Don’t Lose Heart, Karachi


Photo by Reuters in Dawn Newspaper

Two days later, Karachi is still smouldering after a suicide attack on a Muharram procession that killed over 40 innocent people. Literally, minutes after the assault, we began to see what was envisaged to be the backlash. Rioters set fire to police stations and vehicles. However, the most crucial and permanent damage was done to the centre of Karachi’s commercial district – places like Boulton Market, Botal Gali and other shops and warehouses. As we discover now anywhere between three to four thousand shops were gutted. The loss is estimated to be as high as 40 billion rupees. The number could go up or down after investigations.

What we are also finding is that it may not have been backlash at all. Dawn reports in its Metropolitan pages that after 20 hours of efforts, fire fighters ‘found obvious signs of chemicals used in the arson, lending credence to the suspicions of traders and investigators who see the arson as a premeditated and well-planned strike after a deadly attack…’

If this is indeed true, it makes me think a few things. Firstly, we must commend the efforts of the fire fighters of our city, who are paid a mere penance and have no insurance, but worked in dire conditions for as long as a day and a night. The promptness of their investigative ability is also worth mention. In a country where years can pass before there is any headway on a terror attack, it is indeed great work on the part of the fire fighters of Karachi. Judging by this, we can only hope that the perpetrators of such widespread destruction that has left at least 10,000 people jobless will be found.

But while the finding that the attack was premeditated is distressing, it is also reassuring. It should oddly restore the faith of Karachiites in themselves. How, you ask? Well, as the people of this city were grappling with the horror of a terror attack and that too on a peaceful procession, they were, within minutes, subjected to some harsh criticism – both from within and others. Accusations were quick to fly of how Karachiites respond to violence with violence – worse still that it was violence upon their own selves. At the very least, we now know this to be untrue.

Lastly, it also showed the character of some of the leaders of this city. Where most political leaders hide, Mayor Mustafa Kamal, was out there with the people, calming them and urging them to remain peaceful. That in itself is great comfort at this time when we so need any word of hope.

32 Responses to “Don’t Lose Heart, Karachi”

  1. Thank you Naveen for this insight into the awful difficulties being experienced by the people of Pakistan these days. I really like the fact that you have singled out the firefighters – people it seems driven by a desire to do good for others in their community. Let’s hope when the dust has settled that these unsung heroes are compensated according to the great value they bring. Courage!

  2. 2 Sana Saleem

    Am so glad that you have pointed out the bright side of the aftermath, when everyone else (including myself) seems to be drowned in all
    the chaos. I don’t doubt the resilience of my people but I strongly feel it’s enough.
    We need to take measures to control the ritual vandalism post-terror attacks.
    It appears that only khi suffers at the hand of pre-planned rooters, who not only attack the people but also their livelihood.

  3. 3 Faisal kapadia

    U forgot the ranger who stopped the bomber or else many more wud have died, karachi will be bak up but it will tqke a few days 🙂

    • Quite right. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • 5 sohail khan

      yes i agree with mr kapadia ….the brave law enforcement personnell , esp uniformed brave the brunt of all attacks …kudos to them …they deserve our appreciation ….and our admiration…

      • 6 Adnan Kazmi

        First of all ranger didnt stop the suicide bomber it was a Shia Scout who stopped the suicide bombar, and they showed his(scout) head as a suicide bombar until when scout leader had to goto the media and stop them showing his face as a suicide bombar. And i agree it is too difficult to manage a big procession like 10th Muharram to not to be hurt by anything like this.

  4. 7 Mir Muhammad Ali

    A very insightful article indeed!! Along the firefighters we should also commend the scouts, police, rangers and local government staff who were working round the clock ensuring security. Though there was a breach of security but still these guys did put in a sincere effort. I was at the procession and each and every person was being thoroughly checked. The damage would have been much worse had the scout boy not stopped the attacker… He is our unsung hero!!

  5. I met a guy today who said was one of his colleagues was an eye-witness to the entire thing and it was a large group of people with pre-prepared fuel cans etc who went out to burn shops etc. So it certainly was a planned exercise.

