‘Thank you guys’ said the robbers

Published: June 21, 2011
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Art pieces exhibited at Art Lootmaar on Sunday. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

Incidents of armed robberies, mugging, mobile phone snatching and rape etcetera aren’t new in Karachi. The recent robbery at The Second Floor (T2F) Café did garner attention however, with people discussing security measures in place, while others even mocked the exhibition entitled “Art Loot Maar” (ironically means theft/robbery) which was taking place at the time of the incident.

The café, T2F which karachisnob.com lists as one of the “coolest” cafes in town “is an alternative space” says Bina Shah, Karachi-based author and former editor of the Internet magazine SPIDER.

Opened in 2007, T2F, operated by a non-profit organisation, quickly became the place for Karachi’s cool set to hang out. Holding events in the past that were anti-Pakistan establishment, it invited author Ayesha Siddiqa to talk about her book “Military Inc.” an expose on Pakistan’s military institution; it screened a film on the country’s missing people while its director was being hounded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

A few years ago Sabeen Mahmud, who co-runs T2F said:

“I have queer people saying to me that this is the only place in Karachi where they feel safe.”

Well this turns out to be quite the contrary now.

The Express Tribune reported:

“Witnesses to the robbery said the robbers were clean-shaven and spoke in Urdu but said “Thank you guys” in English on their way out.”

The question here is this:

Is societal inequality fuelling crime in the country?

Why did the robbers say “thank you guys?”

In Pakistan lawlessness and disparity between the haves and have nots is increasing day by day. In these circumstances such incidents are bound to happen. Social class gaps and personal income per capita rates have accentuated the difference between the upper and lower classes, thereby inducing more crime.

Crime exists everywhere – in rural and urban areas, in the East and the West, and among all types of people. This has led many government officials everywhere to speculate on the factors that influence the amount of crime and how those factors can be controlled.

The relationship between poverty and crime has been a controversial subject over the years.  Many scholars argue that poverty does not have a causal relationship to crime because there are countries in which poverty is very high but the crime rate is relatively low. I would say that in Pakistan it would be hard to argue that there is not a relationship between crime and poverty where poor people make up the overwhelming majority.

I am not justifying crime but it is important to actually take out some time from our self-centred lives and ponder on the causes of such acts. Crime offers a way in which impoverished people can obtain material goods that they cannot attain through legitimate means.  Often threat or force can help them acquire even more goods – this can lead people to commit criminal acts such as robbery, which is the second most common violent crime.

However, many other factors influence crime are correlated with poverty as well. Higher unemployment would certainly increase poverty and at the same time lead to more crime due to frustration and depression associated with being unemployed. Each individual reacts to a certain situation differently and yes some might be inclined towards violent means. Aristotle once said:

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”

The entire society benefits when the underprivileged are helped to establish or regain dignity by elevation from poverty and crime to lives characterised by work and productivity.  It will take all of us working together to make a real impact on this daunting problem.

Anam Gill

Anam Gill

The writer is a social activist and journalist from Lahore. She is the founder of Dialogue Café, a creative space bringing people together to interact and engage in debates. Her writings have appeared in several renowned Pakistani and international news outlets, including Dawn, Express Tribune and Deutsche Welle.

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