We as a people don’t deserve luxuries like Careem and Uber

Published: March 18, 2018
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The fact that two Careem captains died on duty should be enough to awaken a sense of empathy or humanity in us.

Like any 20-something girl who doesn’t know how to drive, my best friends, and the most reliable services, are Careem and Uber. Both cab-hailing services have, to date, taken me everywhere I wanted to go and back, and the ride is always on my terms. The AC-filled car with the radio cranked up is truly a blessing, compared to the rickshaw ride I’d be jolting up and down in otherwise.

More often than not, I’d order a Careem, only to have the riders call me back to confirm where I’d be going, always with a hint of worry.

“Just here in Defence,” I’d say, irritated at the question.

How can a cab-hailing service deny me a ride anywhere? I could’ve said Hyderabad, and they would have had to comply, because customer comes first, right?

NO.

Since the start of 2018, two Careem captains have been killed, and their cars snatched. In the first killing, 26-year-old Junaid Mustafa lost his life just outside the federal capital, and much to my surprise, it was the men who ordered the ride who lured him to the outskirts where he eventually died. The other killing, of 22-year-old Sajawal Ameer, took place several days ago, and it is speculated he was also killed by the customers he was giving a ride to within Rawalpindi.

Two 20-somethings just like me, one significantly younger than me, are now dead; both targeted by the horrors of society without any reason or explanation. Both vanished from the surface of the earth, only to be remembered in prayers by family members. These people, no matter where they’re from or what their financial needs or problems may be, are not slaves to a company.

I recently discovered that if a Careem captain refuses up to three rides in a week, the fourth refusal will lead to a fine and a costly inspection of the car. The day Mustafa was killed, Careem captains of all day and ages gathered to protest against this.

Why is it that we have the option to cancel as many rides as we want – if the car isn’t up to our preference, if the driver is too far away, or if we are simply in a hurry – but the Careem captains are not given the same privilege? Why do they not have the free will to also assess whether they want to pick a particular ride or not? Why are we further tightening the shackles of capitalism in the country? The company might be aiming for maximum profitability, but at what cost?

This is where Careem is at fault. How is it possible that even after the first death, the company didn’t immediately reflect on their procedures, and failed to cook up a comprehensive plan to avoid such incidents in the future? How is it that in a span of one month, two captains were killed without any immediate plan of action?

Perhaps Careem can make their screening processes more stringent for users. Perhaps their captain-protection plan should be more crisis-management oriented. They could even give their drivers more freedom to cancel, or opt out of more rides.

But then again, if they were to do that, who’s to say the drivers won’t take advantage of it? Who’s to say an angered mob of users won’t show up at the Careem office, demanding explanations for cancelled rides? You see, there’s only so much Careem can do. The drivers are bound to abuse that service; the people are bound to abuse this service. This is a vicious cycle which will never end. So what do we do?

Blame the government!

How is it that the federal capital, the twin-cities, the most secure and protected areas of the country, the main hub of foreign and national activity, are so unsecure? What about the thousands of check posts and hoards of police vans racing from area to area? Where were they when these incidents happened? Why did the judiciary, the police, or even the government, not notice? These days everyone notices everything in a microsecond, but apparently, not this.

Even after the Faizabad protest and sit-in, the government did not have a comprehensive plan to combat law and order situations. How is it that people can come up with new and innovative ideas to snatch cars and kill people by ordering rides through an app, but the government can’t come up with a plan to combat this?

Where are all our ministers appointed to ensure the end of all our problems? Were those two young men not their responsibility as well? Evidently, the government is all talk and no action. People lose their lives every day, and what have they done? What are they doing?

However, you can blame the company and the government all you want. But let me tell you whose fault it really is – ours.

It is not an easy task to be a chauffeur, especially in Pakistan, where a “driver” culture exists. Our distinctions of social class and power have instilled a uniquely dangerous hierarchy in our heads, where domestic help and drivers belong to the lower tiers. They are to be at our beck and call, and are never supposed to refuse or ask too many questions.

Often, I’ve heard people complain about how chatty their drivers are, how they don’t know how to use the GPS navigation system, and how they are still new to the roads and consistently ask for directions. My question is: Why does this bother us so much? Have we all become so insensitive and out of touch with humanity that we don’t recognise the plight other people go through in their daily lives?

The fact that two Careem captains died on duty – scaring and scarring drivers all over the country, who now fear for their lives – should be enough to awaken a sense of empathy or humanity in us.

We, as a people, don’t deserve amenities and luxuries such as this. Even if 80% of us use this service for its true purpose, there will always be the 20% who utilise it for horror. For a good two years, everything was hunky-dory, nobody complained, and everybody sang praises. This means the problem isn’t in the company, and the fault doesn’t lie with the two innocent people who agreed to the ride leading to their death. It is the people who have been given this luxury. It’s our fault.

We don’t deserve such luxuries, because all we can do is potentially damn them for ourselves. The people of the country have no control, and will go to whatever ends for personal gains.

Warda Imran

Warda Imran

The author is an aspiring journalist and intersectional feminist. She aims on traveling the world, loves film analysis, comics, and commenting on social issues. She tweets @wisheikh (twitter.com/wisheikh)

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