    Karachi is a resilient city and although we are all sad at the loss of life and property, we know we have seen worse and risen above it all. We will again because they can’t keep us down. All we need to do is have faith in ourselves and in our city. Thanks for the positive slant toward the end of the post. Wish our leaders could provide that kind of hope.

    • Thanks, Jehan. Actually, I thought that Mustafa Kamal working along with the local government staff on the ground is a good sign.

      But you’re absolutely right. Karachiites are resilient. We’ve seen decades of violence and as you say, risen above it all.

  6. 11 Farax

    Nice article naveen. I was really stumped at seeing some quarters blaming the mayor for all the security issues

  7. Well written blogpost Naveen. The traders whose shops and businesses were attacked are one of the most generous people in the city who pay millions in zakaat and charity and other notable social causes. During the earthquake of 2005, a lot of financial aid was provided by the memon and delhi communities from Karachi.

    This is now our turn to help them in any way possible. I know there will be legal issues these traders will be facing but they do need our help. Cant we the Khi-ites do something about it?

    • Thanks for your comment, Talha. That’s an excellent suggestion. It’s so true that Pakistanis are known for their generosity and philanthropy. In fact, frequently the void that is left by the state is filled by individuals and communities. I hope someone reads your comment, and suggests a route for us to help.

  8. @Naveen yes Mustafa Kamal is very much a hands-on mayor and i think many of us appreciated the fact that he was there offering support and trying to calm down the possible tensions that could have arisen from an incident like this. Now that we know it was the Taliban that were responsible, I wish our political leaders would stop calling for strikes and would instead focus on encouraging people to help rebuild business activity in the city. Strikes do not hurt people like the Taliban. They only hurt our economy and the poorest amongst us – especially those who depend on daily wages.

  9. 16 Nazish

    Why some people are falling in the hands of those who wanted to create differences aganst us?

    See and read how INDIA shias and sunnis are living with each other, see how shia and sunni ulema.. both attend conferences, sit.. and have dinner each other at Darul-Aloom Deoband conferences and every other place.

    Why we have his hatred here in Pakistan?

    Loss is loss, those who lost lives or money. You can see that 10 sunnis who were also in the procession were the victims of suicide and you can also see that 100’s of shias and bohri shias shop were burnt..

    I ask them do they think some sunni did the suicide attack.. NO

    And in the same manner do you think that the shias burnt the shop — NO

    Be vigiliant.., there are 100 of things which you cannot easily pass away.

    1) Chemical . Phosphorous was used.. See the Dawn news — Do you think that people in the procession took this phosphorous from home.. and came into procession. as they know that some suicide bombing will be in place.. Think yourself

    2) The first shops were burnt of Pathans.. at Light house, which open startight fire to the back side of the pro mqm place…

    3) CDGK had already given notice from 4 months to get this place empty. Listen from your own the business community that they have ordered and they were looking for some reasons to get them out.

    There are many reasons, you cannot start abusing each other so easily. We are living with 100 of years. We cannot kill all shia and neither they cannot kill all of us.. SUNNIS.

    Dont start spreading harted, because it will only spread harted…

  10. 17 Mir Muhammad Ali

    Government should reimburse whatever taxes the traders of boulton market et al have paid in the last 3 years as a way of compensation…

  11. 18 Mohammed Adil

    The CDGK has done its best of capabilities, Hats off to mustafa kamal that he remain there, he could deliver more better if he had police under him and other authorizations as well,

  12. Karachi has been through a lot since the 80s. I remember those days when it was impossible to do anything because of the horrible law and order situation. However we still managed to go on with our lives and did not stop. These incidents are only sowing the seeds of hatred. It could damage us by dividing us into different groups. Hidden elements want us to bicker so there is no unity. We are falling into their trap and doing exactly what they have planned. When London was attacked on 7/7 people were horrified but then they went on with their lives and they devised a system to make sure it never happened again. I still feel that mourning never resolves anything nor do strikes. We cant afford to strike as we are partially crippled. We are our own worst enemies as we are too emotional and are fast to react.

  13. Naveen our comments and arguments are absolutely right…
    but one thing about khi suicide on procession of Ashura…i wanna bring your
    knowlege to point that being a resposible azadar i realized every religous and spiritualy procession…some elements of political parties participate for their interest.
    they also wait and pursue such incidents sothat they could do what they have pre plan. They are not supportive to spiritually procession nor sincere enough as they show off during such semanaires and procession.

