Adopted by the Abid family as a young pup, Milli was a gentle, loving dog, as Labradors tend to be.
On one occasion, an injured pigeon landed in Milli’s house. While the Abid family nursed it for days, Milli too played her part, watching over it like a silent guardian until it was well enough to fly away.
Milli loved her walks too. The outside smells and sights were likely an intoxicating concoction. A few days ago, Milli was out on one her cherished walks with the head of the Abid family, 71-year old Aley, who had her on a leash.
As Aley and Milli strolled by a house, Milli noticed a peculiar sight; something she was not likely to have come across regularly. It was a peacock, which belonged to Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Fida Hussain.
The pet peacock, out of its cage, was strolling under the watchful eye of the SSP’s uniformed police guard. Milli immediately began barking at the peacock. Now, anyone familiar with dogs will tell you this was merely out of curiosity.
In response, the SSP’s uniformed guard aimed his weapon at the excited Labrador, and fired. His bullet, whistling past a shocked Aley, piercing Milli.
Before firing his weapon, the guard did not make any attempt to distract the dog. He also had no regard for Aley, who had Milli on a leash.
It was a traumatic moment for Aley, who understandably, was left shaken. His son, Jaffer Raza, reached soon after, but by then, Milli was dead, her now lifeless body a traumatic sight for her family.
To add to this, the guard did not show an ounce of remorse for the murderous act. Instead, with contempt, he said, “Jo kerna hay woh kerlay (Now do whatever you want to).”
News of the killing spread on social media like wildfire. The hashtag #JusticeForMilli began trending on Twitter where influential journalists and politicians such as Sherry Rehman took notice. On the Pakistan Animal Welfare (PAWS) Facebook page, Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid also expressed shock at the news.
The Abid family maintained incredible grace in the face of such heartbreak. Rather than seeking vengeance, they tried to use Milli’s death as a catalyst for change.
They asked the SSP to not only take action against the guard in question, but introduce a written protocol for his guards on circumstances which justify firing weapons in residential neighbourhoods.
Aley’s daughter Zehra Abid informed me on Twitter that the SSP was very apologetic, and seemed genuinely sympathetic towards the grief of the Abid family. He also agreed to donate a sum to an animal welfare charity amounting to the value of an adult Labrador.
Milli’s murder certainly speaks volumes of the disdain we, in Pakistan, have towards animals.
As someone who grew up with all sorts of pets, I feel frustrated at the cruelty our stray cats, dogs, donkeys, camels, and horses are subjected to.
Nothing exemplifies this better than a typical stray dog in Pakistan.
In neighbouring countries, such as Nepal and Thailand, I see stray dogs living in harmony with their environment. Tails wagging, they are ever ready for a petting by strangers, and feel no fear. Why would they? Dogs are impressionable creatures, and the personalities they develop are a reflection of their environment.
In Pakistan, however, stray dogs are absolutely terrified of human beings. It is because we stone them, kick them, and throw sticks at them, that they develop anxiety which sometimes translates into aggression as a means of self-preservation.
Dogs are incredibly loyal and loving beasts, and known as man’s best friend for a reason. Endless stories throughout the ages prove that many of them have bigger hearts than most of us humans.
It is tragic how creatures with such wonderful emotional intelligence live in fear of humans in Pakistan.
A few years ago, I was awoken by the cries of a dog in an empty plot next to my house. This continued for a couple of hours until I finally got out of bed and went outside. To my shock, I saw three guards, torturing a stray dog with sticks and sharp rocks. The dog was not only crying, but bleeding profusely.
Seething with fury, I approached the chuckling men and demanded to know why they were tormenting the poor animal. The tallest of the three, towering my six foot frame by at least five more inches and armed to the teeth threatened, “Yeh toh bas kutta hai. Tu apnay kaam say kaam rakh (He is just a dog, you’d better mind your own business)”.
I tried to appeal to his sense of ethics by quoting Islamic teachings on animal treatment, to which the man growled, “Toh hum kya kaafir hay? (Are you saying we are infidels?)”. Thankfully, the poor mutt ran away as we argued.
Recently, on the popular Facebook page ‘Halaat Updates’, a person asked for advice on how he could kill a stray dog who was howling in the nights and not letting him sleep. I’d like to ask such people why our lives are more valuable than those of animals?
Are we as human beings more deserving of life than them?
Are our lives more priceless simply because animals cannot speak for themselves, and lack the capacity to fight for their own rights?
On the contrary, does our higher standing not make it our obligation to protect creatures that are unable to fend for themselves?
Since the majority of this nation is Muslim, I encourage people to read this BBC page on Islam’s treatment of animals.
One can only hope for real change following Milli’s murder. As for Milli herself, I have a feeling she’s up there in doggy heaven, happy and loving as ever.