Karachi’s se­rial ‘knife­man’ un­leashes col­lec­tive fear

The Miracle - - Pakistan - By:Su­maira Ja­jja Source: dawn.com/news

KARACHI: “I was walk­ing with my chil­dren to a rel­a­tive’s house when I felt a hand on the back of my thigh. I was shocked and froze — with anger and em­bar­rass­ment — as the mo­tor­cy­clist sped away. Curs­ing the eve-teaser, I hur­riedly en­tered the house and it was when I felt pain in my thigh area. My clothes were wet with blood,” rec­ol­lects Mrs Arif. A house­wife and mother of three kids, she is one of the vic­tims of the Karachi knife at­tacker who has so far in­jured more than 10 women in two weeks and has man­aged to elude the po­lice. “It was a thin man wear­ing a red and black hel­met and off-white shal­war kameez on a mo­tor­bike,” she re­calls. “I was wear­ing a big, thick shawl that night and it saved me from se­vere in­juries,” she adds. De­spite the pas­sage of sev­eral days since the at­tack, she ad­mits she is still shaken. “I feel un­safe step­ping out alone. The worst part of this at­tack has been the me­dia frenzy. TV re­porters showed up, ask­ing how I felt. My nine-year old daugh­ter is so trau­ma­tised,” she says.Mrs Arif ’s ac­count is cor­rob­o­rated by an­other vic­tim. A stu­dent of class VII, 14-year-old ‘ T’ was walk­ing to a shop with her mother and brother when the at­tack hap­pened. “I felt some­one’s hand slapped my hip. I cringed and hur­ried but then I was over­come with pain in my up­per leg, as blood gushed out,” says T. et an­other vic­tim’s brother nar­rated a sim­i­lar or­deal. “My sis­ter was touched on her lower body and the next thing she re­alised she was bleed­ing,” he says.

Se­rial at­tack­ers

Pak­istan has had its fair share of vi­o­lent se­rial at­tacks. The in­fa­mous Hathora group and Ch­ha­lawa gang ter­rorised Karachi­ites in the ’80s and ’90s, known for smash­ing the skulls of their vic­tims. In the late ’90s, there were re­ports of men with us­tra/blade slash­ing the arms of women wear­ing short-sleeved shirts out­side a ma­jor Karachi shop­ping mall. Back in 2007, it was the killing of Pun­jab min­is­ter Zille Huma that shocked the coun­try. Her killer was not happy with her cloth­ing. In 2012, a rick­shaw driver in Karachi used to pick up women pas­sen­gers, dis­em­body them and throw away their body parts. While in 2016, news re­ports sur­faced that a man was stab­bing women in Rawalpindi. Sim­i­lar to the Karachi at­tacks, a se­ries of sim­i­lar knife at­tacks were re­ported between 2013 and 2016 in Pun­jab’s Sahi­wal district. “Al­most 40 women were at­tacked in Chichawatni by a man on a mo­tor­bike us­ing a sharp pa­per cut­ter,” says DIG East Sul­tan Khowaja. Waseem, the al­leged at­tacker from Pun­jab, was re­leased on bail last year. He has been de­clared an ab­scon­der and is wanted for the at­tacks.“His goal is to cre­ate fear and un­rest,” the DIG adds. “The in­juries and ar­eas of at­tacks are all sim­i­lar. He at­tacks them on the lower part of the body — near the waist, hip and thighs. He con­trols the speed of his bike with the right hand and uses the left hand for at­tacks,” he elab­o­rates. In­for­ma­tion ob­tained from po­lice and hospi­tals shows al­most all women suf­fered in­juries on their right side and were at­tacked from be­hind. “He is at­tack­ing women — young and old alike. He hasn’t shown any pref­er­ence for women dressed in par­tic­u­lar at­tire.”

Fear and trauma

The gen­eral feel­ing of un­ease and anger amongst the ci­ti­zens is in­creas­ing. Work­ing women ac­knowl­edged feel­ing over­whelmed and scared, many opt­ing for rick­shaws and cab ser­vices and not walk­ing to bus stops. Fe­male stu­dents of Karachi Univer­sity and Habib Univer­sity are avoid­ing walk­ing alone. MPA Sharmila Fa­rooqui says that th­ese at­tacks have trau­ma­tised women. “So far the at­tacks are lim­ited to one district and this is a good sign. Get the Rangers on­board. Search ev­ery mo­tor­cy­clist in the area, have 24/7 pa­trolling and most im­por­tantly form mo­halla com­mit­tees to keep an eye on any­one sus­pi­cious,” she stresses. Dr Sameeha Aleem, a con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist, says “Col­lec­tive fear is be­ing in­stilled. “Many fam­i­lies have re­stricted the move­ments of women and girls to avoid any at­tacks but this is not a so­lu­tion,” she ex­plains. She elab­o­rates that some of her fe­male pa­tients have ex­pressed anx­i­ety since the at­tacks have been re­ported and are show­ing wors­en­ing symp­toms, in­clud­ing panic at­tacks. Dr Aleem spec­u­lates the knife­man might be re­ceiv­ing com­mand­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tions to at­tack women if he has a psy­chotic dis­or­der. “He could also be an in­di­vid­ual who has wit­nessed vi­o­lence and abuse at the hands of women and is now re­venge­ful,” she con­jec­tures.

Chal­lenge for po­lice

While the at­tacker plays hide-and-seek with the au­thor­i­ties, ci­ti­zens hope for his quick ar­rest. “The real is­sue here is that th­ese are all sur­prise at­tacks,” says se­cu­rity ad­viser Nor­bert Almeida. “He catches his vic­tims by sur­prise — com­ing from be­hind, slash­ing them and then speed­ing away.” How­ever, he too says that it’s safe to be­lieve it is one per­son at the mo­ment. “But in a city of 20 mil­lion, you can’t stop ev­ery sin­gle per­son on a bike and check for a weapon. That is the chal­lenge the po­lice faces,” he says.

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