With unholy visions of last week’s clamor still alive in our minds and a fresh wave of street violence still a rife possibility after the release of Aasia Bibi from Multan jail, the season of riots, it seems is upon us.
And while there’s no denying that Pakistanis are a fairly shock-resistant nation, wholly familiar with violent agitation, it still seems in order to chalk out a list of dos and don’ts when and if there is a resurgence of civil unrest.
1. Stay Aware
Before venturing out make a quick effort to become aware about the security situation in your vicinity and if possible, neighbourhood.
The best and most authentic way to stay aware is through the social media handles of key government departments/officials. The Twitter handles of the Government of Pakistan, law enforcement departments (including the traffic police), deputy commissioners and Radio Pakistan are by far the most reliable sources of information in times of unrest.
If however, you do not have access to the internet and television is your only source of information, we would suggest that you limit yourself to one or two news channels that you believe are likely to provide the most authentic and up-to-date information.
2. Keep Your Shelves Stocked
The primary concern during a crises situation for average citizens is the availability and accessibility of essential supplies such as food and drinking water.
In a scenario where riots have either already broken out or are threatening to break-out, rush to your nearest grocer to get hold of a few essential items that will keep your household fed and warm for at least 3 – 5 days.
Other essentials include alternate sources of power and light as well as ways to keep housebound children entertained while weathering the riots.
3. When Housed in a Volatile Area
In case your residence is in a volatile area, staying indoors might not be enough to keep you safe. In such a scenario remain mindful that:
- All the doors and windows are securely bolted.
- It might be a good idea to place something heavy (e.g. a couch) in front of the main entrance if you fear that agitators might try to break-in.
- Try to remain away from glass objects including windows.
- It is best for the entire family to gather in one room. Ideally the room should not be exposed to the outside. This will keep you safe in case there is any firing right outside your residence.
4. If Caught in the Middle of a Riot
If by any chance you find yourself caught in the middle of an agitation, make sure you adhere to the following dos and don’ts:
- Do not become inquisitive and begin asking questions from the protesters.
- Do not engage with the the protesters unless they try to engage with you. In case of the latter, make a quick judgement of the situation and agree with what they’re saying instead of arguing and potentially risking your life. And as soon as their attention diverts, walk away slowly without drawing attention to yourself!
- Stay at the edge of the protest so that you can slip out easily but at the same time try to remain clear of structures made out of glass.
- Do not try to find your way to the front with the leaders of the protest so that you are not identified as a hooligan by mistake in case legal action is taken against the protesters during or after the agitation.
5. If You’re Trapped in a Car
Only last week we saw a number of pictures that showed average Pakistanis stuck on the roads and in their vehicles because of the riots. If you ever find yourself in such a situation ensure the following:
- Under no circumstances must you drive towards an agitated crowd.
- It is best to turn around and head back but if this is not possible, turn towards the nearest street on your sides to seek refuge.
- If you fear that the agitators will eventually catch-up with you in the street, evaluate your surrounding, get out of your car, lock your vehicle and make an exit from the situation on foot.
- If none of this is possible, then switch off the engine, keep your car locked, stay within and try to remain calm.
- At no point must you lose your temper or demonstrate hostility towards the protesters if they approach you.
Have something else to add to our list of ways to stay safe during riots? Please share in the comments below.