up for that by getting us, the women, some snacks of our choice. Well, generally speaking, women getting a chance to choose for themselves is a rarity, it seems.
Talking of rarities, March 8 offered one when women got out on the streets and roads of Lahore in hordes; to protest, to speak, to even dance. They were there on the television channels and everywhere. But come March 9 and things were back to usual with no public presence of women. Women here work, study, shop, relax but they are invisible on the roads. If at all they do get out, under some compulsion of course, they feel extremely uncomfortable. Because there are no other women around.
People from outside, even from next-door India, notice the absence of women in the public sphere as the first thing. Perhaps somebody needs to give it a thought too.
Home-based women workers and activists get together to stress forming unions for fair wages
International Women's Day was certainly colourful in the city. Many women organisations met to commemorate this day in different ways. The biggest congregation was of working women who operate from home - that is, they get work from market and industries and are paid per piece.
Women Workers Helpline invited all these women and activists to think what should be done so that the workers get just payment. These women who do many different odd jobs are paid most unfairly. The whole family most of the time is engaged in the work they do but do not get more than fifty rupees at the end of the day. One can have an idea from the fact that a woman who stitches 100 mobile covers, gets 28 rupees at the end of the day. The woman who sheds chilghoza shells gets 15 rupees per kilo and the same chilghoza sells for Rs 1500 per kilo. Women do a thousand such things like fix beads (nugs) on chaadars and saaris, peel garlic, make badges, make flowers with paper for decoration, do embroidery, cut jeans, make joggers, motorcycle paddles etc.
When the workers are not getting the right wages how do they get food twice a day, one may ask. A woman who makes a living from such odd jobs and is a mother of four children, stood up in the hall and said, "The rich cook two kilogram meat for a meal and we poor are not getting even vegetables. What kind of a country do we live in?"
A band of folk singers sang a song that was picked up by some of the speakers because it touched everyone's heart. It said: "Ganday naal we roti khani okhi ay" which means 'it has become difficult to have roti even with onion.' And "khoosh howan tay taarri laani okhi ay", meaning 'when I am happy it is difficult to even have a drink' but the verse that brought tears to many eyes, was:
"Rabba kah day saaray saal day rozay nay
Mazdooran noo tay eid manani okhi ay"
(God, say fasting is for the whole year
Its difficult for workers to even celebrate eid).
Justice (retd) Nasira Javed Iqbal suggested women should take their product to market themselves, to raise their voice for their rights because until then no one will hear them. "Even a mother doesn't give milk to her child until he cries." She stressed upon the role of union councils and women councilors. "Bear no injustice, do not accept less money, do not work for more than eight hours -- even those working at home on pieces, do not take beatings, go to your women councillors, there is always a way out." In short she said where people make an effort, they find a solution to the problems. So we have not failed so long as we are making an effort.
Tahira Mazhar Ali of National Workers Party and Democratic Women Association said ideas should come on how to counter the problems. Stating the problems is not enough. She called upon the women home-based workers to make a union and then demand fair wages from that platform. She said, "This day is to voice our concerns and demands and see that others agree with it." She demanded free education till class 10 and called upon the government to take responsibility of providing good education. She gave an idea: "Those who make big plazas can be asked to make low cost small houses for the poor, like for one who is building a 12-storey plaza the government can make it mandatory for him to construct 100 houses for the poor who can in turn pay him back in installments."
Farooq Tariq from Labour Party shed light on how this day came to be observed. "It dates back to 1820. On March 8 that year women in tailoring sector in Britain first went on strike for better working hours. And they got it. Here there are women who are working for as long as 18 hours a day. They suffer from numerous health problems like back ache, muscular pain, burning in the fingertips etc. but nothing is being done to alleviate their sufferings."
The question is how to ensure that the home-based women workers get right wages, social security, six month maternity leave and that the Government of Pakistan ratifies ILO C-177. For this the home-based workers need to make a union and we hope to hear about a step forward in this diretcion soon.
-- Saadia Salahuddin
•Painting exhibition of 70 women artists
At Hamail Art Galleries, Gulberg from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm till Friday, 23 March
• Sarah Zaman in concert
At Alhamra ń Gadaffi Stadium on Tuesday, 13 March at 6:00 pm.
• Qawwali music session
At Data Darbar on Thursday, 15 March at 3:00 pm. Free Entry
• Indo Pak theatre festival
At Government College University from Thursday, 15 March to Thursday, 22 March.
