The Party Worker – A Gripping Tale of Karachi

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The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid, is my first book by the author and I sure am going to pick up the other two in my next book haul session.

I like my crime fiction as a pace runner and The Party Worker fits the bill. The story starts with an assassination attempt gone south, right in the heart of New York City, on Asad Haider. He is a United Front Party (a political organization based in Karachi!) loyalist, considered to have betrayed it after investing 28 years and helping turn it into a Frankenstein. The mystery of who is behind the attempt on his life is resolved early on in the book. This gripping tale revolves around a bunch of people spread between Karachi and New York, working to bring down the leader of the Party, Mohammed Ali Pichkari, generally referred to as the Don.

The Party Worker gives you a window into the intertwined relationship shared by politics and senseless violence in the city of lights. You don’t have to a resident of Karachi to get flashbacks of the 90s when frequent blood bath in the city was being discussed nationwide.

Hamid’s bio can be credited in part for the realistic feel of the narrative. He works at the Counter terrorism department of the Karachi Police and has recently returned to active duty after a five year sabbatical. His intimacy with the city with all its shades of grey transpires on paper and is a treat to read.

Be it Bayram, the old Parsi baker, the lowly journalist who runs his own hustles on the side for survival or Baba Dacait, the Lyari gangster who emerges as the sole upfront opposition to the Party. The characters and their intertwining are believable.

However, there are a few spots where you are left wanting. Following the pattern of the novel, Don, the focal attention of all the characters in the story is not given insight from his stand point. Someone who started out as a firebrand against the right wing ends up being a paranoid thug in an attempted disguise of a political figure. This evolution needed more space from the stand point of the character itself; instead you only get to see it from the lens of the other characters.

Then there is the matter of the female characters, who were left undervalued, be it Sadia who is acting as Bayram’s side kick or Zaibunissa, one of the founding members of the Party and a feminist firebrand in her time. Giving them more space I feel would have added another worthy layer to the plot.

Despite its flaws, The Party Worker is a must read. With its pinch of dark humor you get the insight into our political machinery infested with corruption to the point that those trying to fix it end up becoming the demons they started out with the intention to put to rest. There is no one messiah and no one are shown desperately hunting for one.

By Fatima Arif

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