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.

  • parvez

    By nature it is difficult for me to write a harsh comment, but I really could not find anything nice in your write up, infact it annoyed me. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Where is the wind blowing from I asked as I read and re-read your blog. I think the courteous nature of chivalrous Pakistani men has gain one more Female admirer. Where ever the wind came from it feel quite pleasant in this humid climate. Very nicely composed. Keep it blowing. ;DRecommend

  • Nobody

    I enjoyed the piece, although I’m not a man-hater myself. But one thing I found strange was you stating that being raped is a much worse fate than being shot (and/or killed)?? Idk if many other girls feel this way, because I would think being DEAD is pretty much as bad as it gets, atleast to me, but I suppose unless I’ve walked a mile in everyone’s shoes, I can’t be sure how they feel or why they feel the way they do. Anyways, once again, nice piece. Not sure too many guys will think so, lol, but I enjoyed it! Recommend

  • Saad H

    Even i was reminded of the previous article when I saw the words “Zamzama violence”. It was a really good article, stereotyping is getting out of hand these days imo… And love the way you apologised to the other writer!Recommend

  • DamDam

    Bravo! You really wrote an article which reflects your shock as why u werent raped by the waiters? Now dont get me wrong i can understand your fear of a sexual assault but your writing suggest u expected to get molested by the waiters by the virtue they were men.
    Thinking of men as rapists and etc doesnt classify one as a feminist.Recommend

  • Ali

    I agree with Parvez. useless write upRecommend

  • SAM

    your view of men is based, as you yourself claim, on the men you meet in your ‘social gatherings’. And just once you’ve had to interact with men outside your ‘social circle’ and your view changed. Your view was subjective to begin with, with massive generalization thrown in for good measure. I’m sure when you start moving outside your ‘social circle’ you’ll find better men all over the place. Oh wait, could the problem be with you and not your social circle? Such hate stems from previous bad personal experiences… don’t think i need to say more…Recommend

  • Sarah

    How useless!!Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    So can we finally expect Pakistani girls to finally some basic common courtesy towards men and avoid looking at us all with suspicion.Recommend

  •!/PakCricFanatic PakCricFanatic

    I won’t say useless, just happy that you made it out safe. :)Recommend

  • SJ

    Saba, I’m not surprised at all that you had those views about men and as you said specifically Pakistani men. I believe you haven’t met our dhobhi who takes pride in his daughters education who are soon going to complete their Bachelors. Or, our post man who continued to deliver post on foot because his old bike was broken but preferred to pay his daughters school fee. These are the common people out there who will protect your izzat no matter if you are related to them or not. At times its a good idea to talk to hardworking common (to me read as important) people around you and find out about their life story. There is perception in Pakistan that if you engage them in conversation they will ask for monetary help, I think all they need is encouragement and some guidance. I always tell them that if I’m earning a reasonable salary, its all because of education and hard work not because it was in my fate since my birth. No one can take your education away from you. If possible help them.
    We are a group of twenty or so friends who contribute a fix amount every month in a fund. That fund, at the moment pays for 10 kids school fee, books and uniform. We get regular reports on their progress and give them small reward if they have improved on their previous performance. Its all about doing the best you can rather than competing with others.
    I can understand that you have formed those views from listening to all the negativity about men but at least I’m glad you have a good role model at home in your dad. Recommend

  • Kashif Ahmed

    After long time, I am reading something good at ET. Being Pakistani Man I myself despise lots of our characteristics but women should understand we too have heart and know how react in such a situation. Recommend

  • http://www. afia

    what a pathetic social circle you must have to form these sweeping opinions about men that you were ‘surprised’ that the waiters didn’t molest you! I have nothing but pity for you!Recommend

  • Ali kazmi

    seems like the lady writter lives in Congo! Pakistan aint bad either, you gotcha get your eyes on the opression casses gets filed abroad as well.
    anyway, nice way of letting yourself on land to find a good man for you:)


    bless you!Recommend

  • sadiq salim

    why is being dead a better thing than being raped?? when will our society stop valuing a woman according to her virginity status?? dear author stop spreading misogynistic bile just because you desired the protection of strong chivalrous men in a time of trouble.
    your article just communicated to girls that all of them have to depend on men to protect them & their life is incomplete without men.

