Blood and Tears

This is insane.

I’m sitting in front of the television, one eye on the screen, the other on my laptop, feeling like a hysterical drama-queen because despite everything that I’ve grown up with in Karachi across the years, I don’t know if I can handle this. karachiriots2.jpgAnd I feel a bit stupid for being so affected by it—I’ve seen and lived through worse, and I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of town that will (most likely) not be affected by what is happening, but I can’t help it.

Karachi seems to have gone completely mental. Dozens of cars on fire. Even more people dead and/or injured. And no one knows why.

There are about a hundred different conspiracy theories flying around about what has prompted this day-long blood-bath in Karachi, but from what I’ve managed to glean, the basic story goes something like this: the (fired) Chief Justice of Pakistan was supposed to come to Karachi this morning to address his supporters and the MQM, a political party that has historically controlled Karachi since inception decades ago, and is more of a cult than anything else, decided to hold “rallies” to counter his speeches. The current opposition parties, held rallies in the city to welcome the ousted CJP, and not to be outdone, the MQM decided to support the government.

How they’re managing to support the government by gunning down strangers on the streets, setting fire to vehicles, firing at apartment buildings in which defenceless mothers with six-month-old children cower, and threatening to storm private television channels—well, that’s beyond me. There are over fifty people dead—I have friends who work in the hospitals where people have been taken; the gunmen have fired on ambulances carrying injured people to the hospital and riddled them with bullets; there are snipers atop apartment buildings and lurking in junctions leading off of Shahrah-e-Faisal, which is effectively a transport artery for Karachi and a route that is almost impossible to avoid using if crossing any significant distance in the city, and all through it, the mother-fucking police are lying on benches taking naps, their shoes off, socks rolled down, moving their cars out of the area, and frog-marching unarmed men into the hands of these violent SOBs, standing there and watching as they beat the shit out of some poor guy with the butts of their rifles, and not doing a damn’ thing to stop it. I’m actually feeling physically nauseated. And never more so than when I see government spokespeople claiming that there’s absolutely no issue, nothing going on, no need for the Army or any other authority to step in and curb the violence. The head of the Aaj TV newsroom sounds slightly hysterical as he tells people that he has been asking for some sort of help from every major policing agency in the country for six hours, and hasn’t even received an acknowledgement. The spokesman for the MQM swears—as in the background, men wave his party’s flag and fire guns off at the same time—that if not for his party’s efforts, the city would be in ruins already, and that blood would be filling the streets.

There are dead bodies lying in the streets, and above them, in a display of jarring incongruity, is a sign stating that 2007 is the year of tourism for Pakistan, and I think that if I don’t laugh I’m going to cry, because how did this happen to us again? The scenes flashing past me look like images from Beirut or Baghdad, or Sarajevo. People crying, blood everywhere, fire licking at anything even remotely flammable, and no matter where you turn, moustachioed thugs with Kalashnikovs and carbines, firing at anything that moves. And I can’t understand why—that’s what freaks me out more than anything else; I’m used to the violence, I grew up with it in the 1980s, with the bomb drills in school and the mobs outside the gates and the whole nine yards, but I simply cannot understand what sort of twisted game is being played between the government and the political factions that support and/or oppose it. In this short-term move, do they have a fucking CLUE as to how much harm they’re doing? How quickly they’re devastating a city that has taken so long to actually start living again? People are scared, and rightfully so—because there’s no real method or logic to this behaviour—no one knows what to expect.

Sunday has been declared “a Black Day”, with all the inappropriate grammar, spelling, and illogic that could be mustered, by people who are most likely affiliated in some way with the people who have perpetrated this travesty of protest. The TV channels keep flashing back to this one particular instant of a man standing up, his hand clasped to his neck, chest dotted with scarlet; and his hand falls, he stumbles, a spray of blood arcing into the air, and he slides to the ground, trembling a few times before he falls completely still.

Musharraf is about to make a speech. If I haven’t thrown something at my TV screen and destroyed it in the meanwhile, I’ll come back with more later.

