Jun 10, 2011


Harris Khalique

One could still find some pieces of dead meat sticking to the bones on the carcass of Pakistani society. Ravens and vultures alight on these bones to have a pick. The battered soul hovers above the carcass and watches with helplessness the remains of the body in which it once lived.

Sarfaraz Shah was one such small piece of flesh that was torn apart from the decaying bone by the piercing beak of a vulture. A ‘beakful’ of meat, as it were. Small. The worn out and detached soul still feels the pain but the carcass stays a carcass. Unable to sense or move. Bigger things have happened. It remains lifeless, defunct and empty.

Shah was a young man, allegedly involved in snatching cash and valuables from visitors to Benazir Shaheed Park in Karachi. According to the Rangers, a prime law enforcement agency, he was caught red-handed. The family of Shah refutes these claims. This is not an issue, nevertheless. He was unarmed, pleading not to be shot, fully surrounded by the sepoys of Rangers, so close to the man who was aiming at him that Shah was physically trying to lower the barrel, and looked completely harmless in that instance. He was shot at then from a close range to be killed.

Shah was neither chased for being wanted for some heinous crime nor did he carry any weapons for self-defence or to threaten the Rangers. The only weapons he had were his open arms and a stuttering tongue begging for mercy. Even if he had committed a crime of atrocious nature, once caught he should have been charged by the police, tried by the court and sentenced for his crime. But it was his fate to become another statistic in an already existing list of thousands of extrajudicial murders committed by the custodians of the law. Mind you, this may not be proven either that he was at all guilty of anything. Many killed in such ways were found to be innocent.

Sarfaraz Shah’s death in cold blood and in blatant violation of any civil code, social values or legal provisions has only become troubling for some people in this country because they saw it in their living rooms. Courtesy television news channels. Journalist friends in Karachi tell us that it was for the release of this gory footage alone that the Rangers were left with no choice but to order an inquiry. For hours they had tried to kill the story. The family, friends and neighbours who were demonstrating outside the Sindh chief minister’s house against this brutality while carrying the body of the deceased with them were told be at fault.

But you see, in some ways Shah was lucky. He was spared of a long drawn, excruciatingly painful dying process. He was shot twice, point-blank, and his soul left the body sooner than those who are lynched, beaten to death or burnt alive. There is a possibility that he was caught by a mob of ‘normal’ citizens for committing a theft or allegedly committing a theft and then lynched using most cruel forms of physical torture. Also, he could have been a journalist or a political activist who is silenced by blows of wood, iron or steel on the ribcage by terrorists or the sacrosanct enforcers of the law.

Ghalib said, har qadam dooryay manzil haiy numayaan mujh se/ meri raftaar se bhagey haiy bayabaan mujh se (with each step I take the destiny gets farther away/this wilderness runs faster than I do).

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