Terror can manifest itself in all sorts of ways and perhaps that’s why we fear the very idea of terror – we do not know when and how it may strike us. While on the one hand a confusing and fear-instilling situation develops in the northern areas of Pakistan, where misguided and sometimes even outright mad people are willing to stop at nothing to achieve their sordid goals, in other areas of the country, citizens have been experiencing terror of another kind – criminal acts. Don’t you read about it in the newspaper everyday?
“Armed robbers loot bank; one guard killed”
“Mobile-phone snatching on the rise”
“Three people killed as thieves raid house in DHA”
“Girl kidnapped from Nishtar Park, held for ransom”
Such headlines have become so common that one becomes desensitized to horrific news and as you sip your morning tea, you very easily turn the page to something else, almost forcing yourself to “feel” something – anger, fear, worry, sympathy – anything! However, the wake-up call may come to your own door any day, as it has been for all those whose names appear in the papers daily. That’s when the scale, the reality and sheer terror of such episodes hits you square in the chest.
My mother and I left our apartment block yesterday around 3 pm, my mother in the driving seat, while I flipped through a diary. It was a route we took almost daily and one that my mother knew all too well as she made trips to and fro between the markets and my sister’s tuitions. That’s why, when we made a left-turn onto a service lane that ran alongside the famous Clifton Bridge, we were shocked to find our way suddenly blocked by a guy in a black t-shirt, on a motorbike. The first idea that came to my mind was that the guy had probably collided with us in his hurry to overtake us and was about to, as the usual case is, launch a barrage of abuse at our mistake! Before we could make sense of the situation, another guy appeared at my window, banging at the pane and saying something I could not really make sense of. I thought part of my garments were stuck in the doorway and he was alerting me to it, but when another person appeared on my mother’s window, I knew that wasn’t the case. What I read about in the papers daily, what I mentally prepped myself for whenever I set out home from college alone was happening – we were in the midst, the victims, of a robbery.
My first instinct was that Amma would floor the accelerator and attempt to escape but, whether it was due to the single bike that had intercepted us and now stood in our way, or the fact that Amma was shocked by what was happening, we didn’t move. The only thing that was going through my mind was, as I recalled all the news stories about armed robbers shooting their victims for things as trivial as mobile phones, that we should not show any resistance. I urged Amma to get out of the car and jumped out myself, shouting at the robbers to let them know my intentions of co-operating. They were about six in number and, to my horror, they were more interested in surrounding my mother.
Suddenly, the car lurched forward a foot or two and I feared my mother had suddenly decided to drive away, not noticing I had got out of the car. However, that sudden lurch was only because she had taken her foot off the brake with the engine in gear. The robbers thought she was escaping, especially as she had not yet come out of the car and one of them suddenly took out a pistol, aiming it at her threateningly. All I could do was to shout to Amma, whom I couldn’t even see properly, over the din of all the robbers shouting too, to hand over whatever they wanted. I just wanted those monsters to leave and the sight of the pistol had driven everything else from my mind.
They roughly pulled Amma out of the driving seat, shouting at her all the while to “hurry”, “hand over your rings”, “give me your purse!” Suddenly, they started to leave on their bikes as two vehicles drove up to stop behind us. The last thing that happened, in all that blur, was that they snatched Amma’s purse… but I was just glad to see them leave. All I remember at that point was my continual shouting towards Amma to just give them what they wanted. As they left, Amma was still saying, “but there is nothing in that purse!” I didn’t want those madmen to return if and when they discovered the purse was “empty” so I got back into the car and urged my mother to get in too and drive away from the scene as quick as possible.
We drove to our Uncle’s apartment block which was About two-minutes away, where we had been heading anyway. It was when I got out of the car did I realize I was vibrating – not shivering – in a strange manner… it was like my insides were all jelly. As we recounted the incident to my Aunt, Amma suddenly discovered her gold bangles were missing and it is still a mystery as to how those robbers managed to taken them off without Amma noticing or feeling a thing, and within seconds too!
About an hour later, we headed home, using a slightly different route at my continual urging Amma to avoid even a 1% chance of encounter with them again. Much was discussed about how everything unfolded and what happened before and after the incident… but the most important thing, which everyone understands well, was that Alhamdolillah… no one was hurt. Losing two gold bangles and a purse with about a $90 cash in it were absolutely nothing compared to what could have been lost in the manner of life.
It is the sight of a pistol aimed at somebody you care for that drives all thought from your mind and instills a strange terror there. When the police are busy “protecting” the so-called VVIPs and worse still, collaborating with these thieves in a percentage-share basis, you’re left helpless. And the best way to deal with the situation then is to show no resistance at all.
Of course, this incident serves as a sudden eye-opener to the reality of crime in the world. Only a victim of such terror would agree that the Islamic punishment to cut off one hand of a robber at his wrist is a punishment that must be implemented. It is utter nonsense to call this punishment “barbaric” or “again human rights”. Well, what about my rights? And what if that crazy guy had decided to pull the trigger? Shouldn’t we instill terror into the hearts of those who’re planning such moves to harm innocent people? What will serve as an effective deterrence?
Today, I’m grateful to Allah that He saved my mother and I from what could have been a worse tragedy but I am also aware that many people, everyday, experience horrors of greater magnitude at the hands of such terrorists. Unfortunately, I have no solutions for this with the situation being as it is – corruption, deception, political cover, lawlessness all aiding the terrorists. If I lodge a complaint with the area police station, it’s quite likely I’d come into the limelight in a dangerous way, rather than it being a positive step. Oh, and by the way, there was a police “tent” pitched about a hundred feet away from the incident (although out of sight) but there was no help – we weren’t expecting any either, especially as we found out, from a private security guard working in that area, the following day that such incidents occur twice or thrice everyday in that very same locale. In fact, common citizens had lodged protests with several high-ups on multiple occasions but no action was ever taken to stop these terrorists.
Know this…all that the common man can do is pray sincerely to Allah for change (the opportunity and means for change) and give generously in charity to seek Allah’s protection from harm. We will have to wait patiently for someone in the highest offices to develop a shred of a conscience in their cold and empty hearts.