KARACHI: Whether it is a wedding celebration, moon sighting, national day or some other moment of joy or a happy occasion, people in the country resort to celebratory gunfire without considering harmful consequences of their senseless acts.
While a larger number of unsuspecting individuals fall victim to celebratory gunfire every year, at least four people were killed and 279 suffered bullet wounds on the eves of either New Year or Independence Day since 2020 in the provincial metropolis.
On this Independence Day alone, a man and a woman were killed in the city and 100 others were wounded in incidents of so-called celebratory firing.
Sadly most such violent incidents go unreported and ordeals of the victims are never told to wide audience.
“My son went out around 11pm on the night of August 13 to purchase a few things. We live in Quaidabad and every year intense firing is carried around this time in neighbourhood. I had advised him to come back before 12am, but on his way back, his leg was shot,” Razia Bibi, whose 17-year-old son Kamran was wounded, told Dawn.
Celebratory gunfire ruins scores of lives every year; victims call on authorities to rein in the menace
The bullet struck the knee causing extensive damage to the joint and heavy bleeding.
The joint has become hollow and now it is up to Kamran as to whether to go for an artificial limb or use a walking aid for mobility.
“My child was only beginning his life. We don’t have the finances to fund his treatment, he himself was earning to finance his education and now he is paralysed maybe for as long as he is alive,” said Ms Razia amid sobbing sound as she tried to keep up with the telephonic conversation with Dawn.
“This can be anyone’s loved one. For God’s sake, stop aerial firing. Every year it takes away precious lives, leaves thousands of people wounded. Is this your celebration of independence? Is this how you celebrate it with blood on your hands of those who’re a part of this nation?” Ms Razia questioned.
When she was asked did her family expect any justice, she went quiet for some time and said: “How are you supposed to find the carrier of a blind bullet? I didn’t let my family register an FIR, because I know there is no point. This city is huge, where are they supposed to find that one shooter who paralysed my son?” she said.
In another incident in Lyari, a man was shot by a stray bullet when he was sleeping on his roof.
He was identified as Mohammad Qasim, and his family has refused to give any further information about their location. However, Dawn managed to speak to Ms Qasim.
“I had told him (Mr Qasim) not to sleep on roof that night. He did not listen to me. The neighbourhood was out of power, and since ours is a small house, it was very suffocating inside. He went upstairs around 10pm; his usual sleeping time. Around 12:30am, we heard him screaming, my children rushed upstairs to see him bleeding. We rushed him to the hospital, but he stopped breathing midway,” she said.
“He was the sole breadwinner of our family. I have three daughters; one is getting married in two months. We’ve lost our entire world. I can’t believe he is gone, I wish I would have stopped him forcefully that night,” she added.
Even though an FIR has been registered, Mr Qasim’s family doesn’t expect any justice. His 14-year-old daughter Muniba told Dawn that her mother had refused to give her statement to police.
“She says there is no point, the damage is done. No one can find the person who shot Abbu. It is nearly impossible to track down the people who were firing in the air that night and we don’t think we’ll ever be able to bring them to justice. We just want authorities to put an end to this trend by taking practical measures. Today, it is me, tomorrow, this could be you. It is painful to bury a loved one, knowing you’ll never be able to find their murderer,” she said.
Call for de-weaponisation
Karachi police chief Javed Alam Odho believes that deweaponisation is the way to overcome such incidents.
“Mostly in these events like New Year, Independence Day and marriage ceremonies, the people involved in aerial firings carry licensed weapons and permits. So, the way we [police] can avoid such incidents is to de-weaponise our society,” he said.
“To take care of this thing, we are looking forward to take steps where we will keep a bullet of a licensed weapon in our record so we can identify them through ballistic reports.”
Speaking to Dawn, he said that 17 people were taken into custody involved in the celebratory firing on Independence Day over the weekend and cases had been registered against them on behalf of the state.
“Charge sheets will be submitted and they will be processed. It will leave a mark on their social profile, landing them into multiple problems, including employment and international travelling,” he said.
“People need to realise what they are doing. It is their responsibility to understand that if they possess a weapon, it is not to be used for things like these. Everyone must think of their neighbours. I’m not getting away with my responsibility, but people must realise that it is their job too. If an entire society is involved in things like these, how can police respond to every such incident?”
He said a campaign was needed to be launched by the government in which police, media and other institutions should work together and create awareness among masses about this menace while police go for door-to-door de-weaponisation.
A senior police official, however, said that it was almost impossible to arrest those involved if a weapon was not licensed or registered.
“If the weapon is licensed, the culprit can be traced after the forensics as the bullet shows the gun from which it has been fired. But, the unlicensed weapon cannot be traced,” he said.
“We have the technology where we get the details of the gun and check its registration to trace the owner and arrest them. But, mostly in such cases, victims’ families do not come forward and the department take up the case on their own.”
However, he added that for the first time, there are special orders to register FIRs in these cases to stamp out the menace.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2023