    Just because you got caught in a bad situation doesn’t give you the right to encourage more girls to behave like helpless,useless damsels in distress.Recommend

  • Yousuf
  • arshad qadri

    It’s not just the cavemen mentality that has got to be fought.Sadly a lot of our supposedly well educated girls also still have the cavewomen mentality & need strong,muscular tarzans to save them from the beasts outside the cave.Recommend

  • maria asif

    ” you’ll always need the help of the less pretty gender”

    jeez,now i understand who are the women telling battered wives : ” stay with him,what are you without a man,you need a man to have respect in society”.

    i would hope our female writers would promote self respect,self reliance & non-dependency on men amongst our women,not preach about how they NEED men,we have enough hijabis on tv channels telling us that 24/7.Recommend

  • tanvir jamal

    i think we dont need more women professing their desire for needing men to complete their lives,to protect them.This dependence on men is what has ruined our girls in the first place,they depend on men to provide for them,to do everything for them.

    This sick cavewomen mentality has got to stop.Recommend

  •!/Yasiboy Yasir Khokhar

    Saba, let me tell you an interesting story.

    One fine evening, a boy and a girl went on a date. The boy was some what upset and therefore silent then the usual. His much talkative girlfriend didn’t appreciate the silence and didn’t enjoy the company. They left for their respective homes in some time

    When the girl reached home she started writing her daily diary, and she writes, “He is a changed man now. He doesn’t seem interested in speaking to me anymore, probably because he is losing his interest in me, may be because he is seeing some other women. I could see how uncomfortable he was. He did not seem to enjoy outing with me any more. OH MY GOD! My life is ruined, my love of life has changed, what should I do now? I really can not live without him, if he behaves like that its going to kill me inside out.”
    (Very sad, poor girl)

    Getting back to the boy; who also writes diary before going to bed. The boy describes the day in her diary as

    ” Man, Pakistan pher haar gaya aaj :(“

    May be you are that diary writting girl, stretching the scene a bit and probably exaggerating the situation to make it more intresting. There are certain elements in all the societies across the world which causes such humiliations to women. But thinking that Pakistan is only country full of such people is a very conservative approach. How many women are raped in US, in India per day? The so called developed and developing societies have much more higher rape rate then Pakistan.

    People still respect women in Pakistan. I have seen that on roads when women driving car hit others or women traveling in buses are made to sit while men leave their seat for them. There would be many such examples. Not all men in Pakistan are rapist, terrorists and child molesters, there would be some percentage but very low fraction may be. With some what education our men in Pakistan have, they respect women more then those in developed countries.Recommend

  • Ali Ahmad


    I’ll second you hereRecommend

  • Ali Ahmad

    It might offence the writer but hypothetically speaking What if those Waiters were feeling same about you?

    What if they were writing an article of this sort?

    Well, one can imagine the comments Recommend

  • Columbus

    we are in habit of being too judgmental and changing it after personal experience weighing all together where as its different from person to person:
    p.s why ur dad is exception, is he from Mars?????????Recommend

  • Almas Abbas

    The question is why we think or tend to think like that the Pakistani men will do such things? Is it the media or some personal stories which do shape up our thoughts about it?Recommend

  • AKPK

    what is this just i waste my time.. on your blog. bye the way i am also wasting on writing.Recommend

  • Sarah

    I thought it was a perfectly good article because I feel the exact same way as Saba. I generally hate men. And if you all are going to ask why: because 90% of you make us girls feel uncomfortable where ever we go. So, Saba, if you discovered an exception it probably lifted your spirits and I’m glad you shared the experience.Recommend

  • Maleeha

    You judged yourself perfectly: you do have incredibly biased and extremist views!Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    decent piece but its interesting that the more ‘affluent’ areas are experiencing what the rest of khi does on a daily basis.Recommend

  • Faris

    I’m glad that Saba was able to shed some of her biases and prejudices (some with reason and some without reason/ stereotypical) and can now appreciate life with more positivity. Recommend

  • Mustafa

    Saba, I’m interested to know if you think feminism and chivalry can co-exist? You know you can’t have it both ways. That defeats the entire purpose.Recommend

  • Forbidden Fruit

    oh c’mon! Have you ever been in a room with armed robbers? I have been! And for that matter, even they were gentlemen enough to not come near me.