134 thoughts on “Blood and Tears

  1. My parents where refugees from East Pakistan and came to Calcutta and I don’t believe they ever had any special name for them. Theter is a football club called East Bengal who’s supporters generally came from East Pakistan and othe Kolkatans support Mohun Bagan.

  2. byw correct me if I’m wrong. But didn’t Pakistan do to the refugees as the arab world did to the Palestinians. They put them in refugee camp and didn’t give them citizenship?

  3. I don’t believe they ever had any special name for them

    In both West Bengal and Assam, the word for immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is bangal (foreigner). In West Bengal, the word is often contrasted with the word ghoTi used to identify the non-immigrants. People with mixed ancestry are referred to as baaTi.

  4. I’ve been disconnected this weekend, and am only now seeing this, but you and your family and the Karachi-based mutineers are in my thoughts and prayers, Sin, and so are the good people of Karachi. Coretta Scott King used to quote Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere;” at some level oppression anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere, and war anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere. Justice, liberty, and peace need each other to stand. When I first read Amardeep’s post on the CJP, it really hit me that a free, peaceful, & truly prosperous Pakistan would be a boon for every desi–and every citizen of the world, as with every other nation. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Take care and be safe.

  5. 104: dude, I don’t think it’s that simple. Bangal & Ghoti goes back way before partition or even the British partition of Bengal. There has always been a dialect difference between the East & West, documented even in the 15th century. Bangal & Ghoti refers to whether your ancestral village is west or east, and plenty of Indian West Bengalis, who have lived in West Bengal since long before partition, consider themselves Bangal, even if they’ve lost the dialect completely. The difference is primarily preserved in cooking preferences–I believe, for example, that dry versus wet posto (poppy seeds) is a Bangal versus Ghoti preference.

  6. If you can, sin, would you please update us? Network news is one thing, hearing it from a source means more. Thanks.

  7. What sort of rotten English is this? How am I supposed to parse “the fired Chief Justice of Pakistan was supposed to come to Karachi this morning to address his supporters and the MQM, a political party that has historically controlled Karachi since inception decades ago, and is more of a cult than anything else, decided to hold ‘rallies’ to counter his speeches.

    Where did that ‘decided‘ verb come from all of a sudden? Did you mean to say the MQM (i) controlled Karachi, (ii) is a cult, and (iii) decided to hold rallies? If so, your ‘and‘ belongs before (iii) ‘decided‘ not before (ii) ‘is a cult‘.

    Did you mean, instead, that the fired Chief Justice, who was supposed to blah blah blah, decided to hold rallies against his own speeches? Unlikely, but, hey, this is Karachi, anything can happen.

    Come on, pay attention to grammar (if you can’t cope with commas, don’t be afraid to uses parentheses like these – or, for that matter, dashes like I just now used; as a last resort, use semicolons)! Whatever you do, please, please, I beg you, please, don’t hurt me anymore with unparseable text.

  8. 104: dude, I don’t think it’s that simple. Bangal & Ghoti goes back way before partition or even the British partition of Bengal. There has always been a dialect difference between the East & West, documented even in the 15th century. Bangal & Ghoti refers to whether your ancestral village is west or east, and plenty of Indian West Bengalis, who have lived in West Bengal since long before partition, consider themselves Bangal, even if they’ve lost the dialect completely.

    I am actually aware of some of this stuff and I find it utterly fascinating. That’s roots and culture.

  9. Since there are 108 posts I guess this is the ideal time for me to write here to you. many of my friends are pakistani, but we don’t discuss this subject much because on some level we understand we’re mostly powerless.

    i believe that the natural end to musharraf’s military rule is approaching. this is the death knell. i’m about to make a flippant, maybe insensitive comment but the birthing process of a baby and a democracy are both painful. i hope it’s as bloodless as possible– we want you to come join india and south asia so we can get to the business of mutual prosperity and freedom! jai hind!

