Violent crime is something that used to happen to other people and then only rarely. But, these days, those so victimised are coming closer and closer to home - they wear an invisible sign written in indelible ink across their stricken foreheads and it warns: “You’re next!”

Such is the state of affairs on the streets and in the homes of Pakistan and indeed in many other countries of the world too in the hard world of today; a world in which to own anything at all - money, jewellery, property, a car, a laptop computer, a cell phone etc - is enough to mark you as a potential target for someone on the prowl for a fast buck.

Street crime, violent street crime, and this in broad daylight too is not what one tends to think of when making a visit to the bank in an upscale area of Karachi - in this case, Zamzama Boulevard - yet it is a ‘clear and present danger’, as the following incident more than amply demonstrates: a friend’s sister was booked to make an overseas trip to meet up with other family members, including one she had not seen for many years. With the trip planned months in advance and the departure date only a matter of days away; she did what any intending traveller is apt to do, pay a visit to the bank to draw some ready cash. All went smoothly until she was back in her car and was heading for home. As her driver turned the vehicle back on to the road, a car pulled across the front of them and brought them to a halt. Three armed men immediately leapt out and raced to surround her car which the driver, realising that something was badly wrong, was struggling to reverse. Two of the men brandished pistols, one pointing directly at the drivers head through the half open window, while the third man hammered on the closed window where the petrified woman struggled to comprehend what the hell was going on. Before she could get her senses in order, the man at the window lost patience, not that he could afford to have any as speed was obviously of the essence, and smashed the window with the butt of his Kalashnikov…….yes, Kalashnikov…….grabbed her bag and then all three assailants took off at the speed of light and that…….unfortunately…….was that.

The woman was not only robbed of a sizeable amount of money, but also her credit cards, a variety of other papers, including her all-important Computerised Identity Card (CID) card and all of the other personal effects that a woman tends to stash in her handbag and some of which are totally irreplaceable. Obviously, she and her driver both were lucky not to be physically injured, but the invisible mental injuries will take a very long time to heal if, that is, they ever do!

Aside from the immediate trauma of being robbed at gunpoint, there is now the very big worry that something else - something equally as bad if not more so - just might happen, as the robbers now have in their despicable hands a treasure trove of personal information about their victim, including her name and home address. Having been so brutally robbed, her family reunion cancelled as she no longer has the necessary cash, travel documents or even CID to rebook. She is now having nightmares about possible attacks on the home she once considered her own personal fortress and there is not, short of selling up and moving house, a darned thing she can do about either. Living in fear is, for now at least, her only option. The robbers did not just steal cash and possessions…….they stole her peace of mind right away forever.

Furthermore, it is patently obvious that the robbers, perhaps acting on information received, had been following her every move for quite some time, as they must have known that she was going to the bank, known the exact time, and why which results in even more questions and more worries as whom - Staff? Associates? Friends? - could have ‘sold’ her out?

Such horrific incidents are fast becoming the rule, rather than the exception in the streets of our cities and towns and even in our villages too where it is usually women, who are victimised in one way or another. Women were, once upon a time and long ago, given every measure of respect by the opposite gender, unless, that is, they had really done something extraordinarily bad to turn the society against them and, even then, they were rarely victimised as the women, from all walks of life, are victimised today. No woman, irrespective of age, background or social standing, is safe - even in her own home now which, when one takes into account that according to Islamic principles – “the world is in your mother’s feet” - is a frightening scenario, indeed!

    The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.