Is there any solution to Karachi’s trigger-happy muggers?

Published: May 11, 2015
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I looked up only to take in, at that moment, the handle of a revolver, and a hooded figure. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT (Danish Ali's video)

I sat there, bewildered; you expect it, consciously, yet subconsciously you believe you’ll be immune from it, somehow, by some grand scheme of the universe.

Once the calm after the storm had washed over, it was replaced with a racing pulse and bouts of anger. Inadvertently, I uttered a curse directed at that hooded figure that only moments ago had stood in the figure of a knell beside me.

After four years in Karachi, I somehow believed I had become equipped in the tools of avoiding being mugged. I barely used my phone while in the car or in public transport, carrying my wallet in such a way that important cards are kept in a different pocket till I could safely replace them.

The sun had only begun to set and there was still daylight. We were in a traffic jam and I was already fretting about being stuck in the embouteillage for another good half an hour, so with nothing else to entertain me, I turned to my phone to play music and sing along – whiling away the time.

I was looking at the screen when I heard a heavy knocking at the window. I thought it was a beggar and I decided to concentrate on finding the song I was looking for. The thump returned, heavier than a human hand could produce this time. I looked up only to take in, at that moment, the handle of a revolver, and a hooded figure.

Gingerly, I pressed the button to lower the window, and with deep breaths I let what I had prepared for in my mind multiple times over, occur. The revolver slithered past the open window and a voice muttered “phone dou” (give your phone) followed by a “wallet dou” (give your wallet).

I fumbled and gave my phone, but insisted that I did not have my “purse”. He repeated it with greater force, and then my eyes fell on a trembling hand; an unsteady disposition that this clearly unskilled mugger held.

Without a second thought I reached into my back pocket and handed the wallet, with a feeble, failed attempt at slipping the debit card out – simply because it’s a pain to get one renewed and it would be useless to the man in a few hours.

With the handing over of the wallet, I finally took in the features of my fated mugger in the time it took him to remove the revolver and dash to the car behind us.

My initial anger subsided within an hour; however, it was replaced by anger directed elsewhere – the elusive authorities that be.

He was hardly a year or two older than I was. A young chap, scared as hell, decent features. He wore the thug costume quite well, it must be noted.

I realised that here I was, 22, chasing my dreams, forging paths to a future, building relationships and experiencing the best of what I possibly can. Yet there he was, possibly not even dreaming, far from the countenance that a 22-year-old should have. Far from the experiences any young adult should be coerced into by circumstance. True, he could find work – there are a million arguments, rightly so, as to what he did was utterly despicable and wrong – but there’s a foreboding sense of knowing: are the options available truly equitable to this quick fix?

With an increasing number of street urchins, especially in Karachi, forging their lives on the streets with no shelter, no foster care or system in place to protect them from clearly neglectful parents, it’s no wonder that these children eventually find their way into the hands of those who offer them protection, take them under their wing and use them to do the scat work, giving them a percentage for their loot.

More so, where are the vocational training programs and employment opportunities supported by the government for those people who are denied education? For those young adults who could possibly be used in other areas where employment is offered with shelter and food (ideally state-sponsored)? Mobilising this section of human resource and allocating it where it could do more good than harm should be the priority of our government right now.

I blame myself for perpetuating a vicious cycle of not participating in bridging the divide between the different socio-economic strata, I blame those who turn to illegal ways to obtain a living for the personal decision they undertook, and I blame the “elusive authorities that be” for focusing on all the wrong infrastructure and not utilising what is there and (re-)allocating it and creating opportunities; for not forming programs from the grassroots to avoid the street crime levels that are prevalent at the moment instead of tackling it with arms and force when it is prevalent.

It might be a foolhardy question but when will we start laying foundations the fruits of which will be reaped by generations to come?

