The Last Victims

Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper features a great investigative piece that details how its reporters tracked down (whereas other major papers failed) the family of Mohammed Ajmal “Babyface” Kasab (who may really be Mohammad Ajmal Amir) and listened to what they had to say. Kasab was, of course, the lone surviving gunman from the recent Mumbai attacks.

Ajmal Kasab…was supposed to belong to the village Faridkot in the Punjab. Media organisations such as the BBC and now the British newspaper Observer have done reports trying to ascertain the veracity of claims appearing in the media that the young man had a home there.

At the weekend, the Observer in England claimed that it had managed to locate the house everyone was looking for so desperately. Its correspondent said he had got hold of the voters’ roll which had the names of Amir Kasab and his wife, identified as Noor, as well as the numbers on the identity cards the couple carried…

However, the man who said he was Amir Kasab confirmed to Dawn that the young man whose face had been beamed over the media was his son.

For the next few minutes, the fifty-something man of medium build agonized over the reality that took time sinking in, amid sobs complaining about the raw deal the fate had given him and his family. [Dawn]

I have commented before on SM about how much I disagree with using the term “evil” to describe men like Ajmal Kasab. To call them “evil” or “insane” (without clinical proof of insanity) in my opinion gives society an undeserved excuse. It allows us to isolate them as others, as subhumans. It allows us to feel superior in thinking that we were born good whereas these men were born bad. Their “affliction” is seen as having zero probability of transmission to good people like us. It just cannot spread. You are born evil. Then you go and talk to their parents and you realize the difference between how we were nurtured and how they were nurtured can’t really be pinpointed except for a few wrong turns and bad decisions that cascade into fanatic acts. The father continued:

‘I was in denial for the first couple of days, saying to myself it could not have been my son,’ he told Dawn in the courtyard of his house in Faridkot, a village of about 2,500 people just a few kilometres from Deepalpur on the way to Kasur. ‘Now I have accepted it. This is the truth. I have seen the picture in the newspaper. This is my son Ajmal…’

Indian media reports ‘based on intelligence sources’ said the man was said to be a former Faridkot resident who left home a frustrated teenager about four years ago and went to Lahore…

After his brush with crime and criminals in Lahore, he is said to have run into and joined a religious group during a visit to Rawalpindi.


p>’He had asked me for new clothes on Eid that I couldn’t provide him. He got angry and left.’ [Dawn]


p>I just finished watching Slumdog Millionaire. I know, I know. It is just a fictionalized drama. A few plot elements are very plausible though, especially the development of Salim as the movie progresses. Characters in the movies City of God and Syriana also follow similar trajectories. Bad choices and the bitterness of broken dreams lead to sociopathic tendencies.

While Amir was talking, Ajmal’s two ‘sisters and a younger brother’ were lurking about. To Amir’s right, on a nearby charpoy, sat their mother, wrapped in a chador and in a world of her own. Her trance was broken as the small picture of Ajmal lying in a Mumbai hospital was shown around. They appeared to have identified their son. The mother shrunk back in her chador but the father said he had no problem in talking about the subject. [Dawn]


p>His own mother is often a terrorist’s last victim. It doesn’t matter that she and her husband may have tried to do right by their kids:

He modestly pointed to a hand-cart in one corner of the courtyard. ‘This is all I have. I shifted back to the village after doing the same job in Lahore. My eldest son, Afzal, is also back after a stint in Lahore. He is out working in the fields.’

It is not and Amir Kasab repeats how little role he has had in the scheme since the day his son walked out on him. He calls the people who snatched Ajmal from him his enemies but has no clue who these enemies are. Asked why he didn’t look for his son all this while, he counters: ‘What could I do with the few resources that I had?’ [Dawn]


p>Update: Here is Ajmal’s narrative of the path he took and it partially contradicts his parents.

Of course, many of the other residents of Faridkot are still in denial:

In interviews, residents variously claimed Kasab does not exist or is the son of a potter, a brick factory worker, a street vendor or is an 80-year-old man. “There is no Ajmal. There is no Kasab,” said Ali Sher, brother of the town’s mayor. “We have a list of each person who is registered to vote. There is no Ajmal…”

“It is totally baseless. There is no Pakistani role. They are not Pakistani,” Sher said. “He might be Afghan. He might be another nationality. We don’t know that guy, so how can we know if it’s true?” [Washington Post]




p>Does anything of Kasab’s story sound familiar? Sure it does. We have heard this many times before. Remember Dylan Klebold of Columbine? Here is a 2004 interview with his parents:

In their first interview since the Columbine High School massacre, the parents of one of the killers said they feel no need be forgiven and didn’t realize their son was beyond hope until after he was dead.

