Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Rich kid" robber Junaid: But will we re-think crime, punishment, and society?

News story: Rich 19-year-old Karachi kid, son of a billionaire, mill-owner - Junaid Abbas - arrested for 100+ robberies carried by him & his gang. Believes "crime is an art."

A Karachiite blogger comments:

If asked the reason for crime, the gut reaction is poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, etc. But proving all of those wrong, the scion of a wealthy industrialist was finally caught after embarking on an orgy of theft and looting. The reason? "Crime is an art". I'm just glad that Karachi has one less teenager drunk on his family's power to worry about.
From: Karachi Metroblog, Nov 2006 archives

The general consensus of the blog readers, and citizens otherwise, is: "Spoilt brat. Must be killed/ shot/ hanged/ severely punished." It is feared, almost "expected" actually, that his wealth will finally set him free.

My family was severely hit by an armed robbery a few years ago, when we lost most of our possessions. The incident prompted us to think about the nature and reasons of crime. What I am going to share now is not based on abstract ideas, but personal experience.

These are my comments on the blog post above, edited slightly:


The "privilege" of being rich exists only in our head. It seems to most of us, and admittedly to myself still, that being rich is some kind of ticket to elimination of all problems. To cut a very long theory short, I believe there is a "critical point" for material resources and the social status that comes with it. If one is below that critical point, they are really in need of help and their actions are driven by pathological problems. Hunger, disease, illiteracy, and no access to freedom of opinion are the hallmarks of being below that threshold. These are people who truly are exempt from the usual explanations and therefore, punishments. For them, the law must bend because they are the result of the society's neglect.

Above that threshold, a person may still be not very rich, or very rich... but they all have problems according to their own situation. They all equal in the eyes of law.

BUT WHAT I WANT TO SAY IS THIS: Just like we give no excuse to the rich for such desperate crime, we can give no excuse to the poor. Social scientists and workers and thinkers would, as Cy mentions, quickly see causes such as poverty and desperation as triggers of crime. But that's a no-brainer.

How about the rich? How about a kid who had no choice to be born in a rich household - just like no one chose to be born poor?


Ethics and corrections and the support of the society must be awarded to all its members. I feel very deeply that we are not, as a society, helping any of our members. And we readily award the "You are evil" decree to anyone.

Look at ourselves - mostly middle-class readers of this site [Karachi Metroblog]. Do we take any account of the gross negligence, social non-participation, and outright wrongs that we commit? Many of us regularly disrespect the law.

...[Crime is] a human trait, and little to do with the amount of money people have. To see this man's problem as only an issue of wealth is wrong. In fact, I believe his problem is just what is the problem of poor kids: TOO MANY RESOURCES, AND NOTHING TO DO. Rich people have money, poor people have time. And we all burn it.

No human society anywhere will progress unless ALL its members are actively involved in its development. How many of us, when we meet a rich person, invite them to do something productive or good, and not instead worry about "how can I get a car like theirs?"

I invite us all to pause and reflect for a few moments. The human society will keep on suffering if it doesn't realize the relative importance of all its constituents.

In simpler words: everyone - rich, poor, man, woman, artist, scientist, critic, designer, philosopher, businessperson, idle thinker, sweeper, beautician, policeman, doctor, teacher, religious scholar, child, youth, adult, disabled, sportsperson, insects, reptiles, plants, worms, sun, moon - HAVE THEIR OWN PART TO PLAY. We cannot survive without any of those. Which logically means that all and any of these are USEFUL.

It is strange how we spend the best of our time and energy blaming and ridiculing those who are not who we are.
And even those who are like ourselves! It's like the foot blaming the nose for not walking, and the nose sulking at the knee for not sneezing out the germs.

Look again at all the above types of humans and things I have listed, and you can recall how each and everyone of these have been blamed for all ailments.

Men are bad. Women are bad. Children are stupid. Youth are careless. Artists are losers. Thinkers are useless. Businesspeople are wicked. Sweepers are lowly. Disabled are burdensome. Active people are aggressive. Religious scholars are mad. Reptiles are creepy. The sun is too hot. The winter is too cold. Poor people are criminals. Rich people are carefree...

Only "I" am right.


BTW, I don't [advocate that] this man should be left off the hook. The crimes have been done. Junaid Abbas must face the consequences and I sincerely hope that his wealth does not change law's mind. That he has been caught and that someone dared report him, and the police held him are positive signs. Given the misery, fear, and poverty in which many of our law-enforcing police officers live themselves, this is a very courageous deed.

What I have written above is our "food for thought" in general and for future.

I also hope, for the good of the society, that given that this young man has indeed a lot of resources and obvious "talent" put to an ill use, that he is counselled. Unless he has killed someone, he is going to live. He should not carry on as a criminal, but a reformed man. He must be given that chance.

His mind may be sick, but those with healthy minds must seek healthy solutions.

Thank you for thinking.

Feedback: nextbyramla (aht) gmail

Edit: I realized on second thought that it was gratuitous to use the term "rich kid" without inverted commasin the title earlier. The derogatory term itself has to be re-thought. That's why, I now have it as a quote. Until a better concept is found...