    There were 2 political parties persons in 10 Muhrram procession. Why they there? and what their contribution to procession except the malign to the spirituality and scred procession like Ashura and other religious events?

    with best wishes,

  14. It is a good post. The saddest part is that people blamed the mayor and the azadaran in some places for inciting violence. There was a statement by Mr. Abbasi on ARY channel that people are blaming MQM for inciting this violence.Sindh tv also questioned an MQM leader Izhar ul Hasan that some Sindh nationalists were asking questions about MQMs role.Nobody is really questioning as to who gave orders to the police not to enforce law in the five thana jurisdictions of the markets and why was police absent in places near shops when the shops were bieng looted and afterwards burnt. Some firearms shops were also looted and burnt. Mujahid Barelvi in his CNBC interview also showed the traders saying that they begged the looters ,all able bodied young men to leave the shops , not burn them , but they said that they would shoot them if they interfered. So as you see from tv footages and interviews , it is clear that it is a big lapse in part of Sindh home department, the concerned thanas and maybe the intellegence agencies concerned with security planning. We have not changed our planning and preempting tactics post terrorist attacks. We should do so. Merely blaming and sending heads rolling will not solve the now very real threat .We should end blame game and start thinking and acting proactively.Where is the Sindh chief minister on this. he issued statement even condolences after three days.Karachi has to stand on it’s own. Citizens should act on their own .

  15. salam
    whatever is occured taht was acident now whatever is going to happen thats very important issue i blame to the govt of pakistan if they want .

  16. 23 Ikram


    Everyone is doing politics on the blood & money of innocent people.

    Political parties are highly involved.

    Why a renowned minister who belongs to a renowned political party (who owns 150 shops at bolton market) sold all of his shops just a month before..

    Had he been warned, just a month back, however these shops were 40 years old.

    Politics is highly involved.

    Just watch a video after the blast..

    Those who lost lives, cannot be recovered, this loss cannot be filled. its really tragic for the families, but those whose shops have been burnt, must be recovered. Govt should help them all.

    These businessman were getting threatened for the last 2 years to shift their shops. They did not know that it would be done in this manner.

    Allah bless us all.

  17. Well in my opinion MQM leader still need learn a lot how to make political statements and how to take political steps, In politics you don’t make enemy and MQM is the only party who made everyone his enemy or may be other way around, but agreed with that they have talented individuals who can move Pakistan towards stability, but still their leader need to learn a lot.
    Nice Article though keep it up

  18. 25 raiazlan

    as i said in my tweet its a must to read post. and after reading it i maintain its a must to reed. an insight based article which is creating hope and bringing the positive aspect of this whole scenario. its true that what ever happened there was really sad but if we look at it from other side its a chance for us and specially those who aparently lost every thing to relive success story, instead of going on strike we all must work more anr more to get what have been lost. as Talha said that its our time to support and help them i totally agree and i can assure that what ever i can do will be done by me. and i really want to pay my tribute to the brave sons of this lad who gave their lives to prevent a greater damage to took place. and on the other end i want the lazy fellows who let a breech of security took place and who remain a silent spectator when the fire round was on, must be punished in a warning lesson way.


  19. 26 Khalid Rehman

    Excellent observation published at London Post & an excellent video proof by Samaa TV.

    You cannot ignore these facts easily.

  20. 27 Adeel Daftary

    Hope is the only thing which has kept the effected people to survive so far, People who used to help others now needs help… it’s been 45 days and only 1% of the reconstruction work has been done… traders of those building which now presents a view of some ancient ruins and of the Building named Quetta Wala Building which was almost 150 years old is no more along with few other buildings which were part of our natural heritage…. I came across few of business man who has been doing business for more than 3 to 5 generations. The delay in reconstruction of more than 12 buildings which are totally burned to ground, due to whatever the reason either political or technical… will only make things worse…

    I don’t know what to say as I am one of them… I might over exaggerate… but only can say hope is the only thing which motivates us every day that hope today something will happen… but with time it is getting fade…

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