By Fatima Zakir
Fri, 02, 17

I would like to start off by apologizing to Javeria Shakil-Kazim for reading her piece before writing mine but I would take that as a privilege of being the ‘late latif’ I am.

Arrested by Omar Shahid Hamid

I wouCOVER STORYld like to start off by apologizing to Javeria Shakil-Kazim for reading her piece before writing mine but I would take that as a privilege of being the ‘late latif’ I am. Yes Jay, even at submitting my articles. When I started reading it and your complaints about people who couldn’t show up on time, I turned red with embarrassment because I thought you were talking about me but as you did not reserve a seat for me, I am safe from your rightful annoyance at people. Phew!

She has rightfully mentioned about being star struck at Karachi Literature Festival. Well, I am not going to focus on the star studded turnout at KLF or the amazing patra fish or nutella crepes, but I will just focus on one session that I specially went for… book launch by Omar Shahid Hamid.

 After Prisoner and The Spinner’s Tale, Omar Shahid Hamid recently launched his third book, The Party Worker, at 8th Karachi Literature Festival. There were only two things that I wanted from this KLF: to see the writer I really like and get a signed copy of his latest book. In fact, I took his previous books, too, hoping to get those signed as well, but since he was surrounded by an eager crowd and seemed to be occupied in ‘rigorously’ signing books, I just got the current one signed. So yeah, someone mentioned being star struck here?

Coming back to the sessioCOVER STORYn, to my surprise the hall was packed with people who flocked in to see Omar Shahid speak about his latest coming in a candid discussion with Bilal Tanweer. The other panelist at the session was Preeti Shenov, but forgive my ignorance, I would not comment on her as so far I haven’t read any book by her.

As for Omar Shahid, I think he is an excellent story-teller. The best thing about his books is that it’s fiction but with so many realities in it. Born and bred in Karachi, you feel like you have known these characters for a long time, and then you start seeing them in a different light.

Since Omar Shahid is associated with the police department, most of his characters are either police officers or politicians; it’s more about people or situations he has encountered in his life.  Hence, the discussion at the session was quite interesting - people weren’t actually coming out with who in their opinion was a certain character in real life, but made comments like ‘aren’t these real people?’.

Omar Shahid very candidly spoke about his responsibility as a police officer to write positively. “If I wrote how cooperative and honest the police officers in Pakistan are then nobody would have bought the idea,” shared Omar Shahid. “Because that’s not the truth. But what I do is make the readers realize why the officers are the way they are in our country. These characters are not just white and black, there is a story supporting the way they are and you can see the good in police department too.”

 Someone asked about his characters belonging to real life to which he replied that his first book was too open about his inspirations of characters, so the readers just knew who he was talking about but in his second book, he grew as a writer and knew how to mix it up with fiction so that it’s not in your face to identify these people from real life. 

There were some suggestions for writing fiction with no semblance to the real world, to which Omar Shahid agreed but I completely disagree. From someone who really enjoyed his books, I believe the beauty of his book lies in the element of reality. Your mind is constantly making connections with people around you.  Even if you get it wrong, believing that the world in his books is actually your world is what makes his writings powerful. So please don’t stop writing ‘ficality’ (oh! That’s my word for fiction plus reality).

Having said all that, it was heartening to see a packed hall, which honestly I wasn’t expecting. There must be more than 150 seats and only a few empty at the back. It was a great turnout, considering the fact that there were three to four other halls as well as the open garden where simultaneous sessions were in progress. So yeah, Omar Shahid Hamid has a huge fan following!

The other thing that surprised me was the man himself. I mean, come on, you think about a police officer in Pakistan and you picture someone with a bulging figure with heavy moustache, aggressive personality and highly intimidating, but there sat a groomed man in white shalwar kameez with a smile on his face who was polite, engaging and even cracked jokes with the audience. He looked like someone who was too surprised by the number of people that showed up to listen to him and seemed a little awkward when people fought to get the first signature on their copies during the book signing.


I still haven’t started his latest book, The Party Worker, but I am already imagining myself in a web of Karachi’s bhais and bajis. I am just waiting for ample free time on my hands to read it in one go, and I am sure it will be a fun ride, yet again.

The writer is best friends with Javeria Shakil-Kazim – but says she is not good enough to teach at any university!