The police of Karachi are used to chasing terrorists they can’t catch. This threat doesn’t even wear a suicide jacket. And so, perhaps for the first time in their careers, they find themselves doing a strange new kind of law enforcement. There is no law, for one, and every single person in the city is a criminal. The crime is one of omission, by not doing something: not staying at home.
The first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan were reported on February 26. One of them was a resident of Karachi who had recently returned home from Iran. A few weeks later, by March 23, the Sindh government had imposed a lockdown in the province, closing down all educational institutions, markets, shopping malls, restaurants, and public places.
The police were ordered to implement the order and restrict people to their homes to contain the spread of the virus.
But restricting people to their homes is proving to be an uphill task because a large number of people are not taking the virus seriously, police officers in the city told SAMAA Digital. At pickets, they slow down cars and implore people to wear masks and stay at home. But after the warning can do little else but let people pass.
While most of the main arteries of the city are empty, Nazimabad, one of Karachi’s most populated towns, proves the message has not sunk in. At around 5:30 pm, its streets are full of motorcycles and cars. At the corner of the street, four policemen watch the vehicles go by from their position on plastic chairs.
A lonely constable, in his 50s, shouts at the boys on bikes.
What did he think about how his job had changed? “We are third-class people,” he snapped. “Go talk to our superiors because I don’t want to lose my job.”