Target killing is not the elite’s cup of tea
August 17, 2012
The target killing of 10 to 15 people in the troubled Karachi city in a single day has become so common that now it does not warrant even a single statement from those at the helm that they had taken notice of the killing and would bring the killers to justice. The killing of over one dozen innocent people in the city is no more considered a ‘big issue’ by those at the helm and the mindless bloodletting goes on unabated. Though this unabated violence, including targeted killings, arson, dacoities, street crime etc, is taking its economic toll on the city and its dwellers, there is no realization of the severity and implication of the killings in the power corridors.
Besides heavy economic toll, the social and psychological cost of violence is immeasurable.
Psychiatrists say the number of people suffering from psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety and stress, is increasing at alarming rate in the city. They say continuing violence and its over-projection by the media, especially the electronic media, have a detrimental effect on the psychological health of Karachiites.
The number of people suffering from depression and different metal illnesses is growing with each passing day. There has been a marked increase in the influx of mental diseases and depression patients at the OPDs of different public and private hospitals of the city.
A report of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan says 34 percent of the country's population suffers from some form of mental illness. But psychiatrists say the ratio is higher in Karachi, as for the last few years ethnic, political and sectarian violence has increased manifold. During the last four years, the city has witnessed the worst kind of ethnic, sectarian and political violence besides gang wars and other criminal activities including the ever increasing street crime. This, apart from other factors, has led to a marked increase in mental and psychological disorders in the city.
An official of Civil Hospital Karachi said that over 120 people suffering from different mental diseases and depression visit the OPD of the hospital daily and the number is increasing with every passing day. The biggest public health facility, Jinnah Post Graduate Medicial Centre (JPMC), receive even greater number of psychological and mental illness patients daily. The situation is no more different in other hospitals, as both private and public sector health facilities, including the specialized facilities of psychological disorders, witness an increase in mental illness, depression and other psychological disorders' cases in the city.
Psychiatrists say if one prioritizes the list of human needs, the most basic need is physical security, which is followed by the need for safety, need for social affiliation and lastly the need for aesthetic satisfaction. But the continued violence, they say, has not only impacted on the citizens economically, but also created a sense of insecurity among them. The people are worried about getting their daily meal and are unable to fulfill even their basic physical needs. The deteriorating law and order situation and unabated violence have robbed them of their sense of security and safety due to which a large number of people, especially of Karachi, have become prone to psychological disorders.
Renowned psychologist and Director Programmes, Neuro Psychology Centre, Pakistan, Nausheen Shahzad says the number of patients suffering from different mental illnesses, depression, anxiety and stress has increased during recent years.
Continued violence in the city has impacted on the citizen psychologically. She said violence and over projection and unnecessary coverage of violent incidents by the media, especially the electronic media, has traumatized people. When people watch scenes of violence repeatedly on the media then they suffer from Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), which causes further anxiety and fear. In such a state, people start to respond to hoax or rumours as well.
She said in recent days there were cases where people did not venture out of their homes for outing with their families or children due to the fear of violence. Nausheen Shahzad explains that the residents of the city have become terrorized by the continued violence and suffer from Panic Attack. When there is news about violence in any part of the city, people get panicked and rush to their homes for fear of violence.
She says Karachi has been held hostage by the people involved in violence. The psychologist says violence causes mental stress among people which leads to anxiety, sleeplessness and drug addiction. The people living in a violent atmosphere suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and then they begin to fight on petty issues on the streets and in their homes.
When the media focuses on scenes of violence and flashes it repeatedly on screens, it multiplies the fears and anxiety of people. In such a situation people suffer from Learned Helplessness. People react to such a situation in two ways; some people suffer from depression, anxiety and stress while other become insensitive or unconcerned.
Nusheen says there was a dire need to highlight positive things of society, especially by the media and shun negativity. Besides, there is a need to create a sense of security among the people by allowing them to keep arms for protection. She also called for imparting self-defense training to school children and people and to be proactive.
Psychiatrists say the present volatile situation in the city has also affected the mental health of schoolchildren who feel themselves insecure while going to schools. They urge the government to take decisive steps to restore peace, end load shedding and improve the economy to rid the citizens of these persisting problems.
About the social cost of the violence, renowned social scientists Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat said that the violence had a lasting impact on the social life of the city. He says before the start of enthno-political violence that started lashing out Karachi in mid- eighties, Karachi used to be the 'City of Lights' for its lively and joy-filled life.
The people of the biggest urban center of the country were the most civilized, decent, modest, peaceful and educated and politically conscious, but violence in different forms totally changed the social landscape of Karachi. Karachiites, who consider carrying arms a bad thing, are now living in a den of arms and weapons. People belonging to one ethnicity don’t enter the locality of another ethnic group.
Due to the geo-political importance of the city and being the business and industrial capital of the country, Dr Burfat say, many regional and international players have interests in the city, which is also causing problems. The city, which has had exemplary communal, sectarian and ethnic harmony, has now been divided on ethnic, sectarian and other basis. The continued violence has detrimental impact on social life of the city, he opined.