Who is the best legal thriller writer

Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World

Karachi is big. How big is it is difficult to say, but estimates are usually around 24 million, which is roughly the size of Australia. In any case, large and complicated enough to keep its secrets from those who think they know it well.

When Omar Shahid Hamid processed his experience as a police officer in Karachi, among other things in an anti-terrorist unit, in his first novel "Der Gefangene" (The Prisoner), he did not mince his words: in the midst of permanent political interference and the secret services and massive corruption, the troops have to face heavily armed mafiosi and unscrupulous terrorists. "The Prisoner" is a kind of key novel in which real people and institutions appear with fictitious names.

Hamid noted that he had also surprised many of his local readers: "It was difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that something like this was happening in the city where they had lived for years. It was interesting for me - because these people were the opposite of naive and unworldly! "

Hamid, who gives the impression of a thoughtful man of low tones, has had an unusual career. When his father was murdered in Karachi, he came into closer contact with the police for the first time - and then decided to become a police officer himself in order to change something. After 13 dedicated years of service, he then took a leave of absence. "I never planned to become a writer," said Hamid. "It happened more by chance. I was so frustrated by my experiences in the police that I began to take notes in order to process them. And from these notes my first book emerged."

"Order first, then law"

"Frustrated" sounds like an understatement, considering the difficulties the police officers in "The Prisoner" have to deal with. "Sometimes the law enforcement officers have to practically break laws," as Hamid puts it. Not that he would support that, but in the face of a weak state, what do you do if you are personally threatened by militant jihadists or political mafiosi? " I definitely understand those who lose their way and get involved in extrajudicial killings. "He dryly quotes one of his superiors in the police:" Order comes first, then law! "

Omar Shahid Hamid's second book, The Spinner's Tale, is about how a graduate of Karachi's top elite school becomes a terrorist. Many readers were shocked by the brutality, says Hamid. "But I don't think I exaggerated."

It is particularly disturbing that the reader almost involuntarily develops sympathy for the later extremist murderer. Did Hamid portray his protagonist too sympathetically? "Nobody is born a monster," defends the author. "That's the only way a character looks realistic, doesn't it? If I had made him an absolutely negative character without any positive side, how do I explain his path from good to bad? That's what this book is about. And that's something happens every day! "

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this path from elite student to terrorist is that it has almost nothing to do with religion. Instead, the novel focuses on psychological explanations, experiences in the private and political life of the protagonist, which bring them on this path. This corresponds to Omar Shahid Hamid's own experiences with many cases that he has seen as a terrorist investigator: "Often ideology plays a very subordinate role. It is used as a vehicle. Many have very different personal motivations, which they then transform into ideological or dress in religious garb. "

Chaotic reality "beyond imagination"

Reading Hamid's novels one cannot help but get the impression that the ordinary discussions about political violence and terrorism in Pakistan are oversimplifying. The reality in a mega-city like Karachi with all its various actors is far too complicated for the usual politician speeches or media reports to do justice to. Hamid also emphasizes that he had to simplify things quite a bit: "If you were to depict the whole chaotic reality, for many readers it would probably be beyond their imagination!"

Accordingly, Hamid sees no quick solutions to the problems that have built up in Pakistan over decades. However, a priority must be to strengthen the professionalism and independence of the state organs. "You have to try to build the institutions. The police and civil servants have to be depoliticized and stop functioning arbitrarily."

Omar Shahid Hamid's plan is still to return to active police service one day. But in the meantime he has already completed his third novel, which this time illuminates the links between crime and politics in Pakistan from the perspective of the political activist. The book is due to appear in early 2017.

Thomas Bärthlein

© Qantara.de 2016

The English original edition of "The Prisoner" and "The Spinner's Tale" was published by Pan Macmillan in India. The Heidelberg Draupadi Publishing Househas released "The Prisoner" in German translation ("Der Gefangene").