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Footprints: Scars that run deep

Updated October 20, 2017

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HE attacks girls, he attacks young women and he attacks older women, shattering the confidence of all.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
HE attacks girls, he attacks young women and he attacks older women, shattering the confidence of all.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

“IS he playing ‘catch me if you can’ with the police?”

“Who is he and why is he doing this?”

People are asking, questioning, as the mysterious knife attacker of Karachi’s East district remains at large. As soon as the police think they have caught him, there is another attack.

“Could there be more than one attacker?”

Twelve-year-old N of Gulshan-i-Iqbal says she saw her assailant casually leaning against the wall of a mosque with his bike parked next to him. He was wearing a black helmet and gloves. “It was a little before Isha prayers. I was with my younger brother and two cousins, one of whom I was carrying in my arms. We were heading to the nearby shop. After getting what I wanted I turned and bent down a little to let my cousin, whom I was carrying, down so that he could walk on his own,” she says.

“That’s when from the corner of my eye I saw him get on his bike and touch me as he rode past. I thought he was an eve-teaser and tried grabbing him to make him fall off his bike. I felt something scratch my fingers, making me lose my grip,” she explains, “and then he sped off.”

“I didn’t realise that he had also hurt me elsewhere until I was near my home and saw the blood. I was bleeding from the right hip. My parents rushed me to the nearest clinic where the doctor cleaned and dressed my wound. He said I had not exactly been cut but my flesh had been punctured. My injury was from some kind of a drill — like a thin dentist’s drill? It is mind-boggling,” she says.

H says that she was also walking to a nearby shop with another woman from their apartment block in Gulistan-i-Jauhar at night when she saw a motorcyclist zoom past them as he touched her from behind. “I only felt him brush past me, and cursed him loudly for touching me. Then my neighbour noticed the blood on my shalwar. He had cut me with something sharp, like a razor or a knife. There was a deep gash on my right hip,” she says.

R, another resident of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, says that she was attacked near the Metropolitan School at around 10.30pm. “I thought the motorcyclist nudging past me wanted my purse, but he vanished after touching me. When I put my hand there, it was red with my own blood. I ran home in a panic and my mother rushed me to the nearest hospital where it was confirmed that I had been attacked by a sharp object, possibly a knife,” she says.

Sixteen-year-old Z was also attacked in a similar fashion near her home in Gulistan-i-Jauhar, as was S in Gulshan- i-Jamal. But unlike the others, who say that their attacker was dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt with a black helmet and gloves, S says that her attacker was wearing a beige shalwar kameez and a red helmet. “Could the [Pakistani] Taliban be behind this? They can make women stay indoors out of fear this way,” she wonders aloud.

Meanwhile, P says that the attacker tried to come for her when she and her daughter were walking on the road near Rabia City in Gulistan-i-Jauhar at around 11pm. But he missed and cut her daughter instead, injuring her right hip. “We had heard about the knife attacker in our area but we never thought that we would also become his victim,” she says. “There have been so many incidents now, and despite so many arrests, the police don’t have the real culprit. One day we see on the news that he has been caught, then the next day we hear of another attack along the same lines. Will he ever be caught? Are we going to live in fear for the rest of our lives,” she asks.

The police have been carrying out checks randomly but that has amounted only to further traffic congestion and the inconveniencing of people. There have been protests to put pressure on the government to catch the culprit but the officials only have statements to make regarding the matter. The police say there is no similarity between the victims so he is not after any particular sort of woman. They only know that the criminal, for some strange reason, is carrying out his attacks in East district.

Dangerous criminals are known for waving guns at their victims to get them to do whatever they ask them to do but this criminal is not interested in guns. Neither is he interested in stealing or robbing from anyone, though through his attacks he has robbed several women of their confidence. The cuts may not be deep, but the emotional scars are.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2017