    Valmiki the Younger

    http://thestonedsage.blogspot.com/

    1. Btw what are the immigrants to India from Pakistan called?

    Refugees. Even though they were never persecuted like the Mohajirs in Pakistan, the Punjabis went through their share of angst and eventually added their own character to Delhi. They are the nouveau riche of the city who replaced the Old Delhi/Urdu culture. I have this theory (might be totally wrong)..the 1984 anti-Sikh riots reflected the resentment of the non-Panjabis like the Jats.

    http://neelmanijbhatia.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/04/partitioned-india-another-break-up-in-the-offing.htm

    Original Delhiites looked down upon Punjabis taking them as intruders come to usurp their right to land . The landed elements in Haryana and the business communities did not like this ‘intrusion’ by Punjabis into their strongholds and ever after 56 years of partition this divide still exists. The so called refugees while setting up their own shopping centres in colonies of Delhi and surrounding satellite towns also made serious dents into the business of established local traders. As a result of their dynamism, business acumenship and keen business spirit, these Punjabis soon drove out those local traders from their establishments and took over their trade, shops and properties. Thus not only set up flourishing markets like Karol Bagh, which effectively competed with highly developed and prestigious market like Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk but also purchased shops in the latter markets thereby ousting the erstwhile owners.”

  10. Dear Vivek:

    Re:

    “Message to Paki brothers. Actually what you sow is what you reap.

    So there.

    My heartfelt condolences by the way.”

    Dear Vivek:

    Your comment displays deliberate and gross ignorance of history, politics, and power. The limits and simplicity of your intellectual capacity demand an equally simple response: the thoughts expressed in your post are racist – but I don’t expect you to grasp this. Whatever you may have been trying to convey, your sarcastic tone comes across as meaningless cheap bigotry – only emphasizing your complete lack of knowledge – and has no place on a forum such as SM.

  11. In both West Bengal and Assam, the word for immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is bangal (foreigner). In West Bengal, the word is often contrasted with the word ghoTi used to identify the non-immigrants.

    Never ever heard it, honest to god. My parents live in Kolkata as we speak, I’m there regularly. We are hindu immigrants frpm East Pakistan, muslim immigrants from Bangladesh is another issue. But people are very aware of that they came from East Pakistan initially.

    True about the East/West division being there before the partition, the football club East Bengal existed before the partition and was supported by people from East Bengal that migrated to Kolkata.

    Some of you might be surprised with the soccer refrences, but soccer is actually cery popular in Kolkata and the clubs are divided in ethnic/religious lines just as in europe between protestants and catholics.

  12. I think it’s kind of amusing that there are no less than four instances on this post’s commentary that say, “well, clearly, the violence is because of…” and then go on to ennumerate any number of reasons which would hold a good conspiracy theorist in thrall for, gosh…years.

    The only people who truly understand why the MQM is doing what it’s doing would be the MQM.

    I’m fairly upset at the almost complete absence of coverage in the American MSM. You’d think that violence in the streets of the capital of a “key American ally” in the War on Terror would warrant some airtime, huh?

  13. i’m about to make a flippant, maybe insensitive comment but the birthing process of a baby and a democracy are both painful. i hope it’s as bloodless as possible– we want you to come join india and south asia so we can get to the business of mutual prosperity and freedom! jai hind!

    More than flippant or insensitive your comment is just plain naive and ignorant:

    1. When Pakistan had a democratically elected government it wasnt exactly a friend of India. Remember Kargil? Its nuclear bomb program targeting India was the initiative of its elected leader Bhutto, not any military dictator. Bangladesh is currently a democracy and it is no friend of India either. Democracy in Pakistan could easily lead to an Islamist government. As it stands now Musharraf and his supporters are the most secular lot in Pakistan.

    2. India has been a democracy for 60 years. Where is this prosperity you are boasting about? It is still very poor; even by third world standards. Democratic India leads the world in hunger and malnutrition, child slave labor, massive human degradation etc. In short it is a failed state. Bangladesh, also a democracy, is even poorer than India and Pakistan. There is no correlation between democracy and prosperity in south asia. For most of the period since partition Pakistan has actually been ahead of India in per capita income, which is not saying much though.

  14. Excue multiple submissions but I had to share this link which I just got via Email.

    Pakistan does have elected leaders and they are fighting :D so as long as they are doing it inside the assemblies, they don’t have to engage in street violence. I guess all is good.

