Owais’ career options

Published: April 6, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

Mark Twain once said, “clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” While no one can deny the importance of sartorial choices in making us who we are, it is our environment –– literal, social, cultural, and psychosocial –– that decides who we are and what we are going to be.

Owais is seven years old and lives in Karachi, Orangi Town to be precise. His father works as a junior caretaker in a shrine and his mother is a maid. He looks like a smart, happy-go-lucky kid who likes cricket, loves going to school because he gets to hang out with his friends and considers his mother to be the best person in the world. It is only when I started to talk to him about his career choices that I realised what living in a society like ours has done to him and thousands of other children.

Owais wants to join the army which sounds like a decent career option. A lot of kids would want to do that. But when asked why he would like to join the army, says it is because he would have a big gun with which he will be able to intimidate everyone. He also relishes the fact that army personnel are at the top of the food chain and can even beat up the police.

His second career option is to try and join the police. Just like the armed forces, police officials are also powerful people who can do as they wish. In fact, Owais’ own father was once beaten up by the police, he says, for no reason. Owais thinks that if he joins the police force, no one will be able to harm his family except for the army officials because only they are more powerful than policemen.

Owais’ third and least desired career option is to become a maulvi. When asked why, he said that a maulvi is well-respected in the community, receives good food from every house in the neighbourhood and most of all, has unchecked authority on all the children he teaches.

Owais has lived with frequent and continual exposure to the use of guns, knives, drugs and occasional violence in his neighbourhood. He has witnessed shootings and beatings many times in his short life and thinks that only those professions which can offer him some modicum of security are worth pursuing.

Living in a society where it is daily occurrence, Owais thinks violence is a natural state of being. For him, assaulting random people, including children, is an acceptable way to live and make a living. At this point in time, he does not even have access to a television at home, nor does he hang out with adults who indulge in violence. Imagine how he, or any other child like him and who thinks violence is agreeable, will behave when he gets to watch all the violent material available on television. How would this influence his life choices after that?

The responsibility of providing our children with a safe and secure environment falls on all of us –– parents, teachers, clergymen, relatives, government executives, political leaders and actors. It’s about time we learn to get over our petty squabbles for short-term personal and political gains and start thinking about our children.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Awais Ch
    Apr 7, 2012 - 12:33AM

    not ignorance but ignorance of ignorance is the death of knowledge….

    “The responsibility of providing our children with a safe and secure environment falls on all of us –– parents, teachers, clergymen, relatives, government executives, political leaders and actors”


    most of them are already spoiled, corrupt & blah blah blah….

    So just “Good Luck & wish you all the best” for Owais.


  • Adeela
    Apr 7, 2012 - 12:47AM

    What a heartfelt piece. The writer has captured the dilemma of so many young adults and children who live in violent societies. If only we can make a difference


  • yousaf
    Apr 7, 2012 - 1:40AM

    @author–Your concern for “Owais”is quite commendable.He has started taking effect of happenings around him very early for his age.The makers of feature films have established long before that actual age of fantasy of the viewer is from age 12 to 29.The study was made to make movies which they established will attract maximum number of audience.The movies seen during that age-period have a lasting effect on the lives of the viewers.In our case the tragedy is that kids begin hearing bombs since when they are in their mother”s womb.After they are born they grow-up hearing and seeing manslaughter in their actual life.Keeping in view the events of recent past and “near”future I doubt the damage done to the psyche of present generation can be redeemed so easily.The indifference of govt.to undo the harm is further aggravating the situation.”Owais”is just a symbol.Every child/adult is going to live with the mental torture caused by the prevailing situation of the country,for the rest of his/her life.No mental or physical therapy can bring back normalcy to the harm done and being still done.Those who think otherwise are living in a world of fantasy


  • Noor
    Apr 7, 2012 - 1:41AM

    This is indeed sad, kids are like clay they can be molded anyway the society wants, belonging to an underprivileged class owais must have seen uncountable atrocities that happens in the society. It is heart breaking to read such stories I dont know which direction Pakistan is heading , anyone with authority can violate basic human rights and get away without ever getting punished. This shows lawlessness and lack of justice in our country, and then we blame US and other countries for conspiring against us when we ourselves are busy cutting the roots of our beloved nation


  • Falcon
    Apr 7, 2012 - 2:00AM

    Tazeen – A great article. During last year’s Karachi violence, a similar article was also published in Dawn with more data on child psychology trends in under privileged areas of Karachi and the conclusions are rather eye-opening just like you have concluded that many kids growing up in these areas want to pursue a lifestyle that will bring them power, money, and respect even if that amounts to be becoming an extortionist. These are alarming indicators that require attention from all segments of the society and give a preview of what things can end up looking like in a decade if we don’t make the requisite political / economic / social changes.


