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Of a sudden chill

December 22, 2012

ON Saturday a chill descended on Karachi that had nothing to do with the weather. The country’s biggest city simply froze up. As if on a cue, Karachiites simply dropped everything and hunkered down for the day in their homes.

Schools and businesses were closed and traffic was reduced to a trickle. It was as if the heart of the economy had stopped beating.

It was scary, really. Scary because no one seemed to be calling the shots and yet people were well aware what was expected of them. They knew they had to drop everything, no matter how important, if they wanted to get through the day in one piece. And that’s precisely what most of them proceeded to do: they did nothing.

At the back of their minds they knew that a court, which had earlier convicted a prime minister of contempt, had turned this time on the uncrowned king (nay emperor) of Karachi, prompting some gunmen to open fire on choice targets on Friday night and early Saturday morning. It was, therefore, best to stay put for the day.

Many Karachiites may have thought that the court was justified in seeking an explanation from Altaf Hussain about his recent comments which, according to the court, seemed to be contemptuous. After all, the same court had pulled up Yousuf Raza Gilani, a sitting prime minister, and eventually convicted him of contempt. So, what was so special about the Muttahida supreme? Was he above the law in any way?