By Imteyaz Alam
When a cop writes fiction depicting the unholy nexus of crime, politics and religion, the line between fiction and fact is bound to get blurred. The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid is a realistic crime thriller.
Omar Shahid Hamid, son of a slain bureaucrat is currently SSP Intelligence of counter Terrorism Department in Karachi. He studied at London School of Economics and University College London.
After his father was murdered in cold blood, Hamid joined the Karachi Police as an officer, witnessed the crime world from close quarters, survived Taliban’s attack on his office, took a sabbatical and decided to write. Omar produced three bestsellers one after the other; each overshadowing the previous ones. The Prisoner is based on the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl; the second novel, The Spinner’s Tail is on the root of terrorism within Pakistani society and the third one The Party Worker is on the crime and politics of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
The Party Worker is rich in diversity of characters and is multi-layered. The story covers the underworld, businessmen, journalists, police, intelligence agencies, politicians, mullahs. There are Shias, Sunnis, Parsi, Baloch, Taliban, fighting and colluding. Omar has skillfully woven the diverse characters together and conjured up a brilliant story. The world of crime gets murkier due to the diversity of groups involved. The writer lays bare the dark underbelly of the city where children are shown playing with human skulls. The bullet may come from a lifelong friend and the enemy can ambush anytime and anywhere. Betrayal is punished with death wiping out the entire family. There is entry to the crime world without any exit. As the author is a serving police officer, his portrayal of characters and the narration of crime story is realistic. The author’s command over the colloquial is remarkable. The language and diction of cops of New York markedly differ from that of characters from Karachi. The author’s familiarity with Karachi is quite evident in the story and the depiction of places.
The Party Worker is a story of how an altercation and bullying in college sows the seed of a group that evolves into an unrivaled force in the city. The movement which starts with an ideology to counter religious forces deviates and becomes a dreaded killing machine. It emerges as the dominant political party and forms the government. Its leader controls the affairs ensconced in Brooklyn, USA. He orders for the killing of anyone suspicious or anybody who may pose a threat to the leadership of the Party. The bloodthirsty lieutenants have no qualms in killing anybody, be it a six-year-old child or an octogenarian lady. These all are done to create havoc, and to discipline the ranks Party and the general public.
The author has closely observed and studied human behavior. This thriller displays human character; loyalty, trust, treachery, revenge, love and lust. The struggling journalist takes the recourse of blackmailing to gratify the urge for easy money. The mullahs run a factory of suicide bombers who provide human bombs in bulk on demand. The role of the police is equally sinister. Those who are dutiful and show gumption to take action against criminals are harassed and killed brutally. Even the role of the army is dubious — they patronize one criminal group to counter other. As it is bound to happen, a rival group emerges which challenges the reign of the Party. The disparate and distraught, who are affected by the misdeeds of the Party unite to bring it down. The unscrupulous politicians and police officers collude and exploit the passion and anger of people wronged by the Party to wrest control and succeed in doing so.
The novel is a crime thriller. It is riveting, easy to read and can be finished in a few sittings. Most of the characters are earthy, which come from real life. The overstretching of the story and the overuse of the colloquial are the flaws with this remarkable piece of fiction. This is a must for those who are interested in corruption and crime of the metropolitan city. The reader of the subcontinent will easily connect with the story and will find it fascinating.
The reviewer works with the Ministry of Railways, Government of India.