• Intelligent Data analysis Methods in Functional Genomics
at LUMS from Saturday, 7 March to Sunday, 18 March. Fee: Rs 600
• IAPEX 2007
At Pearl continental Hotel from Friday, 16 March to Sunday, 18 March at 2:00 pm. Free entry.
• Job Fair
At Expo Centre, Fortress Stadium on
law & order
Protection in markets
Traders feel unprotected as robbers continue the looting spree in one market after the other
By Ahsan Zia
The police may claim the crime rate has decreased, newspapers report robberies at shops and markets almost on a daily basis. Shopping is no more a casual activity even in the busy centres of the city. The trend of looting, snatching of cash, jewellery, and mobile phones from shopkeepers and their customers continues to register an upward swing, contrary to the police claims.
Police claim that as many as 2,649 cameras are installed at 852 sensitive places in a bid to prevent robberies in streets as well as busy shopping centres. Around 500 policemen are patrolling in two shifts in the city. As the police bosses enumerate their list of successes, the rapid increase in the number of armed robberies in various markets of Lahore exposes their lack of preparedness.
What is the use of close circuit tv cameras (CCTVs) in markets and how can police put an end to this lawlessness? In the last 12 months, more than 3,500 robberies at busy shopping centres as well as ordinary shops were reported throughout the city. A number of such incidents went unreported because of lack of police interest in registering FIRs. During these hits, property worth over Rs 130 million was looted or stolen. Despite the existence of specific investigative units and presence of over 2,000 CCTVs at major shopping centres, police could recover property worth Rs 25 million, only 19 per cent of the total looted amount.
As to how much insecure they feel in the deteriorating law and order situation, Mohammad Ahmed, Chairman Sarrafa (Jewelers) Association says, "There is no proper police patrolling in Ichhra market, one of the leading business places in the city. Should we leave our business or the city? We, the tax-payers, are unsafe in the city and our business is at stake."
Police have failed to arrest incidents of dacoity and robbery, especially in commercial centres. On the other hand, murders on resistance during crime against property are on the rise. Despite repeated warnings by the highups, no significant progress has so far been made by the police to arrest the situation, he says.
Khalid Hassan, owner of a departmental store in Shadman Market, says police's tactics to show performance to their high-ups on the basis of manipulated facts and false evidences have resulted in further increase in the number of criminals and less convictions by the courts.
Office-bearers of Mashriq Building Auto Spareparts Market Traders Association, Montgomery Road Lahore, including the President, Sheikh Siddique-ur-Rehman, are of the view that as police and private security guards have failed miserably to provide effective security to the business community, each and every trader of the major business centres of the city, should be issued licenses and permits for carrying and keeping automatic weapons to cope with incidents of armed robberies. "The process of issuance of licenses to the traders by the government should be quick and hassle-free. With availability of licensed weapons in large numbers, the traders will have an edge over the burglars whenever such a situation arises," they say.
Moreover, they suggest that there ought to be a strict check of the city administration on the markets that remain open till late night. The trend of opening late-night bazaars that has picked up in the past couple of years, is also adding to the incidents of dacoities in these bazaars.
The office-bearers of the Hall Road Traders Association say that installation of CCTV cameras and enhanced police patrolling in addition to private guards could go a long way in bringing down the number of incidents of robbery in markets. "The policemen deputed for the security of the traders at Hall Road generally remain absent from their duty most of the time. Furthermore, there must be an effective mechanism in place for timely arrest of the robbers whose glimpses are captured by CCTV cameras."
In a robbery incident a few weeks ago, four armed gunmen entered a shop near Yateem Khana Chowk and looted cash and other valuables worth lakhs of rupees from the shopkeeper, Ahmed Nawaz and the customers who happened to be present there. The outlaws also thrashed them severely on putting up resistance and made off with the booty.
In another incident, the jeweller community in the city went on a shutter down strike, shortly after five gangsters shot and wounded three innocent children and a shopkeeper and escaped after collecting gold ornaments worth over Rs 10 million in a daylight robbery in the commercial locality of Ichhra, some five months back.
The armed bandits took out automatic weapons, held up the shopkeeper at gunpoint and collected each and every thing available in the jeweller's shop, putting the gold ornaments into the bags. The robbers opened indiscriminate fire to harass the victims, passers-bys and the other shopkeepers, and broke the windowpanes of several shops.
