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January 3, 2020

How I met my mugger

Karachi

January 3, 2020

Photo: File

I was less horrified when he took my mobile phone and wallet at gunpoint. He was merely a human skeleton, clad in yellow shalwar kameez, hiding his face with a mask. In fact, he was himself scared, shivering in cold as he knocked on my car window and yelled at me: “Goli maar doon ga [I will shoot at you].”

Being a Karachiite, I immediately deciphered the code words. I took no time to open the window and handed him my mobile phone. “Cash bhi de, jaldi kar [give me cash too, hurry up],” he softened his tone.

When I hurriedly fished out my wallet from the pocket and swiftly passed it to him, he stared at me for a while – standing frightened and frozen. It was that moment when I felt the full horror of the situation I was trapped into. I saw it coming – and he said it: “Baaqi sab bhi de [give me other things too].”

I tried to convince him that I had nothing else with me. He was standing on a pavement and my car was surrounded by giant trucks that had blocked the traffic moving towards the intersection of the Karimabad flyover leading towards Aisha Manzil from Liaquatabad No 10. I soon realised that he was not alone. There were more behind my car. How many? I could not count.

In a fraction of a second, it occurred to me that it was January 1, 2020 (Wednesday) and the time was around 11:45pm. Back in 2014, my maternal uncle was shot dead by robbers for resisting a mugging bid near Aisha Manzil. He was killed on January 2.

His death was a great sorrow to everyone in family, especially my maternal grandmother who could never overcome the grief. Tahir Siddiqui was her youngest son, only 27 when he died. Now, I am also 27 years old, incidentally.

As a subeditor in a newspaper, I edit news related to muggings and robberies quite often. Losing a mobile phone and/or wallet to muggers is no news in Karachi. It happens every day. What also happen frequently in the city are incidents of shootings in mugging attempts. “They [muggers] will either take your valuables or your life,” a journalist friend of mine would tell me. “You better save your life and give everything to them [robbers].”

When I was mugged on the road, I was going to attend the Nikah ceremony of that very same friend. I was already late but I didn’t want to have the prefix “the late” written with my name by arguing with the robber. I spoke to him nicely and politely so he does not have a panic attack. Fortunately, trucks around me moved a little and subsequently the mugger disappeared.

Knowing the benefits of a U-turn, I took it and steered towards home instead of the Nikah ceremony. Near the Teen Hatti area, I came across a police mobile which was moving on the wrong side. I managed to stop the police van. “I have just been mugged near Karimabad flyover’s intersection in Liaquatabad No 10,” I told the cop sitting on the front. He told me that “they could not do anything” since “that area falls in the remits of the Sharifabad police station”.

I told them that I was also not expecting any action from them. “But you can at least inform the Sharifabad police about the incident as the muggers may still be looting more citizens in the traffic jam.” I don’t know what they did next. After coming home, I got my SIM card blocked and registered a complaint with both the police helpline and the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC).

When my friend Oun Abbas called me via Facebook, I explained to him: “Sorry! I could not make it to your big day. After the mugging happened, I came back home. Not because I was shocked, but because I was scared – I was scared that if I encounter another mugger before reaching the wedding hall, how would I convince him that I don’t have any valuables to offer him?”