The last (taxi) ride of your life

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 7:00:06 by

On July 16, Murad, a taxi driver, was shot dead in front of his four-year old son, by Ghulam Rasul, a Rangers personnel. Witness accounts suggest Murad was asked to stop his vehicle and as he reversed towards the Rangers, he was greeted with four bullets to the chest.

In the aftermath of this incident, Ghulam Rasul has been apprehended and four other Rangers have been suspended due to their involvement in the incident.

Before we delve into debates about the morality, or the legality of this incident, let us take a moment to acknowledge the many human lives that will be affected by this one incident alone — Murad’s four-year-old son, who witnessed this trauma; Murad’s other dependants; Rasul and his family who will be reminded of his actions for the rest of their lives. We cannot value a human life as an economic utility function — if the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 1,726 official deaths in Karachi within the first six months of this year, it does not make additional deaths any less significant.

It is an indisputable fact that the Rangers’ duty is to protect the citizens yet clearly this was not the case here. Ghulam Haider’s unfortunate death at the hands of another Rangers soldier, roughly a month and a half ago, still runs fresh in the minds of the public.

It is retrospect, which allows us to analyse these incidents and the facts, and strongly form an opinion one way or the other. However, Rasul did not have that luxury. He had moments after a vehicle he flagged to stop reversed towards him. Rangers are no strangers to being attacked themselves — perhaps, Rasul acted instinctively and in self-defence. Did he need a defence when he was armed and surrounded by other Rangers? It’s subjective. We have seen solitary suicide bombers attack Rangers before through the medium of vehicles (North Nazimabad attack on Rangers) and if we argue that Rasul should have waited, we are lending credence to lack of action we bemoan when suicide bombers are able to carry out their activities.

Such incidents can also easily be caused by a rogue mind. In that case, rather than simply inspecting the action, we need to analyse the aftermath of such actions rigorously — who was Rasul taken into custody by? Was it his colleagues? Was it the police? Will he be shielded by his institution or hung out to dry? Will the state provide for Murad’s young son to go through a recovery process? Will the Rangers do the same? Will we vilify the Rangers for this incident as being abusive or will we look at it fairly? Are the Rangers indeed being abusive? Are there internal checks to prevent potential abuses of power? Do we even train our Rangers for special civilian protection tailored specifically for cities like Karachi and Quetta?

Just like we chastise a few bad seeds for giving Pakistan a bad name globally, we cannot be hypocritical and blame the entire institution of Rangers for the actions of a few elements. It is easy to forget the many violent outcomes averted because of the proactive actions of the Rangers because they never make the popular media. Rangers do their job discreetly — had Murad indeed been a terrorist, then this incident would have been glossed over and forgotten soon. We should not treat this as a case against the Rangers — Rasul should be tried on the basis of the incident alone. His role as a Ranger cannot be undermined but extra care should be taken that it does not protect him either.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.

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