Dolmen City shooting: We deserve answers

Published: March 4, 2013

No one had actually been abducted successfully but what is more chilling, yes chilling, is that this may not have been an attempted kidnapping at all. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

My heart skipped a beat when I first heard about the violent shooting incident at Dolmen City mall in Clifton, Karachi. Living close to the mall, I manage to frequent Dolmen City a few times a week, so the news that there had been gun fire and reportedly an attempted kidnapping within the massively popular new shopping mall was especially alarming.

Later, when I tried to ascertain the exact details of the incident, I found the accounts to be conflicting. While the official police report claimed that the incident was not a kidnapping, witnesses to the occurrence said that not only was it a kidnapping, but that one woman had indeed been taken.

This has turned out to be false, as no one has actually been abducted successfully.

What is more chilling, yes chilling, is that this may not have been an attempted kidnapping at all.

Here is what we know:

1. A new black luxury sedan showed up to enter the publically accessible underground parking area. The vehicle was most probably stolen, with license plates that were mostly likely also stolen, or forged.

2. Dolmen City has two entrances. The first is from the outside, where one can park anywhere on the public road, and enter the premises on foot. The second and more popularly used entrance is on the side of the building, where cars form a queue to enter the underground parking. There are two levels to the well-organised underground parking, where extremely well trained guards help shoppers park their vehicles.

The criminals entered from this side entrance in their vehicle to go to the underground parking, where once inside the premises, they were noticed for some suspicious behaviour while still inside the car. Here, it is unclear what happened, but an alarm was raised, and the emergency steel shutters to both the entrance and the exit were brought down to trap the offenders within.

At this point the criminals were unable to complete whatever their goal was, and started shooting at the guards in a desperate attempt to break out. Eventually, they injured a guard and opened the steel doors themselves to make the escape, where they carjacked a vehicle, and fled the scene.

A second group of criminals from the vehicle, cleverly disguised in plain sight, ran out unhindered, where a getaway vehicle was waiting for them.

Now, regarding the violent shooting, CCTV footage has found its way to us courtesy of private TV channel, Geo.  I must warn you that not only is the following video soul chilling, but disturbingly compelling for repeat viewings.

Things to note from footage:

0:02- Criminal in a white shirt starts walking towards persons unknown with his weapon drawn. Here, a brave guard tackles him.

0:03- See that young girl in the light coloured clothing running? You will see her again.

0:05- Yes, you saw that right. With a long ponytail, clad in shalwar kamiz, a woman stepped out of the vehicle. The same woman who probably started screaming later, pretending to be a kidnapping victim! It is the perfect cover. Like something out a movie, isn’t it?

0:15- The truth is stranger than fiction folks. There is a second ‘woman’ who steps out here, and she is accompanied by a child. I say ‘woman’, because unlike the other two females of this gang, this person is clad in a burqa, quite possibly in order to conceal ‘her’ sex.

At this point it is obvious that these people were masquerading as a family in order to enter Dolmen City undetected. It is possible that some were made party to these activities against their will. The child I am sure was kidnapped and brainwashed by the gang, which is why he doesn’t escape. If this is indeed true, I feel sorry for this kid, and his parents who are probably wondering where he is.

0:35- One of the criminals seems to be tossing his gun under the vehicle. I estimate this is so that he can escape through the mall in plain sight without setting the metal detectors off.

0:45- The second ‘woman’, girl, and the child, later escape unhindered, easy as you like, in the getaway vehicle. Notice how professionally the vehicle is driven in reverse? These people were highly trained.

Here is a little background. Dolmen City is a magnificent shopping mall that has been opened quite recently in Pakistan. While by western standards it would be considered large sized, measured by the Pakistani yardstick, it is pretty massive, with a vast number of foreign eateries and upscale shops. Not only does Dolmen City host the shopping market, Hyper Star, but also international clothing brands such as Debenhams, Mango, Monsoon, Nine-West, Next, Timberland, etcetera; brands rare to this city.

Moreover, Dolmen City has highly modern architecture from the outside and from within, featuring a state-of-the-art underground parking, and beautifully designed infrastructure. Located near the most upmarket residential area in Karachi, walking inside Dolmen City, one can almost forget that they are in Pakistan, and not a foreign city.

In fact, if one travels away from the residential area of ‘Defence’, near where Dolmen City is located, and into older and lesser developed parts of the city, one is starkly made aware of the measurable differences between the standards of living in Pakistan. Watching the more underprivileged folk, travel hours from corners of the city, simply to window shop in Dolmen City on the weekends, is an uneasy reminder of such growing extreme differences.

While I have always felt safe travelling to Dolmen City, I have sometimes wondered if such posh malls in Pakistan are on the cross-hairs of terrorists. After all, the building is the biggest example of a consumer minded western civilisation.

