Karachi through the eyes of the innocent
Can this be called the innocence of Muslims? – Photo by AFP
A Dawn.com staff member narrates his journey from a mosque in Karachi’s DHA locality towards the office during the “Yaum-i-Ishq-i-Rasool” protests on Friday.
2:30 PM: The purpose of standing side by side with your Muslim brothers in congregation during Friday prayers, be it anywhere in the world, is to achieve unison, a peace of mind, and social as well as spiritual contentment. Unfortunately, as I made my way out of one of the largest mosque’s located in the DHA area of Karachi, I saw countless children leading a contingent of ‘namaazis’ (prayer attendees) outside the main gate without even attending the post prayer ‘dua.’
I heard some of them say, “We are late. Hurry! Hurry!” As I wondered why they were happily running outside, I saw a huge American flag painted on the road right outside the mosque where the children began assembling in a circular group with flags, banners, effigies and loud speakers they unloaded from a pickup van.
As I made my way out of this before things got out of hand I saw helpless DHA police just standing outside their vans telling each other to only standby.
2:45 PM: I made my way into the narrow streets and back alleys of DHA Phase II, trying to find a car mechanic due to an emergency, avoiding the main roads as I had rightly assumed that after their ‘spiritual attainment in congregation’ the namaazis would begin ‘terrorising’ the citizens of Karachi.
To my amazement, every nook and corner had small groups of protestors (mostly children, who had enough confidence in them to scare away passersby with facial expressions, hand signals and often verbal taunts) assembling into larger contingents chanting with effigies, with tyres in hand (ready to be burnt) and sticks carved out of any material possible.
Alas, I gave up my search for a mechanic and began my quest to return home which was mathematically just 120 seconds away from where I was. Obviously this was no situation for any math, just like there is never any place for any education. It took me a whole 20 minutes to get home after trying four different possible routes including the main ‘Kaala Pul,’ which had been blocked by an extremely large hoard of protestors burning whatever they could get their hands on.
4:30 PM: To make my way to the Dawn.com office located on Dr Zia-ud-din Ahmed Road, I was told that only one route was open. As I made my way to the routes leading to that ‘specific route’ I felt danger creeping up on me slowly but surely since the anger and resentment within the protestors only grew as time went by.
Funnily, the previously heavily-guarded road which used to house the US consulate, was completely open and ‘protest-free.’
At the end of the road, at Hotel Metropole, was another large gathering of protestors, with ambulances, police, and rangers standing by. I found my way through them and took a left onto ‘Club Road’ where one ‘blocking container’ had been forcefully removed. However, upon reaching the end, I found the road was blocked again by rising fumes and smoke along with a gathering in the middle of both the giant five-star hotels opposite the PIDC bridge.
5:30 PM: What surprised me the most was the literal ‘state of anarchy’ as I tried to make my way through, watching any and every boy or man on the street, some wearing a robber-like scarf, wielding bandanas and sticks, on motor-bikes or bus tops, some looking like educated middle-class citizens with all the time in the world on their hands, plunder/bulldoze whatever came in their way. I saw no ‘force’ or ‘authority’ trying to put a stop or even trying to quell any of this, it seemed that they had simply evaporated.
Those who were able to confidently make their way around were heavily guarded with protocols in tinted cars and jeeps.
After making a third round of the Saddar area, which looked like the only possible way through, I pushed my way, sometimes u-turning, sometimes praying and sometimes trying to be like one of them, through fires, chants, smoke, sticks, and in other words ‘ultimate chaos.’ I had luckily found a way which I would consider ‘a peaceful way through’, but then came another thud…just a few minutes away from my destination. I nearly crashed my car head-on into a three-protestor motorbike, escaping by a few inches, which who was obviously coming the wrong way. Upon telling them to move, the main rider gave me an angry stare and told me to reverse, and so I did.
6:00 PM: Inching towards the office, I faced a final self-created hurdle. Frustration and tiredness grew upon me and as I swerved my car left and right amongst the protestors, who I had seemingly become a part of, I ran over an angry and bearded protestor’s foot. As I looked at him through my rear-view mirror, I could see him staring at me with all the fury in the world maybe striking my car with a big stick or stone. I hurriedly waved a sign of apology (through my mirror) and finally reached the safe point, my office.