    Pakistani men zindabad! <3Recommend

  • Hasan

    find some other job..Recommend

  • D

    O guys please cut her some slack, it wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed it!Recommend

  • Confused

    A few bad apples ruin the whole gender. Don’t let yourself be convinced by vile acts, even though its hard to.Recommend

  • Azar Ali Zain

    I pity the author for her social gatherings and the social circle that encompasses her life, those social gatherings are certainly a disgrace to the majority of Pakistani men. She must experience living in the narrow lanes of 80 yards plot in Nazimabad, North Karachi or such areas to broaden up her mind. Recommend

  • sarahelahi

    insecurity is not feminism.
    also, your expectation that lower-middle class men will rape you is disgustingly classist. Recommend

  • Sania

    Okay this has to be the most useless piece of writing I have read in a long long time. And from the looks of it, a lot of the readers seem to have the same opinion about this article. It is man-haters who have polluted the society today. Recommend

  • Saad H

    Isn’t the writer admitting to the prejudices she had? And that this incident made her change those stereotypical views? And isn’t that a good thing? And is it really necessary to make all these uncalled for comments about her social circle? Recommend

  • Jimbo

    lets debate this further, so what all of you bashers are saying is that, Miss Saba should have ignored all the “craziness” outside and the possible predation inside and just gotten up, walked out the door, by herself, and gone home?

    If any one says that, they haven’t really lived in Pakistan! Trust me, had she done that, and been all SUPER WOMANLY and feministic, she wouldn’t really have been here to write this blog entry.

    How many of us have been molested by our qaris while reading the quran, tailors while taking measurements, babies molested by drivers and maasis. And this isnt a classist thing! Forget that class, I’ve heard countless tales of women being grabbed at Fez night which is frequented by elites like Saba’s company!

    So is she wrong in making a sweeping generalization which she is rather aware of already? All these stories of abuse happen in all stratums of society. However, in certain crisis situations, they seem to exscaberate further. Recommend

  • Azar Ali Zain

    The reason for commenting for her social circle is that this is the problem with the current wave of authors, they belong to and represent a small minority of Karachi, and in a manner as if that is what Karachi looks like. And just in case this is being wondered that why people are commenting on her personality, then the straight answer is that this is not a personal blog, this is a public blog of Express Tribune.Recommend

  • Faris

    The fact that all 500 of these bashers read your entire piece and took out the time to judge you, shows that your coffee shop writing worked. Having read all your previous 10 things I hate articles and being quite a fan, I’d say the best part of this article was the story telling. It was sincere and I bet any girl sitting alone at a certain time at a coffee shop would feel the same amount of despair at the scenario you mentioned.

    Also I have this strange respect for you, you tend to show a lot of personality and reveal a little bit of yourself each time you write. Its like I can visualize your personality and your humo. Frankly, I cant say the same for even one other ET blogger. Probably don’t show it because they are scared of being judged!Recommend

  • Fehmida

    No man can understand the fear of being raped.

    And for all the women criticizing her post, who tell her to stop being a damsel in distress, please inform me what you would’ve done in such a scenario? Recommend

  • Talha

    You maliciously defame the waiters as potential rapists?

    I am infuriated with the gross generalizations in this article.Recommend

  • SJ

    Our jails are full of innocent poor men who can’t afford to pay bribe or were sent to jail under false allegations. Ask them if they fear of being raped on daily basis? Recommend

  • DamDam

    No man can understand the fear of rape? I am sure even men who are raped couldnt comprehend the pain of their own misfortune. Turning the debate into an inter sex battle is highly immature. Being a liberal my self i dont see how this article addresses the sufferings of women at the hand of a male dominated society. While i can relate to her sense of fear but what irks me is that she half expected to get raped by some one, let it be the waiters , the protesters( a bit realistic i must admit) or basically any man within a hundred feet near her. This is a horrible piece of writing with little direction and is more of a spur of a moment thing rather then a coherent analysis. Sorry to say but articles like these undermine the real suffering of women in this country in the name of honor, religion and pride. Recommend

  • Shumaila

    If you hadn’t thought chivalry was dead, you wouldn’t be so surprised to find it alive. Also, the way you started out as ultra man hater and ended up as ultra damsel in distress – people who make such drastic changes in outlook just based on one incident aren’t very sensible, in my opinion. If you’d had a more sane outlook about men in the first place, you would never have expected to be raped in a coffee shop, and thus the behaviour of the waiters would’ve been perfectly normal and not amazingly chivalrous as you seem to suggest.

