By Bisma Tirmizi
I am a Karachiite, a person born and raised in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. Come this past Sunday ten terrorists entered through the front gate of my home, created mayhem, chaos, frenzy and tried to kill the spirit of Karachi. They ripped my soul entirely, rattled my sense of security, demoralized my hope, but as Shakespeare aptly said, `The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Today we must speak up as a nation, today we must put the blame in the mirror, today we must rise and take our city back. The power is always with the masses, the power is always with the middle class, the power is always with the Awaam, let the sleeping giant wake up; we the commoners, we the people, we the Karachiites. It’s time to take our home back and finish the ones from other lands, the aliens!
Karachi of my wonder years was beautiful, my beautiful city by the sea. What have they done to you? There is so much I want to write on the rape of my city but I digress, today I must write about the carnage at the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. Come Sunday morning I turned on the TV and the image staring back at me stunned me to the bone, three jet liners, Karachi airport, fire, terrorists; a nightmare unfolding live. Being an expatriate and a diehard Karachiite leaves me in a constant state of conundrum, where is my loyalty? What am I doing miles away as my city burns, I feel like Nero playing the fiddle. And then I realized that my friend was to land at Karachi airport that very hour. Frantic Facebook messages and searches began; I found her stranded at Dubai International Airport, tired, frustrated, scared. The Arabs were not granting visas to anyone who was in transit, their mantra, `wait’. Dubai airport was packed with Karachi bound passengers, they kept coming in hoards but their outbound flight to Karachi was grounded, delayed, pending.
Weighed down and heavy-hearted I looked in the mirror and asked myself, will this self-correct, or do we need a Salah ad din Ayubi to fix this for us, is this too emotional a reaction? My dilemma as a diaspora is expected, but with the variety of uncertainties that Karachi throws my way, I finally find myself cracking, why you ask me? Because if the terrorists can penetrate the Karachi airport, they can penetrate any facility, what is safe anymore, what does the word SAFE mean to the people of Karachi, and the people headed to Karachi. And the answer I find in the moment is sad, pathetic and hopeless beyond measure. I tell myself that it is safe to go home to Karachi, to land and takeoff from Jinnah Terminal because the airport incident has already happened and lightning does not strike the same sight twice. And that is exactly the answer I got from the Karachi residents who took off for different destinations come June 9th from Jinnah Terminal. If this is not despondent, what is?
The people of Karachi go about their business as if nothing happened and the Karachi bound expatriates also go back home as if nothing happened, and to think that this is a normal day in the life of a Karachite, local or expatriate, is appalling, disgraceful, despairing. I am an optimist, and could quote many a Rumi quotes, Iqbal and Faiz poetry, a saying from Confucius, an apt echo of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah to bring our morale up, but a poet, writer, philosopher, sufi saint and a leader from the days of the yore can do nothing; this is our time and the onus is upon us.
MQM says Karachi belongs to them, PTI says Karachi should belongs to them, PML, the owner of the federal government, the current principal of the school called Pakistan says, Karachi, you matriculation candidate, you can fail for all I care, you are the metropolis, you are the melting pot, why don’t you just melt away and disintegrate, my only duty is to the province of Punjab, ISI is too focused on that so called Indian run Television network, PPP is a party of thugs who has never done anything for Karachi considering Z. A. Bhutto called Karachi his home.
So who are we left with, the brave soldiers of the Pakistan Army and the ASF, their courage and valour this past Sunday night was remarkable, we are forever indebted to them for securing for us our immediate future, we are forever indebted to them for keeping our airlines in the skies, they fell and in turn held an entire nation up. How do we honour their sacrifice? How do we ever pay homage to soldiers who took the bullet that was meant for us.
What is the diaspora to do? Are we to let the city burn and see our families back home suffer the misery of everyday like in Karachi? Are we to visit come summer, winter or spring break? Are we to feel right at home with Hamlet in his confused and miserable state of to be or not to be that is the question? Should we stay or should we go? Are we to act like our politicians, a cowardly bunch of people who cannot decide on peace talks or decisive action against the extremists, local or foreigners? And then I look at the social network, the twitter feed and Facebook; everybody who was heading back home this summer is still heading home. Yes we are scared, yes we take a risk, yes there are a multitude of questions and absolutely no answers, yes there is no apparent solution in sight, but then what are we to do, not go home to a city we once called home?
And then I remember my cousin’s voice echoing from the past, it was the eighties, I was an impressionable teenager, and the Daily Dawn’s headline read, Kabul Airport Hit. I vividly remember thinking how do people survive in Kabul, Tehran and Baghdad, the war torn cities of that era. They’ll come here one day, these freedom fighters will soon have nothing to do and they’ll come here. They are here and we are here and one of us has to leave, which one is it going to be? I think it’s time to clean house and tell our uninvited guests that they have overstayed their welcome. It’s time to show them the exit door, close it behind them and lose the key forever.