Three minor children Habib, Shaharyar and Nauman were playing in the street when they sustained bullet injuries .The owner of the shop also sustained minor injuries as pieces of windowpanes hit his body in the firing, The armed bandits collected 4 kilogram gold ornaments and fled away on their two-wheelers from the commercial locality, situated few meters away from the Ichhra police station.
In reaction to this incident, the local traders attempted to block the main Ferozepur Road by setting the tyres on fire. They suspended the traffic flow for several hours. The business community chanted slogans against the deteriorating law and order and flayed the government and the police for its failure to provide protection to the life and property of the tax-paying people.
In another incident in October 2006, gangsters made away with goods worth millions of rupees after the city police claimed that 176 gangs had been smashed. Six dacoits burst into three different jewelry shops in Mustafabad Area, collected gold ornaments worth over Rs 10 million and escaped.
The gangsters stormed into the shops, held up the businessmen and started looting at a time when the top cops were present in an official meeting, being presided over by the Chief Minister Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to review their commitment to provide protection to the life and property of the people.
The forsaken breed
The authorities' solution for getting rid of the strays might be simple but a killing spree.is hardly compassionate
By Sonya Rehman
In any third-world country where crime is endemic, where the words 'law and order' are looked upon with a contemptuous snicker and where corruption lays nestled deep within the grassroots, it is no wonder that animals (primarily strays) are considered a nuisance. But doesn't it make you wonder, when you drive/stroll past a street littered with bags of rotting filth, or perhaps when you open the paper in the morning and the first headline that catches your eye is: 'Girl falls prey to honour killing on Women's Day' as to who the 'animal' really is?
A few months ago on one of the city's main roads, I happened to spot a stray with her legs bashed (perhaps by an aimless driver who delights in road kill) crawl feebly to a garbage bin. It made my stomach churn. Not being able to find her the next day (as I purposely drove through that very area to feed her), I was miserable. Examples such as this are common; almost every individual in the city has been witness to an act of cruelty to an animal or the plight of the stray.
And at moments like this it makes you wonder how many have suffered or are suffering at that very minute. How long would it take before death arrives to put these animals to eternal tranquil sleep? How much does it really take to stop and help them in a situation such as this one? Having lived in the third world and seeing inequality, poverty and corruption so ripe and apparent, has it transformed our empathy into senseless apathy? Have we really become this anesthetised to animals, this insensitive?
And so, what 'solution' do the authorities find with regard to getting these strays off the road? Simple: they assign a few men to go on an extensive and brutal killing spree. But that hasn't solved the 'problem' now has it? Instead, why aren't small veterinary teams assigned to certain areas to neuter male dogs and surgically sterilise the female ones? Also, it's not as if each district has strays in each and every nook and corner -- dogs either move in small packs or are spread out. Proper medical treatment, although longer and much more empathetic (in comparison to brutally exterminating), is bound to bring about desired results.
What's the point of hunting and killing strays when their rate of reproduction is three-fold? With regard to dogs plagued with rabies and other maladies, many would argue the fact that people are at a serious risk, which they no doubt are, but those strays that are beyond the stage of cure and treatment, can be put to sleep (via injections) without having to be terrorised and shot at point-blank.
With regard to working animals (primarily donkeys, horses and mules), the Brooke Animal Hospital in Lahore, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Edhi Foundation's animal shelter and pockets of others spread over the country, do what they know best but perhaps it just isn't good enough. Perhaps what is now needed is something bigger and better -- something on a mass scale that is continuous and not simply one-off.
With enough local and foreign funding, community efforts and joint collaborations, treating the strays for rabies and other diseases can be achieved. It's all perfectly doable because even if local aid falls flat, foreign support and relief is particularly generous. With effective collaborative measures, determination and plenty of compassion, no stray will ever have to suffer another day.
1. Maula Baksh Paan Shop, Regal Chowk.
2. Baoo Paan Shop, Saddar.
3. Barra Paan Shop, Royal Park.
4. Shammi Paan Shop, Moon Market, Iqbal Town.
5. Billa Paan Shop, Garhi Shahu.
6. Jaidi Paan Shop, H Block, Defence.
7. Aas Paan Shop, Tibbi.
8. Haidri Paan Shop, Lakshmi Chowk.
9. Ashiq Paan Shop, Liberty.
10. Pardesi Paan Shop, Old Anarkali
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