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Summers of London and Lyari

By Fe’reeha Idrees
May 4th 2012



The ominous morning of July 7, 2005 in the UK, when four Muslim boys boarded three trains and blew themselves up ignited the worst nightmare of a lifetime. Peace in the UK had been shattered. The war on terror, just as the sceptics had predicted and idealists, including myself, had denied, had actually come to Britain’s door.

In the midst of the ensuing situation, something else happened: the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian. His only crime was that he looked Asian or maybe a stereotyped Muslim with thick curly black hair and dark eyes. On July 22, 2005, he casually strolled inside his local train station, swiped his travel card and boarded a train. Seconds later, metropolitan officers wrestled him to the ground and shot seven bullets from point-blank range, killing him on the spot.

A routine morning walk to work led him to his death. But the death of De Menezes gave rise to protests. From human rights activists to civil right speakers, journalists to the immigrant community, all condemned the metropolitan force for committing such a fatal mistake. A leading newspaper wrote cynically that “just because there is evidence of terrorists with black hair and brown eyes, does not mean that those who have black hair in London should not walk the streets”. Another paper read: “shoot to kill does not mean you just go and kill. A police officer should be trained enough to distinguish between an armed terrorist and a passer-by, or else he has no right to serve the police or pick up arms”.

The outcry was powerful enough to prompt two investigations by the Independent Complaints Commission. The findings of the second investigation strongly criticised the police command structure. A corporate criminal prosecution of the Metropolitan Police alleged that it had failed its duty and it was fined. The final verdict finally wiped the tears of the mother of the Brazilian who had suffered the tragic loss.

Why do I remember this story? Because when I saw the endless tears of Ammad’s mother, the 10-year-old who died under a tank, during the Lyari operaton in Karachi, there was something peculiarly familiar: the anger felt by the betrayed mother who was robbed of her son too soon. Unfortunately, I knew there was no one to understand the sorrow of a lower working class resident of Lyari. Yet, Ammad’s mother went on, holding my hand tightly, wailing: “He is not a terrorist, could they not see that baji, he was an innocent child”. As she threw his picture in my face, I had no answer to this question. I could only bow my head in shame.

The operation in Lyari that continued for almost a week will be termed the most ill-prepared operation of the police force that lacked even a formal investigation. What we know is that 700 police officials participated in it, about seven of them died, 28 civilians and five criminals were killed and about 50,000 bullets were fired. There were no warnings given to the residents of the area, nor was an evacuation plan set up  and absolutely no safety measure was taken.

I will never know why the blood that was shed in Lyari and in other parts of Pakistan will remain inferior to the blood that stains the clean land of Europe. But I would like to raise my voice against such injustice. Will we ever know what exactly happened in Lyari?

Originally published By Tribune Pakistan

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