Although he gets a phone call threatening his life every other day, the man maintains the composure of someone from a military background.
“You are a Shia, an infidel. Your doom is nearing,” says an ominous voice from the other end of the phone.
Initially, he thought it was a joke. “I would simply laugh it off. “Oh really, so I am an infidel. Let’s meet up”,” he would say to the caller, but the threats just would not stop.
However, it was only when he came face to face with physical evidence of the danger to his life, he started to take matters seriously. As the man made his way to the parking lot of his workplace — the Jinnah International Airport — a piece of paper pasted on his car’s windshield caught his eye.
“You Shias are infidels. Pakistan is the land of pure. We will clean this land of infidels. Your death is near,” read a note that was allegedly signed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), one of the country’s most feared militant outfits.
In a smaller font on the A-4 sized paper was printed “Kill, Kill Shia, Kill”.
As a retired air commodore, the victim here had dealt with crime in the past. He read the paper, showed it to a colleague, and wrapped it in a plastic bag to save the fingerprints. Next he contacted the airport security. “I was told this was a cognizable offense, and I should register an FIR.”
The incident took place on December 14, 2012, and an FIR was registered with the Airport Police Station in January 2013. It was numbered 1/2013. The wrapped piece of paper was submitted to the police; as was the number used to deliver the threatening phone calls.
Days passed without any solid investigation from the law enforcers. “It could be a sectarian attack or a personal enmity,” said the investigation officer, Mohammad Tayyab, who till now has been able to trace nothing but the fact that the calls come from a wireless phone.
But a trend seems to be emerging. This victim was forced to cancel a scheduled meeting with The News after he heard some tragic news.
“A relative has been shot dead. I have to run to his funeral,” was the reason he gave. The relative was Ali Hyder, the president of the United Private School Management and principal of the Lal Qila Grammar School in North Karachi.
Months before he was shot dead outside his school, he too received threatening phone calls and text messages. “We will kill you,” the person on the phone would say.
His wife maintains he informed the Sir Syed Town Police Station about the threats, but the law enforcers refused to protect him.
“We too hide in our house after our duty ends. What can we do? The city is brimming with killers”, they said.”
The last message Ali Hyder showed his wife read “till when can you escape from our clutches?”
“The police came after he passed away. They registered an FIR. What good is it now? I’m a widow and my three children orphans,” said a pacified wife speaking on the phone, almost as if she was expecting death.
She maintains her husband was just another person caught in the spree of sectarian violence rampant in the city.
Earlier in July, a senior Intelligence Bureau officer Qamar Raza — also from the Shia sect — was shot dead outside his house. In November, his son was shot dead inside his apartment compound. Two men came on foot, shook hands with him and fired nine bullets into his stomach. A day before the incident, he too received a phone call. “So you think you can escape our clutches for long?”
So what does a man do who knows his death is near and the state has failed to protect him? He prays in solitude for fear of being recognised as an outsider, looks over his shoulder when he walks, eyes every other man with suspicion and requests the DIG for security. That is what the victim here does. “It could be anyone,” he smiles helplessly.