  15. There isn’t much to provide in the way of updates. The city was fairly quiet all of Sunday; yesterday was a strike (which naturally meant that I went to work anyway), and almost every shop or retail outlet was pretending to be closed. Army Rangers and policemen have been deployed across Karachi (too little, too late) with “shoot on sight” orders (there’s a lovely vagueness about who’s to be shot, but one assumes it’s “perpetrators of violence”). Beyond that, the city’s still pretty quiet. There’s supposed to be yet another strike today (Tuesday), but hopefully things are sliding back towards normalcy–we’ll see in a couple of days.

    Sic Semper Tyrannis: You’ll have to forgive me for failing to take account of your tender sensibilities. You can’t see me now, but in order to redress the harm done to your exquisitely balanced nerves, I’m attempting to commit seppuku as I type this. At the time of the post, for some strange reason, I found it more important to get information out than to sit down and work on syntactic perfection. You know, with the gunshots in the background and my friends at the TV studios and hospitals calling me, I admit to being somewhat distracted (I know, I know: WHERE were my priorities?).

    sigh Why do I even bother?

  16. I thought it was interesting that Musharraf decided in response to the strike to call a National Holiday. Also quirky that Chaudhry’s lawyer accusing Musharraf of trying to ‘kidnap’ him with a helicopter. But with 400 people ‘missing’ in Pakistan, and human rights activists saying the government is to blame, I guess it isn’t that bizarre sounding.

    Sin, I hope things improve for you over the coming week and you don’t have to revisit the horrible events of this past weekend. As part of the wikipedia article, I tried to put together a section on ‘Karachi’s violent past’ with a brief summary of riots and violence in the city similar to this past weekend. After 2002 it just became overwhelming. I’ve lived in different circumstances with very different levels of ‘accepted’ violence, and it really is something to see how people respond to bloodshed.

    Thanks for shedding some light on what’s been happening overseas. I did read some of the articles online about the ambulances becoming targets (I saw something like this once, but it’s bizarre to read about it so close to home). I hope your friends working in the hospitals are okay. I pray the violence doesn’t return when Musharraf actually tries to be re-elected in a few months. Take care.

  17. Why should only sin get all the “take care and be safe”. hmph!

    We’re Paki brothers too! We’re also roaming around the streets of Karachi wearing our lives on our sleeves!

    Don’t make me make a “sepia mutiny” mutiny webpage! crosses arms and feels throughly disgusted with the lack of attention from everyone

  18. stay strong ba. and now just heard about the bomb blast in islamabad. 24 dead? it’s overwhelming even to read about it here.

    it feels like when i go outside in the summer here and say “has it always been this warm” .. not sure if it’s me or global warming. so, in that light, i know it’s been a rough ride since musharraf took control, but has it always been this bad? i would love to hear from some of my paki brothers and sisters (and yes, i am indian, not paki)

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/21-killed-in-pakistan-blast/2007/05/15/1178995150977.html

  19. I’ve been lurking on SM for a while. I found the site actually when the whole Kavya thing happened. I’m not much of a commenter on sites/forums such as this, but after reading this post – and watching/reading the news the last couple of days – I had to. I grew up in Karachi. I miss Karachi. I am half Pakistani. I live in North America, but I go back when I can. I’m worried for my friends and for some of my family that live there, and sad for the random people that lost their lives senselessly.

    It breaks my heart that this shite is going on in Karachi – and hell, in a myriad of other places in the world right now. And I know that I should ignore the trolls – as they are definitely a minority in this post – but some of these comments are sickening. In the face of things like this, can we not put politics/stereotypes/whathaveyou aside for a minute and have some compassion?

  20. Ba and all other Karachiites,

    Please stay safe and take care of yourself and eachother.

    Karachi has seen much worst violence in last tow decades than Saturday but I never heard other cities responding to it on such huge scale. Hope Karachiites get the sign and try to align with those parties who can successfully represent them on National arena.

  21. Personally, I don’t like Ponniyin. I think my dislike is far better grounded in reality than yours.

    Thanks Ikram,

    I don’t think I’m commenting here for being the “most liked” person on sepiamutiny..

