Zamzama violence: Chivalry is not dead in Pakistan

Published: May 18, 2011

Not one of them acted the slightest bit offensive. They were complete and utter gentlemen.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you one thing about me. With the exception of my dad, I despise all men. More specifically, all Pakistani men.

What good are they really?

With cannibals, rapists, child molesters, bombers, kidnappers, abusers, honour killers populating the country, why bother depending on or trusting a man altogether?

But recently, a certain event in my life forced me to do a complete 180 degree on my incredibly biased and extremist view.

As a struggling writer and journalist, I spend countless hours at a shady coffee house on Zamzama swigging infinite cuppas in the pretense of writing. The place is shady because it’s hardly ever frequented by a lot of people which is great for me because I never run into any of my friends and I get plenty of time to work without being judged or disrupted. Plus, the coffee’s cheaper than all the other fancy coffee places and their internet always works.

On this particular evening, I was sprawled on one of their couches, listening to my music and writing fervently on my laptop when suddenly all the waiters started shifting around a little uncomfortably. Within a few minutes, they had lowered the lights and were huddled together and whispering to each other.

Immediately my mind went to the fact that just a few weeks ago, someone had posted about a firing incident that took place on main Zamzama and I had vehemently criticised her post. As luck and irony would have it, I was probably caught in the same situation. Right that second, I had the strongest urge to apologise to Aine for my harsh comments. Because, let me tell you, it’s quite scary!

Upon calling the waiter to inquire what was wrong, I was initially put at ease with an excuse or two.  As the situation worsened, the staff had no choice but to tell me the truth. The main Zamzama road was blocked and there were erratically violent protestors on the street.

As they lowered the lights, my heart fell to the floor – I was caught completely and utterly alone in this situation. My fear wasn’t that I would be shot by a gunner but more so, that I would be assaulted, sexually harassed or raped which was of course a much much worse fate!

If I ventured outside, I could’ve been prey for the violent protestors and if I stayed in I could very well be prey for these seven waiters. I had heard countless stories of girls being raped or molested in the aftermath of the Benazir Bhutto assassination. And I really didn’t want to become one of those hushed up and unpublished statistics.

At the same time, my poor driver was calling me incessantly telling me that he was trying his best to make his way to the coffee shop but they had blocked the road completely.

All my feminine mystique garb and my no-need-for-a-man was out the door and I was crying as dramatically as an 18th century spoilt princess.

Considering the place was empty, and I was there alone, I expected the worst from the waiters. Surprisingly, during this entire ordeal, not one of them acted the slightest bit offensive. They were complete and utter gentlemen. They may not have come from highly educated and affluent backgrounds but each one of them was probably more honourable and brave than majority of the men I come across daily in my social gatherings.

With all the craziness surrounding the café, they assured me that this was becoming quite common on Zamzama – one-off firing sessions from men on motorbikes was not a rarity here anymore. This time, however, KESC’s cutting off power for such long hours had angered men on both Zamzama and Gizri.  And when the police entered the scene, there was no way, things could remain peaceful.

When my driver finally made his way a bit closer to the café, three waiters walked all the way with me to my car telling me to inform them when I’ve reached home safe. Even my driver, who has never gone over the speed limit of 60km in his life, drove at the speed of 120 to get me back home.

To all the man-hating girls out there, chivalry is very much alive.  And if you have to live in Pakistan, as much as I hate to admit this, you’ll always need the help of the less pretty gender!

Saba Khalid

Saba Khalid

A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive

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