The rise of the Taliban, the fall of Karachi

The rise of the Taliban, the fall of Karachi By Kamal Siddiqi
In the national interest
The News, March 30, 2009

The writer is editor reporting, The News

Earlier this week, a family friend got off from her car and walked to a chemist’s shop in a busy shopping area of Karachi. She was wearing a normal shalwar- kameez suit that most Karachi women wear in public areas. Nothing out of the ordinary. As she walked to the shop, a man approached her and showed her a pistol.

But instead of robbing her, he gave her a chilling message: “Next time you come in public, cover yourself from head to toe.” This happened in full public view on a busy Karachi street. But no one seemed to notice and the man did not in any way seem in any hurry or worry.

The reference of this incident happening to a family friend has only been done to make people understand that this is not an urban myth but a reality. It is happening in Karachi, the country’s largest and possibly most open city. There are more worrisome incidents than one can recall.

Many businessmen have received calls on their cell phones in which the caller does not identify himself but does confirm the name of the person he has called. After a couple of days comes another call. And then another. The businessman is told to contribute a certain amount to the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

One businessman shrugged this off as a hoax. But soon enough there were men who called at his house and made the same demand, only this time they also mentioned that they not only knew where he lived, but where he worked, which schools his children went to, and other details.

The man ended up paying. No one knows who these people are. Some say they are criminals who are using the name of the Taliban. Who knows?

A family in Clifton last month received a notice which was addressed to the father. In it, he was told to ensure that his daughters — who were described in the letter in very negative terms — should be told to stay home since they were seen to be of loose character. The letter warned the father to take action, otherwise the mosque will have to “do something.” The crime of these girls apparently was that they were seen too frequently moving around and that too in Western clothes.

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