    Of course, one should appreciate their concern at a time like that. I disagree with your conclusion but the piece is decent.Recommend

  • http://Karachi Ebad

    “At the same time, my poor driver was calling me incessantly”…
    before this incident you mentioned that you hated all men with the exception of your daddy. Was this “poor” driver included in that group also. or is it that besides having poor judgement, you also have poor counting skills!Recommend

  • Rahim @

    Finally, you were saved only by “Men” ….:). BTW, keep practising one day your write ups will improve :)Recommend

  • Safyah

    Come to think of it, it was all in your head. Those waiters continued to be the serving men of the cafe and those violent men on the streets continued to be what they were. Seems more like you were the one who did not continue with what you were at first place; perhaps that’s why you started crying like a ’18th century spoilt princess’ around the specie that you did not just loathe but were afraid of. What you need is stability and balance in your thoughts more than completely depending on waiters and other men.Recommend

  • Insia

    I love how all the people telling her to improve her writing can barely write two sentences correctly. Well-Illustrated in their comments!Recommend

  • Jabbar

    So you 180’d on you’re views of men in Pakistan after a incident in Zamzama where the waiters acting like ‘utter gentlemen’.

    These same waiters who you first insulted by reminding all of us that they ‘may not have come from highly educated and affluent backgrounds’ thus they are automatically considered to be more mindless and barbaric than ‘majority of the men I come across daily in my social gatherings’. Which seems a pointless add to the piece unless you’re trying to convince us all you’re part of that society in case someone thought otherwise.

    Then you continue to describe their heroics and wonderful behaviour but don’t even name the cafe they are from, stripping them of any real credit. They could just be fictitious for all we know. I mean these waiters had such a strong affect on you that you wrote an article letting the entire world know, that you were wrong to have the ‘incredibly biased and extremist view’ you have held for so long, but giving them credit instead of making this a self-centered piece was too much apparently.

    I don’t have an issue with what ever you views you may have had before or still have about men. Or any of you’re opinions. My issue is with this article, which seems to have been built on a house of cards and is very unclear why you wrote something so flimsy. Recommend

  • Rahul

    @umair hasan: After reading these comments, I am convinced Pakistani men really are bullies. They way you’ve attacked her, ridiculed her, stampeded on her, shows exactly what all you educated men are capable of.

    Would you tell your mother or sister to get laid? You’re the very kind she talks about!

    Every word rings true. Without realizing, my friend, you have proved her stereotypical view correct

    As as Indian, despite how badly I would disagree with a fellow blogger, writer, stranger, I would never say these things to any Muslim, Christian Jew, let alone a fellow countrymen.

    Shame on all of you! Shame on all Pakistani men! Recommend

  • Umair Hasan Hater

    @ET: Wow, so after exactly two hours you decide to remove that comment. Perfect timing, why would you let it hang there in the first place? To get some hits? Especially when there was an expletive in the comment.

    @umair: I am so embarrassed and disgusted by what you wrote! With your 5 lines, you showed your black heart, Recommend

  • Shahid Rizvi

    @Saba…nice piece of writing.. I just want to share link of your article on my blog..with your permissionRecommend

  • Syed Mohummed

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    Dear Saba,

    A good choice of article indeed & the best part is that at least you have the ability to realize the fact that among the plethora of bad people there are good fellows too which majority of females agree to accept.

    One thing which I’d like to mention that its not about ‘men’, its about humans. Its not that men bear all bad names and women bear the name of innocence or vice versa, but rather its all about a human being good and bad. Yes there are good people and there are bad people too which include men & women both, although the percentage of men may be a bit higher.

    Though I do find some of your statements a bit offensive & biased but those are purely your ideas & are not harming me or my friends in any way as only Allah knows the truth & what is in our hearts :-)
    Let me take this opportunity to tell all respected people who might be reading this. We should always follow the policy of respecting each others’ feelings & ideas & shouldn’t impose our ideas on others, the baddest instinct of Pakistani people that they only consider themselves as the one who know everything.

    May Allah give us the ability & strength to help our fellow people and save them from any sort of distress when in need.


  • Hira

    very true. Besides all the circumstances in our country we will always find someone who will change tire.Recommend