Every morning and evening, while driving to and from work, I pass through the famous Allah Wali Chowrangi at the end of Tariq Road and near the McDonalds branch there. It’s quite a sight, with a 3-D structure of Allah translated in Arabic, which is visible on all 4 approaching sides of the roundabout. A traffic signal is adequately positioned there so everyone gets to marvel it.
Marvel and of course, wait for the light to go green. While that happens, a lot of solicitations are encountered. These are of course the usual beggars, newspaper or magazine hawkers, flower peddlers, etc. Begging has already been described as an evil among all evils, as it is primarily done by even able-bodied men or women who can work for a living. Hawkers and peddlers on the other hand are engaged in a business activity, however they do risk getting hit if they don’t notice a green light turned on.
The worst of all these solicitations unfortunately, are the Birdnappers.
Karachiites have seen them: they’re the ones that approach you with a netted basket of sorts that contain different little birds (sparrows or swallows mostly). These birdnappers obviously capture them and hold them for ransom, and of course do release them when the ransom is paid. Since birds or their relatives (other birds obviously) don’t normally deal in currency and since these birdnappers don’t accept bread crumbs as a payment method, the birdnappers then accept any and all takers.
That’s right, for a measly amount (starting from Rs. 5 and so forth) you could release a captive bird, or more depending on how large your ransom amount is. Birdnappers goad and tempt all awaiting vehicle drivers at the red light to help these hapless little creatures that just can’t help but bounce and hop around the little cage, trying to flap their wings to freedom but fall short literally.
I remember when I was a kid, I saw this public service message on an Indian TV Channel that categorized the capture, sale and purchase of any birds whatsoever as a crime. Juhi Chawla, a popular Indian movie star back then was a spokesperson for this ad, and she was quoted as saying that birds are as free to roam the sky as much as people are allowed to breathe fresh air or walk freely etc.
So this act of actually holding a living creature against their will is in fact a crime. More surprising of course is that the section in question has a Police cell with officers ‘readily’ waiting to tackle crime (read: bribe) . However, as normal opinion of police officers in the country goes, they have rotten luck catching any criminals, let alone one (or more) operating right under their collective nose.
Folks, this activity is happening not just at this, but many other traffic signals all over the city (not really sure about other cities). Birdnappers, with blatant disregard for the sanctity of life, capture these birds, solicit their release among any humanitarians willing to pay for their freedom, and eventually recapture those birds & more to start a brand new day! True these people are poor, uneducated, deprived of adequate employment etc, but they do or should have moral conscience. Birdnapping is no worse than actual kidnapping. Social ills may compel people to kidnap people for ransom, but that too is a crime, a big one. Of course, no body is actively prepared to stop the birdnapping menace as no NGO has come forward to highlight this issue and certainly the numbers of birdnappers don’t appear to be shrinking anytime soon.
This does test the mettle of any virtuous or non-virtuous person waiting at the signal. Emotional blackmail hits a lot of people where it matters, where people may end up having no choice. Especially one time when I saw a father giving in not just into blackmail, but also his 2 little kids who started crying because the pretty little birds couldnt fly in the sky. Or just crying because they wanted to see the birds do a trick or something, so they do their best one: Fly the hell away!!!
It looks as though as if any person with a moral conscience, passing up a ransom demand, and eventually the great Allah Wali Chowrangi will definitely be driving on with a guilty conscience.