Air crash throws pall of gloom over Eid
Air crash anywhere in the world is always a heart-rending story. Tale of PIA Airbus A320 that came down in flames on Karachi’s Model Colony on May 22 was no different. The flying machine was just seconds away from runway of the Jinnah International Airport when the tragedy struck. Nobody expected any sad news on last Friday of Ramazan. Jumatul Wid’a prayers being over, housewives were languidly heading for the kitchen to prepare Iftar dinner. The ‘breaking news’ music startled them. Television channels halted midway the special Ramazan transmission. Viewers blinked in disbelief when news channels suddenly started beaming into homes images of billowing black smoke and of people running away screaming. Camera-studded drones danced up and down to show how a burning jet fell on densely populated residential area near Jinnah Garden Housing Society off Malir Cantonment. The airplane completely destroyed five bungalows and damaged 15 others. Shockwaves spread far and wide. Sirens wailed as Edhi and Chhipa ambulances retrieved charred bodies from mangled iron debris. Faisal Edhi told Dawn channel’s Zarrar Khoro how he handed over to Rangers the valuables including gold jewellery worn by burnt women passengers.
The sight saddened everyone across the country. Imagine the burning alive to death of 96 people, who flew from Lahore to their native Karachi to celebrate Eidul Fitr. It was no small tragedy. Details of the catastrophe brought mist to the eyes and lump in the throat. It carried ingredients of an ideal script for a Hollywood thriller like the Clint Eastwood movie ‘Sully: Miracle on the Hudson’ with Tom Hanks playing the pilot.
Except for the sad news from Sindh metropolis, the last ‘ashra’ (10 days) of Ramazan went well. Special prayers offered during Aitkaf, Jumatul Wida and Lailatul Qadr proved fruitful. The prayers brought wealth of spiritual strength to the faithful. Close proximity to fellow worshippers in mosques gives inspiration to do good for humanity. With ‘khairaat, sadqaat and zakat’ money set aside, one picks passion to reach out to hungry and the needful. Offering new clothes to the self-respecting widow next door is probably the best Eid deed one can strike. The elderly gardener deserves some food items that can see him through the Eid break. After all, he grows on lawn the creepers of bougainvillea and red roses that send out fragrance into neighbouring homes. The old man bending on his walking stick used to be the best tailor in town. Failing vision made his work difficult. Wishing him a happy Eid possibly with small cash may give him the feel-good sensation to live a little longer.
This kind of love for the less privileged sections of society is more relevant now than it was ever before. Government and the Supreme Court allowed markets and transport to open so that daily-wagers should not face hunger and joblessness. This opened the floodgates to chaos. Pre-Eid shopping was a free-for-all affair. Nobody bothered to wear gloves and masks. Social distancing was thrown to the winds. In crowded markets customers breathed down the neck of one another. Day in and day out, the coronavirus is on the rise. Country-wide, there were 43 corona deaths in 24 hours. As many as 2238 new cases appeared, the tally exceeding 49,000. Medical experts say that by mid-June there may be an unprecedented upsurge. At such warnings, government looks the other way, while the general public feels carefree. Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah fears that casualties may multiply a month after the opening up of bazaars and transport. ‘Herd immunity’ is talk of the town. This phenomenon refers to extreme cases in which patients in large numbers (like a herd of sheep) may get infected by coronavirus. People with strong bodies plus self-defence mechanism (immunity) may survive, while others may collectively succumb to the pandemic.
For the last few years, the problem of honour killing has been causing embarrassment to the country on international level. As the bad luck would have it, two women (aged 18, 16) were gunned down in village Shamplan Garyam of tehsil Shaktoo in the (former agency, now the merged) tribal district of North Waziristan. The crime took place on May 14 but the parents of victims wanted to shove the grisly murder case under the rug, in the fond hope of hiding it as a private family affair. So they kept quiet for 24 hours and nobody reported the crime to any law enforcing agency.
However, sensing legal complications ahead, the high-ups directed police station Razmak (district Bannu) to do the needful. Therefore, the SHO showed himself as complainant and registered an FIR under section 302 PPC. As the sensational crime story hit newspaper headlines, the concerned police swung into action. It contacted FIA’s cyber-crime wing with a request, firstly, to delete the controversial video from social media sites and, secondly, to help police detectives in solving the murder mystery.
Meanwhile, police conducted surprise raids and arrested four persons. These included Zadwal Khan, father of one of the murdered women. Police also arrested Ameen Khan, brother of the second murdered woman. Investigators learnt that the murdered women were cousins and their paternal cousin Mohammad Aslam reportedly shot them dead. On May 20, police finally arrested Mohammad Aslam as well. Those taken into custody included 28-year-old Umar Ayaz (married with two children). Police presented him in a court where he stated that he recorded the video with the mobile phone of his friend Fida Mohammad, who then uploaded the clip on social media. Police learnt that it was a very short 52-second-long video, taped over a year ago. It showed three women out of which two got murdered. The third woman, described as wife of Mohammad Aslam, feared for her life and went into hiding.
When strong condemnations poured in from activists of women’s rights and hard-hitting editorials appeared in the mainstream press, the KP government formed a probe body, dubbed by some papers as ‘Joint Investigation Team (JIT)’. North Waziristan District Police Officer (DPO), Shafiullah Khan Gandapur, was supposed to supervise the working of other four members of this probe body. These included DSP Shahid Adnan, two sub-inspectors – Mir Sahib Khan, Mohammad Nawaz – and ASI Farman Ali.
Investigations indicated that family of murdered women originally belonged to South Waziristan. It was during the Rah-i-Nijat clean-up operation (June 2009) against militants that the family had to migrate to North Waziristan. DPO Gandapur said that for arrest of the killer, his subordinate officers remained in touch with Karachi police, where the culprit used to live before the killings. Everything said and done, the skeptics believed that nothing noble would come out of five arrests due to the age-old collusion between tribal elders and political agents (now DCs) operating in a morbidly misogynist, patriarchal society. They made an appeal to all concerned to trace and save the killer’s wife. In an op-ed piece in the Dawn, Rafia Zakaria, who teaches constitutional law, lamented that despite NADRA records being only a mouse-click away from police, the tribal victims of honour killing would remain nameless, because ‘the crime-site is remote and inaccessible’.