    I stand by my statement that Mohajirs usurped the rights and jobs of the natives of Sindh and generally what is called Pakistan now.. They (mostly landlords and salaried class of British India) invented some BS reasons fearing their dominance is going to end in the leftist rhetoric of the Congress and invented “Islam in danger” slogan for getting Pakistan and then dominated Pakistan from the start.

    regarding the question of them not having the numbers, Pakistan has been controlled not by numbers based democracy since start and when democracy did work, Bhutto introduced some corrective measures by bringing quotas for Sindhis etc..

  22. I stand by my statement that Mohajirs usurped the rights and jobs of the natives of Sindh and generally what is called Pakistan now.. They (mostly landlords and salaried class of British India) invented some BS reasons fearing their dominance is going to end in the leftist rhetoric of the Congress and invented “Islam in danger” slogan for getting Pakistan and then dominated Pakistan from the start.

    Isn’t this what they call “use of weasel words” on Wikipedia? I feel as though it hasn’t got a great deal of actual logic to it, other than some very vague “they did this, then they did that” wording. I’m not quite sure how Muhajirs usurped anything; they were the Urdu-speaking class that moved over during/post-Partition, and most of them (including hefty chunks of my own family) had to struggle and work to be successful. What rights and jobs were usurped? The ones for which there was demand and not enough supply from the “indigenous” populace? I’m genuinely confused by this, because to me it’s nothing more than basic market forces (of a sort). And words like “usurp”, and “rights and jobs”…I find it very difficult to understand how a group of immigrants with very little backing/support-structure in place could displace entire sub-populations.

  23. rights and jobs of the natives of Sindh

    This is the same thinking and analogy, which gives rise to ethnical politics. We send them to the corner and when they are united, we make commotion. Just for the record I myself belong to Urdu speaking family but don’t support ethnic politics but do understand their legit sentiments. National parties need to find some way to reach to their hearts. If some party in United India had done it in the past, things would have been different not perfect but different.

    To get a real picture why things are like this in Pakistan read this account “Civil military alliances: A Devil’s Pact?” (It’s the third heading from the top).

  24. I agree with Sin. I could argue the point against Selvan’s inappropriate judgement to death . However, we all don’t want to waste our time like barking dogs.

    It would also be nice to keep the ‘real working class immigrants’ separate from the party politics and their agenda. Passing blanket statements like Selvan did above shows ignorance on his/her/it’s behalf towards the issue and the abysmal state of awareness amongst the masses at best. Ironically, I find it a travesty that we still racialize the “immigrants” around the world. Immigration is not a new phenomena and an ever increasing trend. Human tendency is to always search for brighter tomorrow……to blame the naturalized immigrants by 1) still eyeing them as foreign/immigrants therefore not eligible for same native rights as other citizens and 2) blaming them for all that is wrong with your tiny little self-immersed world is screaming sour grapes.

  25. I stand by my statement that Mohajirs usurped the rights and jobs of the natives of Sindh and generally what is called Pakistan now.. They (mostly landlords and salaried class of British India) invented some BS reasons fearing their dominance is going to end in the leftist rhetoric of the Congress and invented “Islam in danger” slogan for getting Pakistan and then dominated Pakistan from the start.

    Rural Sindhis were illiterate since always read this comment submitted at other thread.

  26. I stand by my statement that Mohajirs usurped the rights and jobs of the natives of Sindh and generally what is called Pakistan now.. They (mostly landlords and salaried class of British India) invented some BS reasons fearing their dominance is going to end in the leftist rhetoric of the Congress and invented “Islam in danger” slogan for getting Pakistan and then dominated Pakistan from the start.

    Rural Sindhis were illiterate since forever; read this comment submitted at other thread.

  27. Please show the concerned Photographs of the cities mentioned in Google, I write the city name and look for the historical pictures of the city but instead all different kinds of snaps and places are shown which does not match the same city and the main thing is what we are looking for is not shown. Have that corrected and sent it to Google so that in Pakistan we can see our country and where what is, and get some knowledge about it.

    Regards

    Shelton