In his preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la Terre), Jean-Paul Sartre argues for the liberating qualities of revolutionary violence in restoring dignity and humanity to colonised male subjects in French Algeria, provoking existentialist philosophical questions on the connection between violence and masculinity. Within MQM in the Karachi conflict, whilst ethnicity was central to discourses of political participation and violence, masculine identity appeared secondary. Nonetheless, MQM’s political ‘killers’ are overwhelmingly men and issues of gender are important. This chapter synthesises a position on youth violence that incorporates the ever-present issue of poverty, the intersecting personal and ethnic communal sense of grievance and violence, as well as highly disciplinarian male-dominated cultural elements, and the political manipulation involved in recruiting boys to violence. It questions the everyday formation of gender in militants’ lives, and some ways that political violence may constitute a repair to ethnic identity as well as to threatened masculinity. More intriguingly, it queries the paradox of how, in a terrain represented by images and practices of death and destruction, violent conflict can vitalise a real and imagined space of ‘possibility’ for transforming subjugated positions – for ‘violent becoming’? Whilst I passed time with militants in Lalukhet, on street corners, in and on the rooftops of their homes, and in various phases of the conflict accompanied them on minor destructive missions – for example, to block the main road with burning vehicles, fire over police checkposts and even set alight the local branch of Habib Bank, this chapter principally draws on biographical interviews I conducted with a more ‘serious’ type of militant – that is, with four notorious mercenaries,

‘celebrated’ amongst activist communities for their participation in, and survival of, some of the most severe violence between MQM, rival factions and the security forces. Examining the meaning, interpretation and consequences of dynamic, oppositional processes of violence to its perpetrators, this chapter examines the ways these individuals were differentially recruited to MQM’s agendas of militancy during the conflict, and transformed by particular contexts, discourses and practices of violence. It explores how violence is linked with ethnicity and with masculinity, both in protest and the suppression of protest. It reveals how militants engaged with a discourse of violent politics to resist their experiences and situation of social, political and economic marginalisation. Introducing a developmental perspective it questions the extent to which young men’s experiences of violence can be read as a search for self-definition, and to which social, political processes contribute to the creation of social and temporal spaces between childhood and adulthood. It maps the acquisition of agency, self-assertion and violent adult identity in divergent domains of violence, asks what kinds of spaces are created by conflict for socialising outside the family, and what evidence there is of distantiation by militants from the social relations characterising childhood. The biographies reveal that whilst recruitment, gender and the structure and form of violent encounters are important elements, another set of themes in play suggests darker, deeper, less-visible elements to violence. These relate to the desire to become a killer and to the fantasy elements of male violence. Examining some intensely painful aspects, the analysis moves beyond the social and cultural to introduce some fantasy and psychodynamic elements of violence in play. Operating within a political imaginary, fantasies and desires revolve around male domination and omnipotence. In their enactment they can become constitutive of political reality and political power. Yet whilst fantasies may become ‘real’, they may also be destroyed through ‘real’ experiences that fill men with horror, mirroring a parallel destruction of notions of the ‘good self’ and highlighting the fragility of violence as an envisioned solution to problems. These experiences raise questions regarding the obstinacy of the persistent aggrandisation of violence by militants, even in the commission of horrific acts. The narratives suggest that violent conflict is regenerative, in reality as well as in desire and imagination, of the very brutal practices of maintaining power and dominance as those protested of the state.