So the question which gives me goose bumps is that if this whole incident wasn’t a kidnapping, what was it?

Think about it for a second.

Why would criminals, who clearly have access to vast resources, be stupid enough to attempt a kidnapping from such a public place, and not strike at an area where their target was more vulnerable?

I am only speculating here, but is it possible that these organised people were terrorists?

Dolmen City is absolutely packed on Saturday night, with a waiting period of thirty minutes for car parking alone for visitors from all corners of Karachi. This incident happened late afternoon on Saturday when the mad rush was about to begin. Were these criminals hoping to get inside undetected and bide their time until the building was teeming with shoppers before they could raise havoc?

Now that they’ve escaped, will they try again?

Perhaps I am wrong, and this wasn’t meant to be an organised attack on shoppers. Yet it still shows how vulnerable we all are, regardless of the corner of Karachi we sit in.

One thing is clear; we deserve answers.

Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @Pugnate

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

A freelance writer and regular contributor to The Express Tribune magazine and newspaper, Noman tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari
  • Sychh

    So now that ‘Cliffence’ is being targeted too I think it’s time we took some action against terrorism.

    I mean, I JUST got myself a dress from Debenhams for a party this Friday night and I absolutely will NOT tolerate it if the party is cancelled due to security reasons.

    How can democracy prosper when an above average elitist citizen can’t even go to the mall for some FatBurger?

    I say we start a facebook page against all this. Or a Twitter account.Recommend

  • Faraz

    you need to join the CIA…great analysisRecommend

  • Wahab

    you make some sense. Law agencies should consider every possibility. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Zero – 6, Dark Doleman Mall…………………….Noman you’re good.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/514880/mall-shootout-woman-guard-hurt-in-a-kidnapping-bid-at-dolmen-mall-clifton/#comment-1374020

    According to this:

    A woman and a security guard were
    wounded during a bid to foil a
    kidnapping at the Dolmen Mall in
    Clifton on Saturday. According to
    witnesses, three young men and a girl
    inside a black car, with a green
    ‘applied for registration’ licence
    plate for 2012, tried to kidnap a
    woman, who was accompanied by a
    teenage girl and a toddler in the
    underground parking. The woman shouted
    for help as the suspects tried to
    kidnap her. This alerted the security
    guard, Ghulam Din, who ran towards the
    car. “As soon as they saw Din coming,
    the driver of the black car tried to
    drive on the wrong way and hit a
    pavement as well,” recalled Din’s
    colleague. “At that time, the driver,
    the female suspect and the kidnapped
    family were inside the car.”

    This conflicts with what I read about all occupants having come to the mall in the vehicle. It also is strange how a getaway vehicle was waiting for the victims of the attempted kidnapping.

    At the same time, this family did look like victims the way there running around distressed. Recommend

  • Gul Hassan

    I also witnessed the shooting, saw police and gauds cordoned off entrances, hundreds of people who came out of market, i had come to visit the Dollman but saw crowds of people surrounding the building.

    I am sreally surprised how come kidnappers escape from the gaurds and police men.
    also a million dollar question is will there be a follow up investigation after all police now has the footage. Arresting the kidnappers is big challenge, police must do it. Recommend

  • Moazzam Salim

    As per news published in all the dailies the culprits were sons of an influential person in Sind and they are reported to be studying in a Clifton college. In the light of that revelation this write up looks like to be an assumed story. A fact that corroborates the influential person angle is that police has not filed any FIR in the case!Recommend

  • abcd

    Dear Author,
    I have seen the entire footage I am part of the mall management so let me clear out a few facts that you have gotten completely wroing:
    – the video they show on tv is a clip from the entire footage of what actually happened. what you can see from the complete cctv footage is that a man and a women enter the mall (cant figure who is on the back seat, but the man in the white shirt and the women in blue shalwar kameez (third photo) enter together. they are both kidnappers and the women never pretends to be a victim
    – they have been following a car which enters a few minutes before them.
    – they try to pick up a women, her kid, and a younger girl from the parking when the women raises alarm ( not seen the footage of this, but this is the eye witness account of the guards present), the guards get alerted and run towards the car. At this point the car rushes towards the exit to leave
    – the guards immediately seals the exit and the car can be seen going round and round in the parking trying to find a way out.
    – they finally realize there is no way out and decide to get of the car and start shooting at the guards to let them out
    – at this time a very brave guard lungs on the main kidnapper and tries to control him, this is when the women who were being kidnapped run out of the car, and another guards escorts them towards the mall entrance.towards safety
    – the men, shooting at the guard at the entrance point manage to run away. you can tell from the video that two men and the women in blue shalwar kameez all run away together.
    – their reason for wanting to abduct these women is beyond me, however the most likely explanation is a personal enmity. they have left behind a lot of evidence so if the police wants to they can be traced very easily. this was by no means a terrorist attack!
    – if anyone is concerned, the guard that was shot is out of danger and the women being kidnapped are also fine and i believe they have been questioned by the police. the only people injured was one of the girl being kidnapped and the guard, no one else injured as stated by some television channels.Recommend

