Hamza Ahmed and the urban feudalism in Karachi – by Maheen Usmani

In Pakistan, lest we forget, the hired underlings are at the lowest rung of the ladder and are the puppets of their masters. PHOTO: IRFAN ALI

Karachi gives off a palpable sense of fear which stems not just from menacing robbers, kidnappers and terrorists, but also from haphazardly driven tinted four wheelers by boys with a plethora of armed guards at their beck and call.

What is this worrying trend of urban feudalism in cosmopolitan Karachi?

The nexus between power, money and brutality in Pakistan is nowhere as evident as in the crass behaviour of these pampered youngsters.

A friend visited a designer’s house in Defence where she was introduced to her smiling teenage sons. After leaving the place, the friend’s car was nearly pushed off the main road by a menacing black Pajero with tinted glasses which bore down on her out of nowhere, with engine at full throttle and guards with guns pointed. Her driver had to swerve to avoid being hit. Shaken, she asked the driver who on earth these rascals were, only to be told that they were the very same kids she had greeted half an hour back.

Khayaban-e-Ittehad bears witness to many a traffic jam as Karachigroans at the seams with creaking infrastructure and an expanding population. On one such day, a young boy in a Land Cruiser came from the opposite direction on a one way road, nearly hitting a car or two en route and raced away.

On Karachi’s major arteries, ubiquitous four wheelers of government ministers with party flags displayed prominently like a badge of honour straddle the road with stony faced moustachioed guards holding guns held between their legs or pointed at hapless cars as they attempt to navigate around them or fall into line.

The mantra is,

 “Oh ji, yeh Pakistan hai, yahan sab kuch chalta hai!

(This is Pakistan, you can get away with anything here!)

This VIP culture has now permeated to the urban elite who are modelling themselves on the “might is right” mindset. The kind of education many of these kids are imbibing in the laps of their clueless parents is that no one is more important than them.

Other people are like ants, easy to mow down, if they come in your way. Youth is a time for adrenaline and quick spurts of anger. Surely it is the job of parents to guide them through this maze of hormones? Whither conflict resolution, anger management and effective communication?

Are these kids taught about the virtues of patience, community service, charity and empathy with those for whom every day is a struggle?

When Shias are getting daily butchered in Karachi, but the only concern of many well to do mothers is “Goodness, where will my kids hang out now that Dolmen’s has had that kidnapping attempt? Where will I send them to chill?”, then what kind of empathy or compassion for other people can we expect from their offspring?

Recently, 16-year-old Hamza Ahmed was allegedly gunned down by his friend Shoaib’s guard over an alleged girlfriend issue. Hamza’s friends, who had accompanied him, said Shoaib ordered his guard to shoot Hamza. Shoaib’s family says that the guard fired of his own volition, because he did not want to see Shoaib insulted. The guard, who shot Hamza four times at point blank range, was hired from a security agency and was thus not a wadera’s lackey. Why then would he kill a young kid in cold blood?

In Pakistan, lest we forget, the hired underlings are at the lowest rung of the ladder and are the puppets of their masters. The tragedy is when such power is given in the hands of 16-year-old boys who may be on the cusp of adulthood, but whose minds are still foaming with hormones. Naturally, the guard, who is an ex Pakistan Army soldier, is on the run while Shoaib’s father protests his son’s innocence.

Instead of looking seriously at the issues brought bobbing to the surface in the murky waters of the fabric of our society, people have seen it fit to be self righteous and point fingers at Hamza’s “westernised” ways. Western values are not distorting the minds of youngsters here.

Instead, it’s the prevalence of guns and the sweeping under the carpet of the peccadilloes of rich kids by their doting parents. When it needs a Supreme Court suo moto notice to nab Shahzeb Khan’s killer who was spirited away by his influential family to Dubai and whose trial is still in limbo after constant changing of statements by witnesses; when a killing car at Boat Basin can take a couple of  lives in a drunken stupor and it’s teenage driver is whisked away abroad in the blink of an eye by his industrialist father; when kids at elite schools think it’s kosher to rob or kidnap just to have a cool lifestyle and keep up with the Joneses, then there is something very rotten in the state of Denmark.

If we are being judged by the cars we drive, the handbags we carry and the designer ensembles we sport, it means that our society is not being corrupted by the West, but we have allowed materialism to erode our respect for others less privileged. In case we forget, there is respect for rule of law and other people in the West and there is accountability.

In Pakistan, the moneyed and the powerful pulverise others to get ahead, secure in the knowledge that they can get away with murder. The tragedy is that they do. And now these very same corrupted values have taken seed in the minds of their kids.

Read more by Maheen here or follow her on Twitter@MaheenUsmani

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