The young guns of Defence and Clifton

“There is booze, drugs, girls and a whole lot of bharam baazi [showing off],” says L, who used to belong to a...


Bilal Farooqi September 26, 2010

KARACHI: Their names are misspelt English words in black spray paint, aspiring to become cool new lexicon. None of the Sindhi nationalist ‘Jeay xyz’ will suffice. Instead they choose words such as ‘Smokerz’ and ‘Next’ and ‘FRACTUßE’. There isn’t a punctuation mark in sight but their territory has been marked. Meet the gangs of Clifton and Defence.

“There is booze, drugs, girls and a whole lot of bharam baazi [showing off],” says L, who used to belong to a gang but parted ways after a taste of the lockup. “Of course, anyone would be tempted. You are there for your friends when they need you and that feeling of being in power is amazing.” He concedes, however, that betrayal and backstabbing are just as potent as the other bonds.

The young men who form these gangs are mostly in their 20s. Many of them come from heavyweight political and tribal families and they all have hormones in common and a desire to flex their muscle.

L used to be the strong man for his gang. He was a walking muscle factory who spent hours at the gym and never hesitated to use his fists when words didn’t work.

His gang ran into trouble in a high-profile criminal case and members were arrested. While L claims he wasn’t involved in the crime, several of his former friends are pacing inside jail barracks today. “When you are with your friends in a gang, you don’t care about what’s right or wrong,” he says. “But there comes a time when you feel guilty. I have regrets.”

The gangs thrive on territorial domination which translates into  clashes or phadas. Rows are settled with at least 15 to 20 boys facing off at a chosen spot. But sometimes thing can turn ugly. “If the meeting is taking place at Boat Basin, a [major Clifton shopping mall] or someone’s house, you know the two parties are genuinely intent on compromising,” says L. “But if one party calls the other to Devil’s Point near Sea View, it’s usually a set-up. They are being called there for a thrashing.”

The fighting comes easy because guns are literally provided by their families in the shape of armed security guards. When the police step in, the boys usually let one of their guards take the fall.

Aside from giving each other knuckle sandwiches, the badder gangs have fun by extorting money from rich teenagers and even businessmen living in DHA or Clifton. In one case, the son of a rich businessman living in DHA Phase V was abducted. “Not only did they take Rs500,000 from the businessman, but they also molested the boy,” recounts L.

Thirty-seven year old H is the security incharge at a popular restaurant in Clifton. The job allows him to occasionally flex his muscles and still earn a clean living. Because of his limited education and class differences, H is not a gang member, but his services are sometimes hired by gangs. Payment comes in the form of alcohol, meals at fancy restaurants or entry to major concerts.

“Most of the gang members are burgers,” he says, referring to affluent teenagers as opposed to middle class bun kebabs. “The burgers don’t have the courage to fight, so they usually have a tough guy like me tag along to do the fighting.”

According to H, some gangs gatecrash private parties and beat people up to spoil them. “Haven’t you ever wondered why there is so much security when somebody throws a party these days?” he asks. “We also do this at concerts.”

In fact, a few years ago, a female member from a dance crew of a visiting bhangra artist was kidnapped by a gang during one of its concerts in Karachi. The woman was freed when the authorities intervened as the head of the gang belonged to a very influential political family.

For kicks, the boys often prowl along Sea View to pick on couples. Rape is never reported, but it takes place. “Some gangs like to have fun with couples at deserted places,” says H. “The couples beg them to let them go.”

Trouble, but not major ones

The police are well aware of these shenanigans. “The gangs often cause trouble but not major ones,” says Darakshan SPO Zamir Ahmed Abbasi. “They are usually involved in drunk driving, over speeding, one-wheeling on motorcycles, teasing women and muggings. But their clashes can sometimes reach a dangerous point.”

Recently, shots were fired at a bakery. “We took action against the people involved in the firing incident,” says Abbasi but there are just as many times when the gangs get off scot free.

Searching for an identity?

Psychologist Saima Qamar says that the search for an identity and the need to be accepted in a certain group compels young people to join gangs. “It’s not about being rich,” she says. “When young people feel they are not getting enough attention, they will turn to deviant ways. They feel an urge to associate themselves with some group.”

It’s also about peer pressure. “Bad company has its negative effects. Young people are vulnerable. Values are learned from the family at home and then from friends at school and college.”

She also says that the overall environment and violence shown on television has a role to play. “We see so many kids carrying toy guns these days. The killings and violence that they see on television is desensitising children. Eventually, they don’t realise that violence is not normal behaviour.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2010.

COMMENTS (14)

sydel | 11 years ago | Reply The article is very well written the comments are good but who will look into this matter? Will there be a change?
Think therefore | 11 years ago | Reply Maybe when the revolution arrives, a sniper will go after these types alone.... boy that would be fun!! Kill em all let God sort them out!
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