  • Jogar Azeem

    Lately there are a lot of big groups of men walking around dolmen mall and stairing at women. Last time i was there a group of them touched and harassed a girl and her mother. No on in the mall even stepped in to help them. The girls later had to leave from the side exit because the men were waiting for them outside. I wish they would improve security at Dolmen mall like at Port grand. TIll then i’m not visiting the place again.Recommend

  • Jogar Azeem

    This is a really well written article.Recommend

  • Akhter

    Nice pictorail discription ,Now u given task of Sanaha Abbas Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @abcd:

    Hi! Thanks for the clarification. If the kidnapping victims were escorted away by a driver who was scared by the account of things, I don’t understand why GEO TV has edited the video and narrated in a fashion that shows they were driven by some expert etc. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Jogar Azeem:

    Security needs an improvement. The metal detectors they have outside are useless. Also, while it is a nice place on the weekdays, on the weekends it turns to hell. Recommend

  • deluded

    I’m afraid this is a rather poorly written article with a lot of the facts bordering on the absurd.

    A few points to get your facts right:

    First of all Dolmen Mall is not a Bastion of security for visitors, a large majority of these so called “Extremely” well trained security guards are parking attendants, not commandos. It is neither in their job description nor their training to defend anything. Whoever has done so in this incident has done it off their own volition and should rightfully be commended for their bravery.
    It is not difficult to gain access to Dolmen mall and you certainly do not need any specialist training to enter or leave. I have been there several times on so called “Family days” with my equally male friends and have bypassed the metal detectors altogether without anyone raising an eyebrow.
    In our society terrorists are now defined as mass murderers, normally affiliated with organizations like the TTP or at a stretch your local political target killers. As I’m sure everyone is well aware of how they are fully capable of walking into amongst many other places, military bases and keeping our army at bay for hours on end. I hardly think they would flinch and back off in an underguarded shopping mall without doing any real damage. I have also never heard of Taliban or target killers enjoying female companionship while on their missions.
    It is not that outrageous to hear about incidents like these. This is not the first time, crimminals (Not terrorists) have used women and children to carry out a kidnapping or robbery. Infact crimminals have always been pretty innovative which I suppose is a prerequisite for pulling any crime more complicated than a phone snatching.

    Please do not take this as a pointless article bash, I do agree with you that we need a proper investigation and people deserve more closure as to what happened, but you have an avenue to present people with proper facts, not cheap commentary on conspiracy theories backed by facts blown out of proportion.Recommend

  • Fahd Ali Raza

    Hello. I visit Dolmen a lot with my family. I don’t give a dash about what really happened. I ain’t goin’ there again. I love my family, and its just not worth the risk.Recommend

  • A

    @Noman Ansari: Now that your posh area mall is getting targeted by ‘terrorists’ as you put them…lets start a facebook page and demand ‘answers’.
    You might have noticed that we had a huge blast in a not so posh area of Karachi yesterday but ofcourse the engagement of one of your elite was more important for the police. Recommend

  • Stranger

    For once I feel the Tabliban has nothing to do with this shooting. The Taliban must be relieved.Recommend

  • Fiza

    @author: I watched the footage on ARY and I did not see any burka clad woman coming out of the car. The one with the child was the first one to disembark, followed by other girls. The last one seemed a bit suspicious to me. I am not sure who the child was and why didnt they take the women into custody for cross examination. Poor child, I feel so sorry for the little one to be stuck in such a horrific incident. Cant help thinking about him! Recommend

  • Max

    @abcd: The mall guards did a good job in foiling the kidnapping attempt and keeping any damage to a minimum. But the point is these guys entered the mall parking with weapons, and no one stopped them. That’s a serious lapse of security. The metal bars you guys use at parking entrance are useless, even the british company which marketed them is now closed with law suits for fraud filed against it. I was already apprehensive of the security lapses at Dolmen City Mall, and after this incident I will be avoiding it till you guys come up with a proper screening setup at the mall perimeter. Recommend

  • Fiza

    I completely agree with deluded! This doesn’t make any sense. These are influential people who were involved in this incident and its definitely a kidnapping case. I am not sure why the author is trying to misrepresent the facts and divert everyone’s attention from the main culprits probably part of the government?! Such incidents have been reported before in the city and the culprits are always in a car with tinted windows and govt number plates.. wondering if it is a coincidence but i think they have become very bold and audacious owing to their contacts and powerful positions. They know they are above the law and can go around abducting women with impunity.. shame on us for defending such perpetrators and misleading people! Recommend

