A few days ago, I was running for my life; something so many of us take in our stride now in the city of Karachi. The lanes behind my office at M.A. Jinnah road had exploded with violence and there was gun fire from building corners and roof tops as all of us closed down shops/offices and ran on foot wherever we could to escape. There was no time to think about what was going on and contemplate any outcomes. Not until we reached the safety of our homes.
Ordinarily, one would feel some amount of post-traumatic stress at having gone through such an experience. All I felt, however, was remorse. I have stopped watching TV for quite a few months now, trying to avoid the depression it causes but that day all I did was stare at the tube as numbers of the dying piled up.
The remorse I felt was because I now understood exactly what the people of Qasbah colony and other areas racked by violence felt. I was part of the helplessness they experience when they cannot function like ordinary human beings, when they cannot go out to get a loaf of bread lest they are killed by a passing bullet.
The power game being played with guns and violence in this city has been going on for some time now. Our security apparatus is heavily outnumbered and understaffed. The weaponry borne by attackers is state of the art and lethal; we, as citizens have nobody to appeal to, nowhere to go. Many among us are now talking of moving to Lahore or other areas of this country because there seems to be no solution at all to the security problem of this city. Those with more resources are fleeing, or in the process of fleeing to fairer shores.
To put it in short, Karachi has been bleeding for the past decade, first at the behest of forces trying to cause religiously charged violence between Shia and Sunni factions of the population that lives here, and now they are doing the same with Mohajirs and Pathans. Let us be open and say it, we are all brainwashed with ethnicity and rage channeled towards the same people who once made this city what it is. We, my friends, are killing Karachi.
Can Karachi exist without being a multicultural melting pot? Never, this is the very identity of this city. This is the reason why people from all over the country still flock to it to look for work. This city has welcomed and continues to welcome immigrants every single day. This is not a city which salutes a rising sun; this is a city which draws its identity from a rainbow of ethnicities which dwell here.
Instead of blaming the two most visible ethnic groups for all the violence that is taking place we need to realize that many other factions are taking advantage of this situation and settling scores. The two political parties of Karachi need to see that they are being used to create a situation which is not beneficial for either, but destructive for both on the soon-to-come Election Day.
We must learn to live together because we are this city. We must stand up and take ownership of this umbilical cord which feeds us all. We must realize that without Karachi we would be nowhere because there is no city like this anywhere in the world. Come together Karachites, because without each other we will just be nomads, come together and agree to disagree rather than kill in the name of race. Every person in this city will bleed red when cut; that should be enough reason for any of us to wake up to our own humanity.
Originally published on The Dawn blog on July 18th 2011