I’ll leave it at this Greek proverb, which perhaps some elusive old man might read it, perhaps something in him might stir and change:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

Vishal Raza

Vishal Raza

The author is a medical student at the Aga Khan University, and a student of life and literature at heart. He is primarily interested in the sociology associated with what makes the common Pakistani who he or she is. He tweets as @vishalraza

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

  • Hanibal

    I have no empathy for these muggers, they’ve killed many innocent people.Recommend

  • Riz Haque

    Everybody seems to be a blood sucker for Khiites. Whether its traffic police or Kali police or politicians or doctors or land mafia or muggers or beggers or whatever. Everybody in power sucks only bucks from Karachiites.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    So let me guess, you are now going to file for immigration in Canada and move into their ghetto areas and start bashing Pakistan with everything chance you will get their so u could feel about your immigrant lifestyle as a 2nd class citizen?
    I have been to Canada and met the Pakistani society there and let me tell you, most are from Karachi because they are ones most miserable in their own countries and the amount of hate, fakeness, ignorance, constant bashing, dirt throwing those people living in the slumps pour at my homeland and its beautiful citizens was terribly appalling and not even close to the amount of criticism people do while living in Pakistan. It’s almost like these people are in an alienated kind of community cut off from the world. These people are more like Indians or enemies of Pakistan than Pakistanis.

    And thats why I love my peaceful Lahore free of gandagi that karachi is littered with such as looting, mugging, death threats and god knows what else.Recommend

  • Karachiite

    Fact of the matter is these thugs belong to one political party who take them under their wings … If you trace them back to where they live , you would know .Recommend

  • Usman Ansari

    Yes, Lyari.Recommend

  • Usman Ansari

    To the author…there ARE various programs around the city to cater to these wayward youths. Case in point, the Hunar Foundation. I know this non-profit organization, and it offers vocational training in a variety of skilled fields at little to no cost for students. The fact of the matter is that it is much easier to steal 10 mobile phones in a day over the course of a few hours and make 10,000 rupees profit, whereas even a skilled worker will make that much in an entire week.Recommend

  • Baba Black Sheep

    And still hundreds of thousands from Punjab migrtaes into the “ganda” Karachi every year !!!!.Why do they leave the utopia i wonder !!!Recommend

  • Baba Blacksheep

    I bet you are not from Karachi .75% of the crimes in karachi are committed by outsiders in karachi .try going out in banaras , kharadar meetha dar old sabzi mandi sohrab foth hazara colony and even in north nazimabad etc to verifyRecommend

  • Zafar

    Good that you are safe and sound, a mobile phone, debit card and a wallet are nothing compard to your life and health. I agree there should be employment and programs to help these kids earn an honest living but not everyone is up for it, some just want to get high on drugs like meth and heroine and for that they make easy money by mugging.
    I faced a similar situation some two years back, I was in a friend’s showroom in DHA Phase 2 Extension Karachi and it was evening. I was sitting outside the showroom with a guest on my left and my younger brother on my right and a father and son who were there for checking and buying a car. I was having a conversation with the guest when I heard a voice say ” Goli Dal”, I thought who has a headache and why is he asking to shove a pill and where to shove a pill but then I saw a kid younger than me with a Smith & Wesson 9mm and he cocked it. That was the point I realized that there is nothing I can do and this is it, there were three of them and one of them went inside the office holding my friend at gun point while one of them was standing in front of me and the other was taking all the valuables. My brother was texting with his Samsung S5 or S4 which he had just bought for 55K. They took everything from us except our clothes, we went to the police and they were not even registering an FIR. After finding conncetions in police we were able to register an FIR. They found the muggers but were unable to catch them because they were in Lyari which is a no go area.
    If one is able to shoot a mugger while being mugged, believe me you will be neck deep in legal tussles, first you will have to pay a hefty sum to the SHO so that he would register a case of self-defense and not murder then the courts will take their share and you might end up paying a million rupees to the police and judiciary … I know because a friend from Balochistan was being mugged while in Karachi and was able to shoot the two muggers and he had to pay through his nose ….. therefore people say don’t resist just let them do what they are there to do.Recommend

  • Zafar

    Of course of course, Real Pakistan is Punjab … the rest of us are just tagging along. Step down from your high-horse and realize that we are all Pakistan from Tutak to Tank and from Muzafarabad to Makran. Your comment makes you look like Marie Antoinette.Recommend