  • confused

    @Fahd Ali Raza:
    @Max:
    where will you guys go then? which place is Karachi do you classify as safe? please let me know i will go there tooRecommend

  • Jamal Alvi

    as a pakistani living abroad for the last twenty years it breaks my heart to see what has become of my beloved home town. It saddens me further that cases like this are reported yet a mugging in Nazmabad is not even noted at the local police station. As long as the rich and middle class are kept in comfort it is almost as though a poor persons life is not worth caring about, however when the shooting and mugging and murders come to their front door it is all that can be reported. Yes I seek justice for Shahzeb Khan too, but what about the other hundereds who have had the same thing done to them but because they are poor and from Liyari or Gulistan-e-johor the police are not even interested. What a sad state of affairs when money makes you human and without it you are just human cattle.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @deluded:

    First of all Dolmen Mall is not a
    Bastion of security for visitors, a
    large majority of these so called
    “Extremely” well trained security
    guards are parking attendants, not
    commandos

    Extremely well trained not a protection but the mall attendants are really well trained at managing parking and are very polite and good at handling customers. I have seen many occasions where wierdos have been professionally handled who were looking to harass women.

    Also, once my car broke down and they were brilliant at helping me. So yes, well trained. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @A:

    hain? Recommend

  • Jahanzeb Punjwani

    @Wahab: do you mean rehman malik? you must be kiddin!Recommend

  • ab

    the big question remains that why they were there when they could have made a move on the victim anywhere else? wondering will there be answers anywhere?Recommend

  • Hammad Mapara

    @Sychh:

    I am quite devastated after reading your comment. You are such a selfish person. So you are not bothered by the fact that lots of people are getting killed on Karachi streets but you will be really pissed off if your party get cancelled due to these foul activities taking place in the city? God, that shows your self centered mentality. By the way, my parents live in Defence as well but truly, my heart goes out to people who are dying in Malir, Nazimabad, Gulshan and other parts of Karachi. Indeed, Pakistan is falling apart because of stupid self centered people like you!!Recommend

  • Dia

    Dolmen Mall I’m sorry to say this but has uncouth men loitering around and sitting gawking at women. Groups of men should not be allowed into the mall.
    Secondly, the security machines are pathetic, the guards just stand there, dazed. . There have been numerous time, I haven’t been checked…
    Kudos goes to the guards who acted sharply in this situation.Recommend

  • TTV

    @Hammad Mapara:
    She was being sarcastic……Recommend

  • Omar

    @Sychh:

    I don’t understand the point of your ‘sarcasm’. It’s in poor taste at best, and it seems to be clearly affected by geographical insecurities. You are obviously pissed off about a recent event that got a lot of public attention because it was tweeted when the fact is similar events go unnoticed all over the country. Well, take your misery elsewhere. If a single soul that has been wronged in our nation can be avenged we should be happy. Shame on you for being so selfish.

    @Hammad Mapara:
    That is sarcasm. But its in poor taste. You seem to have put in very blunt words exactly what the other person was hinting at. Shame on you too. And the loads of recommendations these posts have received.Recommend

  • Human

    Well Written & Good Job done Noman

    ABCD :

    Improve your security & have random checking , have casual dressed security move around the Place too
    & please check all BURQA women , if they dont want to be checked ask them to LEAVE .
    As Security means checking & to know who is inside that Burqa
    they dont like the rules then dont come to Dolmen MallRecommend

  • Xyz

    Very well written..
    @ abcd : sir u nailed itRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    I wrote this article on Saturday when the video went viral. Since then I have seen full footage and read reports that state the woman in the dark clothing, child, and girl, were all kidnapping victims in Dolmen City.

    One of the kidnappers was actually a girl.

    It still doesn’t make sense why the would kidnap in such an area or why they would try to kidnap such a large family. Why not one person?Recommend

  • abcd

    it was a personal feud.. a possible affair/affiliation between the girl being kidnapped and the guy..police has confirmed reports that the girl being kidnapped and the guy knew each other from before and had spend a lot of time talking on the phone..
    these are not the views of the mall but information i got on my own and it could be wrong.
    Now please lets concentrate on the 50 or so people who lost their lives sitting inside their houses in the same city!Recommend

  • Sterry

    I agree that this is a family feud or personal feud gone bad – I’m glad there was no loss of life.Recommend

  • Sidrah

    @abcd

    Uff aik toh… This mentality is so common in Pakistan. Woman gets attacked or kidnapped reason being that she was having an affair and angered her boyfriend. Karachi police too have reached this conclusion without any proper investigation. Case closed.

    What about the recent cases of influential people picking up women and raping them in Posh areas of Khi. Could it have anything to do with that? But why should anyone care since; it’s so much easy to put the blame on some elusive boyfriend then conduct an actual investigation.Recommend

  • Sidrah
  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Woah. Don’t piss off these ammer baap kay baitay. Recommend