Saturday, May 1, 2010

VIEW: My Fair, Goon? “By Jove: He Nearly Did it….”

Published in CHOWK Aug 27, 2009

A satirical take on Rehman Dakait

Here lies Rehman

Day Job: local Godfather; often mistaken for the Fairy Godfather.
Primary Residence: the Hood – Lyari.
Forwarding Address (had he lived): the Senate?
Recently discarded Motto: ‘Be Scared’.
New party Motto: ‘We Care’.

Once featured in the sport section, a regular in crime and rumored to have been vying for a spot in the political pages – the fellow may have started his career playing football for ‘Rexer XI’ as a youngster; he spent it playing havoc with Karachi’s law and order as a gang leader. At the time of his death, however, his business card would have read ‘social worker’ and (soon to be) ‘smarmy politician’. This mystifying turn of events will leave the most jaded among us intrigued, horrified, worried and a little speechless. Here is a chap who embodied stereotypical villains - sans the cat, Al Capone - without the Fedora, and maybe Vlad the Impaler – on a good day. Isn’t political contender cum social reformist a complete departure from standard ‘Family’! fare?

Karachi’s underworld did not think so. Abdul Rehman Baloch alias Rehman Dakait (Robber) - commanded a posse of hit-men, ran a lucrative business of arms/drug smuggling, gambling, extortion and kidnapping for ransom from Lyari. It was a commercial success. His dad – Bandit Sr. would have been proud. As would be Norman Bates, for both men, it seems, had unresolved issues with ‘Mother’. Rehman’s entrepreneurial spirit earned him the title of ‘Most Wanted’, 200 registered FIR’s and a bounty on his head. The bounty remained unclaimed as he eluded capture for decades and escaped police custody twice. No one understood the importance of the 3C’s -‘clout, connections and a (getaway) car’, better than the Bandit.

Over time, the Bandits Empire grew; his ‘popularity’ with the justice department soared, and the bounty hit a 50 Lakh (5 Million) rupee mark. When the law (finally) caught up with him and his 3 accomplices (moonlighting as PPP leadership security guards), he had added ‘philanthropist’ and ‘chairmen peace committee’ to this fatal mix, ended a long running feud with a rival, recycled ill-gotten wealth by investing in social development projects and won over the downtrodden residents of Lyari by playing Santa. Needy families counted on a ‘Bandit and Co.’ sponsorship, during the wedding season.

This custom of leaving thoughtfully chosen relief packages at some poor mans doorstep was in stark contrast to the kindly messages (pay up or be kidnapped) left for the elite. But crime, it turns out, was just a hobby; politics/reformist was his destiny and the road to alleged redemption. Or maybe the bandit just got bored. In 2008, his offer to trade immunity and an end to gang war for servitude as a public servant went down surprisingly well with authorities. In his aspirations for a higher office, he assumed a mask of benevolence, a sobriquet of ‘Sardar Jee’ and became the go-to man for would-be Cops seeking recommendations.

He died as he had lived; engaged in his favorite game of ‘Cops and Robbers’ in a police ‘encounter’. His abrupt departure to the afterworld left Lyari residents inconsolable. They were last seen shaking their fists at harmless police wallahs or whoever masterminded the final encounter. Though, they did manage to give their beloved bandit a memorable send off. This bizarre, if sinister interpretation of ‘community service’, must be working as ‘Bandit supporters’ appeared to outnumber detractors who had wanted his head on a platter. What will Karachi do without a wily mobster and – what would have been an equally wily politician – a champion of liberal politics, who merged a touch of social responsibility and the right amount of moral bankruptcy with a healthy dose of unscrupulousness? Why, wait for another of course.

This husband of 3, father of 14 nominated his youngest son as his heir and next in line to a (borrowed) fortune and (bloody) empire. Here are two interesting revelations about the underworld A. Mobsters have wills and B. 6 year olds are eligible for Mobster training. Meanwhile, Rehman’s reign of terror and altruism is ‘to be continued’ as his right hand man carries on the bandit’s noble! work, oblivious to the 10 Lakh (1 million) bounty on his head.

Lyari remains a no-go area, even though, this character who sought respectability over the hangman’s noose, is being eulogized as the local ‘Robin Hood’ by his devoted subjects, a ‘Mujahid’ (Crusader) by a well respected social worker and a veritable saint by his next of kin. In life, he outsmarted the law. In death, he upstaged the system. So, if there is a lesson in here, somewhere; it got trampled underfoot by irony. True Story!

“Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.” - GK Chesterton.

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