  • IBN E ASHFAQ

    I agree with you Lubna that karachi is certainly dirty as it is one of the fastest growing cities that welcomes in its bosom all the downtrodden of Pakistan. But all the filth of karachi can’t compare the precious crap that Lahore has behind the Jamia Masjid.Recommend

  • Hoshang Ansari

    Sorry to burst your patriotic bubble. Living in a dreamworld, where everything
    is nicey nice, peachy, goody good. These ghettos, [your definition] are
    populated by low income, semi literate taxi cab drivers, semi or unskilled
    laborers who happen to be either Punjabis or Pathans. IF from Pakistan.
    The others living there are from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and other
    Middle Eastern countries. Even in Emirates or Saudia, taxis and other
    unskilled jobs are cornered by Pathans or Punjabis. Your hate for Karachi walas [Muhajjirs] is about normal. Par for the course. You being a daughter
    of the Sons of the Soil. Hope you are aware that these Karachi Muhajjirs want their own Province,..quicklike, like NOW. Pronto.
    Might be a better idea, if you THINK before putting your bile to pen.Recommend

  • RFD

    Could be more than one foundation and other NGO’s doing the good work.
    However, the population of Karachi is 22 million plus. With one of the
    most corrupt, chaotic Sindhi Govt. in place. There is no law and order. No
    writ of the State anywhere. Because Karachi is a Mohajir city. And does not
    and will not get any help from the Punjabis or Pathans or even Sindhis.Recommend

  • Celeste

    every person in karachi has a story to share with regard to mugging. since we dont have any faith in the authorities anymore. the citizens should take the initiative and come up with ways to erradicate this terror from out city. i say one step should be to have a forum where every citizen posts details of their incident. as location of incident, description of muggers, fir reported at . not report because of . and other similar details.Recommend

  • Rizwan Khan

    People from Lahore , who hate I-hate-everyone-else syndrome , have as much to do with this I am too good for this world attitude. Wake up Miss Liberal Lubna .
    Get off from your high horse and face the real world.
    I can see that all you saw in Canada , were whinning losers from somewhere in Pakistan , who were losers here . extrapolating it to karachites shows how misinformed you are . But perhaps that was all you saw in Canneda ? because that’s all you went too. Kindly don’t be presumptiveRecommend

  • goldconsumer

    Every city has a problem of its own. May I wish to recall your boiling over load shedding issue and cry baby attitude of Abid Sher Ali over 600MW’s?
    With all the “Punjab is better and Lahore is the best” attitude it seems one day only “P” will be left of Pakistan!Recommend

  • Atif Rana

    ANS: Yes, there is solution to Karachi’s trigger-happy muggers: a can of mace and a 38 magnumRecommend

  • Oats

    I agree that a lot of immigrants live in low income areas in North America doing jobs that they would never dream about in Pakistan like taxi work, factory work, gas stations, small shop owners, security guard etc, but not all North American Pakistanis are as bad off as you portray. I admit that I have also been to Europe and Britain where a lot of immigrants, especially Muslims live in poor areas doing labour work if not on welfare since they are unemployed but you cannot just generalize. For example, we don’t badmouth Pakistan from America because we know that robberies and crime happen all over the world. The uneducated class who left have to justify why they are abroad and they love to make up stories bad mouthing Pakistan. Mind you we too are from Punjab but we do not bad mouth our home country because the only way of making things better is to work for it. I was in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Sialkot this winter and it was great and probably safer than most North American cities like New York, Chicago or Philadelphia.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    because they are not from a ghettos like lyari who are desperately trying to immigrate to canada so they can live off welfare because they are to pessimistic and hopeless to work hard and earn a living in pakistan. its people from other parts of pakistan that are coming to karachi and utilizing the opportunities that great city has to offer so they can contribute to the economy and not run away to australia and canada like the backward hopeless coward and jaahil people do from nazmabad and leyari.Recommend

