Toy guns sow the seeds of violence in Pakistan's young

Toy guns sow the seeds of violence in Pakistan's young
Boys celebrating the end of Ramadan play with toy guns. With sophisticated toy guns that look like the real thing, the writer is worried children are becoming desensitised to the violence real guns bring about.

Recently, I was walking through the dusty old alleys of Nazimabad in Pakistan's Karachi city and I couldn't help but notice one striking change in the slow-paced streets.

It wasn't the droning of generators in the occasional house or the new trend of Lego-block flats towering over smaller housing plots.

It was a "click"; an insistent sound coupled with the voices of children.

Every corner I turned, I heard it, one after another - this clicking sound was occasionally followed by the complaint of a kid who had been "hit". In the short walks on these streets, I noticed more replica guns than I had seen in just about anywhere.

I saw every other kid on that street with a "charray" (pellet) pistol in his hand, firing away - click! click! click! As I dodged the occasional misfire, I was struck by this show of blatant disregard for life - a lack of compassion and empathy passed on from parent, teacher, society to child.

We are encouraging a gun culture. Yet, we complain about it with a staggering hypocrisy.

I cannot recall seeing such sophisticated toy guns before. It was one thing to play "cowboys and Indians" with rainbow-coloured plastic toys or pump-action water guns. But these convincing, military-like guns in the hands of our children must not be taken lightly.

Earlier this year, two young boys were shot at (one of whom died) while taking a selfie with a toy gun by trigger-happy police in Punjab. The bitter irony of this tragic incident epitomised a sickness that the closeness to guns can bring upon a society.

The boys were fond of replica guns, the police mistook them for real ones and shot them (a reaction which may be unjustified even if the guns were real), in the process exposing their own tendency for firearm abuse.

Another occasion our doomed proximity to weapons manifested itself in was the move to allow teachers to carry firearms in one part of Pakistan. It resulted in what many of us feared from the beginning: the accidental death of a schoolchild in Swat.

That is why I welcomed the resolution tabled earlier last month, which sought to enforce a ban on toy guns. Lawmakers and civil-society members have implemented or are seeking similar bans elsewhere in Pakistan.

One might chide these moves as irrelevant to our very real terrorism problems, wrought with real guns.

But we have now seen target killers emerge from even the more educated and affluent sections of our society, and that the "real terrorism" is happening in the same streets that our kids play in.

The culture of violence and aggression should not be glorified. Otherwise, we are essentially desensitising the concept of death by firearm - making our children's minds numb to the loss of life in a subtle way.

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