Dolmen City shooting: We deserve answers
They came, they fired, they created havoc, they escaped. Will this group strike again?
My heart skipped a beat when I first heard about the violent shooting incident at Dolmen City mall in Clifton, Karachi. Living close to the mall, I manage to frequent Dolmen City a few times a week, so the news that there had been gun fire and reportedly an attempted kidnapping within the massively popular new shopping mall was especially alarming.
Later, when I tried to ascertain the exact details of the incident, I found the accounts to be conflicting. While the official police report claimed that the incident was not a kidnapping, witnesses to the occurrence said that not only was it a kidnapping, but that one woman had indeed been taken.
This has turned out to be false, as no one has actually been abducted successfully.
What is more chilling, yes chilling, is that this may not have been an attempted kidnapping at all.
Here is what we know:
1. A new black luxury sedan showed up to enter the publically accessible underground parking area. The vehicle was most probably stolen, with license plates that were mostly likely also stolen, or forged.
2. Dolmen City has two entrances. The first is from the outside, where one can park anywhere on the public road, and enter the premises on foot. The second and more popularly used entrance is on the side of the building, where cars form a queue to enter the underground parking. There are two levels to the well-organised underground parking, where extremely well trained guards help shoppers park their vehicles.
The criminals entered from this side entrance in their vehicle to go to the underground parking, where once inside the premises, they were noticed for some suspicious behaviour while still inside the car. Here, it is unclear what happened, but an alarm was raised, and the emergency steel shutters to both the entrance and the exit were brought down to trap the offenders within.
At this point the criminals were unable to complete whatever their goal was, and started shooting at the guards in a desperate attempt to break out. Eventually, they injured a guard and opened the steel doors themselves to make the escape, where they carjacked a vehicle, and fled the scene.
A second group of criminals from the vehicle, cleverly disguised in plain sight, ran out unhindered, where a getaway vehicle was waiting for them.
Now, regarding the violent shooting, CCTV footage has found its way to us courtesy of private TV channel, Geo. I must warn you that not only is the following video soul chilling, but disturbingly compelling for repeat viewings.
Things to note from footage:
0:02- Criminal in a white shirt starts walking towards persons unknown with his weapon drawn. Here, a brave guard tackles him.
0:03- See that young girl in the light coloured clothing running? You will see her again.
0:05- Yes, you saw that right. With a long ponytail, clad in shalwar kamiz, a woman stepped out of the vehicle. The same woman who probably started screaming later, pretending to be a kidnapping victim! It is the perfect cover. Like something out a movie, isn’t it?
0:15- The truth is stranger than fiction folks. There is a second ‘woman’ who steps out here, and she is accompanied by a child. I say ‘woman’, because unlike the other two females of this gang, this person is clad in a burqa, quite possibly in order to conceal ‘her’ sex.
At this point it is obvious that these people were masquerading as a family in order to enter Dolmen City undetected. It is possible that some were made party to these activities against their will. The child I am sure was kidnapped and brainwashed by the gang, which is why he doesn’t escape. If this is indeed true, I feel sorry for this kid, and his parents who are probably wondering where he is.
0:35- One of the criminals seems to be tossing his gun under the vehicle. I estimate this is so that he can escape through the mall in plain sight without setting the metal detectors off.
0:45- The second ‘woman’, girl, and the child, later escape unhindered, easy as you like, in the getaway vehicle. Notice how professionally the vehicle is driven in reverse? These people were highly trained.
Here is a little background. Dolmen City is a magnificent shopping mall that has been opened quite recently in Pakistan. While by western standards it would be considered large sized, measured by the Pakistani yardstick, it is pretty massive, with a vast number of foreign eateries and upscale shops. Not only does Dolmen City host the shopping market, Hyper Star, but also international clothing brands such as Debenhams, Mango, Monsoon, Nine-West, Next, Timberland, etcetera; brands rare to this city.
Moreover, Dolmen City has highly modern architecture from the outside and from within, featuring a state-of-the-art underground parking, and beautifully designed infrastructure. Located near the most upmarket residential area in Karachi, walking inside Dolmen City, one can almost forget that they are in Pakistan, and not a foreign city.
In fact, if one travels away from the residential area of ‘Defence’, near where Dolmen City is located, and into older and lesser developed parts of the city, one is starkly made aware of the measurable differences between the standards of living in Pakistan. Watching the more underprivileged folk, travel hours from corners of the city, simply to window shop in Dolmen City on the weekends, is an uneasy reminder of such growing extreme differences.
While I have always felt safe travelling to Dolmen City, I have sometimes wondered if such posh malls in Pakistan are on the cross-hairs of terrorists. After all, the building is the biggest example of a consumer minded western civilisation.
So the question which gives me goose bumps is that if this whole incident wasn’t a kidnapping, what was it?
Think about it for a second.
Why would criminals, who clearly have access to vast resources, be stupid enough to attempt a kidnapping from such a public place, and not strike at an area where their target was more vulnerable?
I am only speculating here, but is it possible that these organised people were terrorists?
Dolmen City is absolutely packed on Saturday night, with a waiting period of thirty minutes for car parking alone for visitors from all corners of Karachi. This incident happened late afternoon on Saturday when the mad rush was about to begin. Were these criminals hoping to get inside undetected and bide their time until the building was teeming with shoppers before they could raise havoc?
Now that they’ve escaped, will they try again?
Perhaps I am wrong, and this wasn’t meant to be an organised attack on shoppers. Yet it still shows how vulnerable we all are, regardless of the corner of Karachi we sit in.
One thing is clear; we deserve answers.
Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @Pugnate