June 17, 2011
3 small changes in Pakistan
It has been an unusual week in Karachi. Three things have happened, which I’m almost tempted to define as change. It feels like an imperceptible shift in the way things are done in Pakistan.
The first case: The murder of a journalist
A Pakistani journalist called Saleem Shahzad was killed for the work he was doing. Our spy agency, the ISI, has come under fire for this killing. The criticism is severe. Opinion pieces have appeared across the media and in talk shows but one of the strongest ones was Ejaz Haider’s open letter to ISI chief General Pasha.
There has been mounting criticism for years on the ISI’s support for radicals and militants. The blowback is hitting our cities, especially Karachi where I face a daily onslaught of unsolved terrorist hits. I hope that somehow our policymakers and government are able to see that this cannot continue. No matter what the US wants.
The second case: A budget discussion
The second happening that made me consider for a split second that perhaps a new thinking is emerging, or a new kind of fearlessness is emerging was closer to my turf. We’ve just emerged from budget season. In my state’s (province) legislative house, the Sindh Assembly, elected representatives opened a discussion on the budget for 2011-2012. In all the 10 years of editing Sindh Assembly budget discussions, never have I (as far as I can remember) come across such apt criticism: An MPA from the ruling PPP stood up and asked how come the socio-economic lives of people in Sindh had not changed for years even though each time the government announces a “people-friendly” budget?
The third case: An extrajudicial killing
The third thing that happened to make me believe that something was changing was the extrajudicial killing of a young man in a park where a paramilitary force was on patrol. Violence in Karachi means that our understaffed police need a helping hand. The Rangers were on duty and one of them shot a young man they thought was mugging people in the park. The Supreme Court took notice of the killing, whose gruesome video surfaced. The chiefs of police and the Rangers were removed from their posts. Justice may not have been entirely served for the families but for the first time ever, as far as I can remember, heads rolled.