“Dylan (Klebold) did not do this because of the way he was raised,” Susan Klebold told columnist David Brooks in Saturday’s editions of The New York Times. “He did it in contradiction to the way he was raised…”

“He was hopeless. We didn’t realize it until after the end,” Tom Klebold said. [USA Today]


p>Finally, I recommend this great 2004 article from Slate which describes the differences between psychopathic murderers and other types (especially depressives):

…if you want to understand “the killers,” quit asking what drove them. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were radically different individuals, with vastly different motives and opposite mental conditions. Klebold is easier to comprehend, a more familiar type. He was hotheaded, but depressive and suicidal. He blamed himself for his problems.

Harris is the challenge. He was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as “nice.” But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. “Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,” Fuselier says. Harris was not merely a troubled kid, the psychiatrists say, he was a psychopath. [Slate]

111 thoughts on “The Last Victims

  1. 93 · bunty said

    It is clear to me that she faces anger in the blogosphere only because she is so persuasively secular.

    i think you are using secular in the rob and ponniyin sense of the word.

  2. Where are all the Rumi fans?

    Turkey. Rest are in Marin or cowering in D-Pac chOprah’s cabana. I was reading the website of a Sindhi pro-independence group, they make the distinction between Sufi Sindh and the rest of Pakistan.

  3. PS: I forget to mention ex cricketteer and international heart-throb, Imran Khan, who has appearantly formed his own political party or movement, speaking about the whole Red Mosque affair saying that it’s ridiculous to think that a group of a few hundred women could hold the entire country hostage for days and that this was a conspiracy cooked up by Mussharaf to divert the public’s attention away from his failures or whatever.


    What is it with these wealthy, westernized “lefties”? I think it’s because they know they have the money and international fame to flee Pakistan and India in a second should anyone try and force Islam on them and so they do not have to worry about their countries becoming an Islamic state. But the common citizen does not have this alternative and therefore it is the ordinary daal-bhaat Pakistani or Indian who can’t sleep secure at night in fear of these armed and dangerous radical religious nut-jobs. For the famous lefties though, all is hunky dory in their jet-set world. Yep, globalization truly IS the enemy here.

  4. 110 · NaraVara said

    They’re thought from a very young age to look down on us.

    i have watched an india-pakistan cricket match (in the 2003 world cup) with an all-india crowd and the gleeful vitriol against pakistan and pakistanis was no less. this is not to deny that the rivalry with india dominates pakistan’s consciousness to an unwholesome extent, and there is a lot of propaganda, but i don’t think this disgusting behavior is one-sided in the least.

    i also used to play cricket fairly regularly with a mixed pakistani-indian crowd (different indian crowd than above) and things were always wonderful, but i do know that at least some of the indians thought that the pakistani players could inherently not be trusted to be fair. just another instance of this kind of distrustful/hateful behavior going in the other direction.

  5. I didn’t read all the comments, so if someone already said this, sorry.

    I was just reading some of the comments that argue that in Pakistan people are taught to hate the ‘other’ (i.e. Indian, Hindu, etc). I just wanted to point out that the same is very often done in India. I can recall very distinct cases of racism against Muslims voiced very openly in front of me in India. In one case, I was teaching an English class an a international institute in Delhi to a group of businessmen. We were discussing culture and traditions and they started asking me about cultural norms in the U.S. I was explaining that in the U.S. there are people from all over the world and of many religions, so there are lots of different traditions.. I mentioned that Muslims lived in the U.S. and suddenly my students started going on a tirade against Muslims.. they were called cheaters, and one guy said they should all be removed and sent to Pakistan. And everyone (who all happened to be Hindu) in the room agreed (except one guy who kept silent) and began slandering Muslims as a group until I put a stop to it. I was really shocked, not just at their views, but how comfortable they felt opening expressing these views in a classroom.

    This is just one of the many experiences I had on this issue.. but I think that this acceptance of hatred and labeling people as ‘other’ is rampant not just in Pakistan.

  6. Yep, globalization truly IS the enemy here.

    Globalization is definitely at fault. Imagine you are an upper middle class Pakistani and you are spending your WoT bonus. You go to some high end Swedish import house and you are shown a footstool called an “Ottoman”. A glorious civilization reduced to a support for someone’s dirty feet. Would it not make your blood boil Sir/Madam ?!

  7. 105 · Amol said

    Her “eloquent” essay reads like a hack writer from NRO parodying left.

    The usual punishment for a bad author is to not read her. That A Roy faces anger suggests that it is not her writing but something else that rankles. Maybe it is not only secularism as I previously thought, but also her habit of holding up a mirror to the mob.

  8. 116 · bunty said

    Maybe it is not only secularism as I previously thought, but also her habit of holding up a mirror to the mob.

    yes, those who hate a roy love lynching muslims. no wonder you are a fan.

  9. 114 · LinZi said

    I was really shocked, not just at their views, but how comfortable they felt opening expressing these views in a classroom

    Yes, the level of bigotry openly aired in India is shocking, to me at least.