  • Humza

    Why is it that street crime cannot be brought under control in Karachi but cities up country are relatively safe? I go out to places in Lahore with the same common sense rules that I would use in any major city in the world – be it London, Paris or Los Angeles. I have never had an issue in Lahore ever with street crime although I know that there are invariably instances of robberies and crime in a city of over 10 million.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    There is no help for Karachi. The Punjabis the Pathans the Sindhis
    have nothing to do with Karachi. Just suck it’s blood dry. Karachi
    provides 30% 0f the GDP of Pakland. Which is sucked off by
    Punjabistan. Rest assured change is coming. Guaranteed.
    Also have you seen those big huge banners of banned outfits all over
    Lahore? And Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif made secret deals with them to leave Punjabistan and the Sharif Family alone. Rest of the
    country is on it’s own. Obviously Shahbaz made deals are working !
    Same with, Hamara Bhai Khan. Who wanted an office for the extremists. Both PML-N and PTI wanted to NEGOTIATE with these
    killers of 76,000 men women and children. Get a life.Recommend

  • Hoshang Ansari

    Your hate for Urdu speaking Indian origin Mohajirs is
    blatant. By the way, the people in Lyari are either Baloch
    gangsters or Sindhi gangsters. It is a PPP stronghold.
    And there are no long lines of Balochis or Sindhis
    waiting to emigrate to Canada. [Emigrate not “immigrate”]
    That distinction goes to Punjabis. From the most populous province of Punjab. A close second,..the Pathans.
    From the vehemence of your vitriol it’s pretty clear.Recommend

  • Baba Black Sheep

    Punjabis coming to Karachi just to make a living and to get inducted into the police or rangers or to do the odd jobs others are unwilling to accept .The real contribution ? an uplift in the remittance to punjab .
    90% of the punjabis settled in UK or USA migrated in the 70s were labourers and their contributions ? well ,ask any one in UK why PAKI is synonymous to any derogatory slang.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    I will shoot them if I get a chance, Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Everybody who has any sympathy with these robbers deserves to be killed by themRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    WOW. This exactly is the problem of people of Karachi. For them it just becomes an issue about ethnicity and race and only their ” kind ” should survive and that explains the latest bus massacre there. u should be ashamed of yourself.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    finally a sane voiceRecommend

  • Grace

    For your knowledge the term “Paki” is largely confined to the UK and it started to be used for people from Kashmir who are Pakistanis. Now it is used now to describe all South Asians, even Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Indians who do not look typically Kashmiri or native Pakistani. Just because Brits cannot tell the difference between Asians is no reason to follow them. By the way, over 9 MPs with Pakistani backgrounds were elected to office in the UK. Don’t be so quick to judge because these UK Pakistanis, on the dole or not, are very loyal to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Dissolution0fEternity

    Jinnahpur Rising!Recommend

  • sterry

    So there will be only more crime in Jinnahpur. Work to fix Karachi by voting for people who will fix things. Shahbaz Sharif has improved police and overall situation in Punjab. Sind can do the same if they vote for people who will work for the province too.Recommend

  • Dissolution0fEternity

    In that case, hurray Sharif brothers!Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    And i know that Pakistani became Famous because of People from Punjab. CI neighborhood in brooklyn was full of people with credit fraud, insurance fraud, fake id and all the ill-legal activities.

    Everyplace i turned to in NYC, people has stories to tell how Pakistani (99% punjabi ) Looted him or did scam.

    And for your kind information:

    There was not even stationary available in 1947, and Karachi was capital.

    Pakistan progressed in leaps and bound.

    Everything flourished PIA, Railways, steel mills.

    Only after capital moved to Punjabi bureaucracy, we saw massive corruption.

    what happened to PIA? Pakistan Railways is gone…etc etc.

    Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “It’s almost like these people are in an alienated kind of community cut off from the world. These people are more like Indians or enemies of Pakistan than Pakistanis.”

    Anyone who criticizes Pakistan must be an Indian,you can’t get over your Indian obsession, can you?

    Also, your favourite leader must be Altaf Hussain of MQM.

    I am amazed by your liberal thoughts though.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    What happened to yours?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Don’t be so quick to judge because these UK Pakistanis, on the dole or not, are very loyal to Pakistan.”

    Hopefully they will be loyal to UK as well.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Your hate for Urdu speaking Indian origin Mohajirs isblatant.”

    Did you say Indian origin, I thought they became Arabs as soon as the partition happened.Recommend

  • Ali Khan

    As long the people keep voting the same way, it will yield the same results. Recommend