Lessons from the Islamabad Fiasco

by Abdul Majeed

(This is a useless post because Pakistan and Pakistanis have steadfastly refused to learn any lessons from the past).


On 15th August 2013,a middle aged man in the Capital of Islamic Republic of Pakistan started aerial firing in the middle of the city. He started firing into the air in the central Jinnah Avenue neighbourhood — less than a kilometre from the presidency and parliament buildings — after being stopped for a traffic violation on Thursday afternoon, police said, according to the report published by AFP. He was holding a Sub Machine Gun in one hand and a Klashnikov in the other. He was accompanied by a Burqa clad woman and two children in his car. Negotiations were started with the man by Islamabad Police but to no avail. The saga continued for more than five hours and most of the electronic media was transfixed on this issue for that duration. It was described as a Bollywood movie sequence by one channel and a Hollywood scenario by another. Later, different TV Channels interviewed the guy and his wife alternately. The drop scene occurred when a local politician Zamurd Khan physically tackled the guy and brought this fiasco to an end. Some of my observations about this are as follows:

State, What State?

In the last two months since the new government took over, an average of four bomb blasts have taken place per day in the country. A Jail containing dangerous militants was broken with expertise, foreigners were killed at a trekking camp thousands of feet above ground, police officers have been killed mercilessly from Quetta to Chilas, a national heritage site in Ziarat has been burnt to ground, a Judge has been killed within court premises, a bomb even targetted the foodstreet in Lahore. In this background, a mentally unstable guy starts shooting in the air with a submaachine gun in the middle of the Capital, and it takes five hours to bring him down. Writing on the wall says that Capacity of Pakistani State to protect its citizens has eroded. We are each, to our own now.

Emergency Response?

Considering the fact that state has abdicated its responsibilities, the lack of a “hostage specialist team” to deal with such incidents is alarming. Hundreds of kidnappings have taken place in major cities of Pakistan(Read the latest report by BBC on “Flash Kidnappings”) and terrorists have used hostages as bargaining chips previously. Why can’t our police force have a specialist unit to deal with such situations by now. Oh Wait, we do have an “Elite Force”, most of whom are performing “Protocol Duties” alongside VIPs.If political parties in Karachi can have “Target Killer” Squads, Why can’t the Police and Rangers hire a few snipers?

Common Sense

For a ratings-hungry electronic media, this incident was like manna from heaven. Sikander and his enatrouge were enacting a wet-dream of a news program director. The mature response from the media would have been to kill the coverage after the initial hour because people who pull such stunts are craving for attention. It doesn’t take a post-graduate degree in psychology to figure THAT out. But No Sir, our media is not a mature institution and  they proved last night that they would go to ANY lengths to increase their ratings. Non-Stop coverage was accorded to Sikander and his stunt, while thousands of lives were being endangered by floods in different parts of the country. Evidently, Sikander’s marital details and pictures were more important that the hundreds of protestors dying in Egypt. The worst aspect, in my humble opinion, was the attitude of anchors towards Sikander and his wife. First of All, talking to such people on live Telly is a major blunder, then acting as a trauma counsellor or a psychiatrist is not the job description for news anchors(last time I checked). This was an unnecessary action by our erstwhile “Free Media” that considers itself “Free” from even ethical boundaries. It proved that even Media is failing badly as an institution, like the rest of our country(Amir Liaqat dug the grave of media sensibility during his Ramzan Shows). The Laal Masjid Incident many years ago was the starting point for 24/7 media frenzy, It has sadly not died down after so many years.

Brave or Foolhardy?
I remember what a friend of mine once said to me during my newfound activism days: “There is a thin line between bravery and being Foolhardy”. Zamurd Khan and Nabil Gabol, two politicians from different parties, crossed that line last night. Getting up close and personal with a volatile person who was armed to the teeth is not a sign of bravery. While a foolhardy act did bring down the scene, it was extremely dangerous and uncalled for. We, as a nation, have resorted to hero worship, and the lionization of Zamurd Khan is one latest example.

Nation of Voyeurs
This is not the first incident or instance that people gathered at the scene just for the sake of watching the proceedings. At every traffic accident, skirmish or even a punctured tire, Pakistanis are in a habit to gather around that place to “watch”. While a burst tyre is not a risk to life in most cases, watching a “Police Encounter” is not a mature reaction. There was media outrage when cameramen and reporters were forced by the police towards the periphery.!! This appetite for “Voyeurism” is very unhealthy.

The Aftermath
The “demand” of the the clearly drugged man was “Imposition of Sharia” and “Dissolution of Current Government”. It was said in hushed tones by many right-wing commentators(I’m looking at you Javed Ch and Talat Hussain) that the “demand” was right but the “methodology” was incorrect. It shows the mental level of those anchors and many of their viewers that ANYONE with a demand for Sharia imposition HAS to be right. Thus, there is a constant confusion in our society about rights and wrongs as TTP and their ilk are also demanding the same thing, while taking part in atrocious activities. Sikander and his (alleged) wife have been arrested and would be presented before court some day. Based on recent judgements and actions of our courts, they may be released.!! After all, Sikander is not a bigger terrorist than Hafiz Saeed or Malik Ishaq, who are rotting in Jai…Oh.

Comments are closed.