Seven-year old Subhan Irfan did not live to see the dawn of 2017. His right to life was mercilessly wrenched away by a mid-night stray bullet fired by an urban militant to herald the new year. Not to be left behind, on the first day of 2017, militants of yet another shade, using ferocious falcons destroyed some 300 vulnerable and equally helpless Houbara bustards. The pre-civilisation barbarity of killing humans and animals for thrill, amusement and pleasure has now assumed a new and well-respected norm of celebrating new year in Pakistan. Is there a particular method to this madness? Let us consider at least four specific actions of the Sindh government that directly contribute to our rapidly accelerating journey towards a tribal society.
In August 2016, within two weeks of taking over, the new Chief Minister of Sindh ordered the cancellation of over 550,000 unverified arms licenses that had been generously issued by the Sindh government. Little did he know that some 15 months earlier, the previous Chief Minister had already made exactly the same proclamation. Both announcements were meant for public consumption and the licenses were never cancelled. The inaction of the Sindh government to implement it own orders helped those with fake and untraceable gun licenses to continue acts of crime and militancy in the province.
In September 2016, the new Chief Minister spent billions of Rupees of the tax payers’ money in placing scores of newspaper advertisements to ban the celebratory aerial firing routinely conducted on occasions like marriages and new year. It was expected that the Stanford-educated new Chief Minister must have created some mechanism to ensure implementation of his orders. Sadly no such action was ever taken. The Sindh police conveniently looked the other way as hundreds of unruly individuals indulged in wild aerial firing to celebrate the new year’s eve. One seven years old child lost his life and scores of others were injured in this process. Should these deaths and injuries not be directly attributed to gross negligence by the Sindh government.
Also in September 2016, newspapers were carrying large size advertisements (of course with the tax payers’ money), declaring a ban on display of all weapons. The citizens were asked to report violations at a certain phone number. This was yet another exercise in pretending and posturing without any intention of taking any action. The police chooses to look the other way as the powerful elite accompanied by its militant goons continues to unabashedly display and brandish weapons.
The Sindh Government has now taken a new classist position in the application of this law. The rich and powerful may display and carry their weapons and militant goons (read private security guards), but it is a crime for the ordinary citizens who either cannot afford private guards or do not wish to indulge in this madness. The Sindh government therefore not only pampers the rich elite to fright and harass the ordinary citizens but also violates the citizens right to equality granted by Article 25 of the Constitution.
The Sindh government also ought to be held responsible for the death of Subhan Irfan for not implementing the Supreme Court orders in Suo Moto Case 16 of 2011. The Court had directed the Sindh Government to take necessary steps to ensure deweaponisation. The Sindh Government took no such steps and allowed millions of licensed and unlicensed weapons to remain available for regular and celebratory killing of human beings.
What are the options before the civil society under these gloomy circumstances. Should the death of Subhan Irfan be dismissed and forgotten as one of these things that typically happen in a big city? Is there a need to realize that by our silence, we may have collectively contributed towards creating a system where the rich and the powerful can kill small children for their thrill and pleasure. Should we not push for reform, repair and replacement of our dysfunctional and apathetic government machinery. Perhaps getting rid of the archaic and colonial 1861 Police Act (so unwisely revived by the Sindh Government in 2011) and demanding the adoption of Police Order, 2002 ought to be our first step towards reforming the system.