  • MarkH
    Apr 7, 2012 - 2:05AM

    People going after those jobs for sketchy reasons isn’t too rare. I remember the first time I heard of someone I actually knew becoming a police officer. More of the type I’d talk to if we were in the same room in school but not really friends outside it. Never any clashes or anything of the sort. Ever since that time I can’t help but shake my head every time someone makes positive judgments of motives based on a uniform. He wasn’t bad. He probably wouldn’t harm someone physically for fun. But I did remember him talking about being one sometime and helping people/justice was not among his motivations. It was more of a power thing and liking guns. That was late high school and it wasn’t all that long afterwards hearing of it. I’m sure he didn’t have some awakening changing his motivations in that time span. I sincerely doubt he’s much of a minority too.


  • Mirza
    Apr 7, 2012 - 2:21AM

    A great and timely Op Ed, fit to be published in ET. In Pakistan the man with the biggest guns is the most powerful. This has been proven many times in our history without fail. The chief of the army has most gunmen under him and he is always the “man”. Joint Chief of the Staff and President/PM who are his superiors have no guns hence they are powerless in front of him. The courts are controlled by these gunmen and are compliant.
    However, to burst the bubble of little Owais, he cannot join the army unless he is from the elite class which he is not. He can only become a “jawan” who has no power except to follow the orders and put his life on the line. I am glad that finally ordinary Pakistanis are learning real fast.


  • Noor
    Apr 7, 2012 - 5:13AM

    I agree with yousaf’s comment and would like to add that due to overexposure of such cruel acts like acid attacks,mistreatment by police , bomb blast we are just becoming immune to these otherwise monstrous deeds. How many of us even bother to stop for a second and think about those innocent civilians killed in Karachi and in northern areas each day! for us life goes on and this insensitivity is handed on to our next generation each passing day. I sometime think of all those people who lost their lives during partition they must hve had dreams of a wonderful state but we failed them so let our children dream to become better humans and let us help them achieve those dreams.


  • wonderer
    Apr 7, 2012 - 2:21PM

    It is necessary to think of the kind of Owaises will be produced by Difa-e-Pakistan Council’s Jalsas, and speeches by the likes of Hafiz Saeed. The venom spewed regularly will definitely take its toll on the people of Pakistan.

    Does Pakistan need thousands of clones of these strategic assets, and what use they will be put to?


  • png
    Apr 7, 2012 - 3:28PM

    mirza, he can become an army officer as long as he goes reasonably well in the local school system – after F.Sc he can join the armed forces after clearing the exam. Majority of army recruits are from the middle and lower middle class.


  • Mirza
    Apr 7, 2012 - 9:52PM

    @png: When my friends applied for commission in the army there were specific questions including where were your parents born, members of your family, parents grandparents in the services. There is a fat chance for an ordinary poor boy getting a direct commission in the ruliing eiltes called Pakistan army. With 56% of Pakistan’s population how many Bengalis were officers in the Pakistan army? Same was the case with Sindh, I happened to be from one of those unlucky provinces.
    Thanks for being hopeful though. Regards,


  • Raja Islam
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:33PM

    Pakistan is a highly intolerant country. Everyone wants to feel important by misusing whatever little authority that he or she has in intimidating others. Unfettered power also leads to corruption which in turn leads to wealth. Think of the school teacher who punishes a child or ridicules him for asking a question. Or an officer who mistreats his junior or clerical staff and behaves in a abusive manner or someone who slaps a domestic servant and uses abusive language. These are all signs of a degenerative society that is petty and intolerant.


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