The devastating midnight attack

140 dead and 538 injured – this little byline cuts through hearts and our future!

Yesterday was the day of images – moving pictures of excitement, energy, applause and then the saddest of recent tragedies.

Innocent men and women charged with emotion and enthusiasm were blown away by suicide bombers, remote devices and alien belief systems. Or was it the case of wilful machinations and deceit. Only time will tell.

She had arrived much like the Greek characters – tearful, maligned, triumphant and a little pawn in the hands of the gods. Amid the voices of criticism and hypocrisy that fail to note the complexity of our times, she emerged as a people’s woman – once again. Here were the loyalists dancing, singing and clapping – their queen, exiled and beaten had re-emerged.

They couldn’t care about the cost or the process. That was for the armchair classes of Pakistan to ponder about. The pull of Bhutto-name for the have-nots was once again re-established. So began a journey on the blood-lined roads of Karachi that have cracked with violence, blood and lawlessness. Yet they moved ahead oblivious of the fault lines that run from the drab, destroyed villages of Afghanistan to Karachi passing through a web of  seminaries, officialdom and Lal Masjids of this world.

And so halfway, this peaceful journey – a testament of what the real Pakistan is all about – halted. And, something had erupted: imperial projects, state diktats and the crumbling centre. There were flesh, blood, fire and tears. And the wretched TV screens have documented all of this.

Devastating is one word that replaced amazing by the time we crossed the midnight in Pakistan!

A splinter is often
difficult to get out.
How much more difficult a thorn
in the heart! If everyone could find that thorn
in themselves, things would be
much more peaceful here!

There is a head now flashed on the screens – they can’t tell if it was a Jiyala or the suicide bomber. The TV channels are flashing bodies again and again – as before, discretion was thrown to winds and we have the singular honour of being a country where human limbs and guts of the dead are not just flashed but imposed on the senses until you are numb, exhausted and terrified. And, glorifying terror is the last thing we need.

Urooj Zia, a newspaper reporter was there:

“The bomb blasts happened while we were there. I was stunned, to say the least. There were people, bits of people, blood EVERYWHERE. An AryOne World cameraman lay there dying in front of us. We moved him to a police mobile, but he died in the hospital. I knew he would. I got his blood all over me — my hands, arms, clothes, shoes.
Then there were charred bodies of policemen — smoke rising from them. Slippery blood everywhere….I went back to work after that, filed my story. Got home around 04:00 a.m., couldn’t sleep for two hours coz I couldn’t get the images out of my head. Puked a couple of times too.”

This tragedy is not just about who is responsible for this carnage. When humanity is in danger, we have to rise above our biases and loyalties and condemn what is WRONG. This is an issue that we all have to now live and deal with.

Our religion does not allow targeting women even in wartime and suicides are FORBIDDEN. Period. There is now a consensus at Al-Azhar and various other places of Islamic scholarship. If this is about Waziristan or the Lal Masjid then it should be fought elsewhere and not against the unarmed, dispossessed political workers.

All Pakistanis have to unite in condemning this barbarity. And all definitions of Pakistaniat ought to be involved in this process – bickering at this stage will only make us question as to what message are we sending to the world that we in the words of Qandeel are “multiple little groups all bopping their heads against one another”?

Violence, militancy and suicide attacks are and will remain unacceptable. Legitimate politics must not give way to war-lord-ism! I end with Faiz:

abhii chiragh-e-sar-e-rah ko kuchh Khabar hii nahin
abhii garaani-e-shab mein kami nahin aaii
najaat-e-deeda-o-dil kii ghadi nahin aii
chale chalo key wo manzil abhii nahin aaii

images from here and here

Update: please also see this article by my long lost but now reclaimed friend Dilawar Syed on Chowk.

Also published at All Things Pakistan 

This entry was posted in On Pakistan, Photo stories, Politics and tagged on by .

About admin

Raza Rumi is a freelance writer from Lahore, Pakistan. He regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN on myriad topics such as history, arts, literatue and society. Raza blogs at Jahane Rumi - a website devoted to Sufi thought, the arts, literature, and cultures of South Asia. Raza also edits a cyber-magazine Pak Tea House; and compiles the Development Industry blog . Specialties: Raza is also regular writer at All Things Pakistan, Desicritics, and Global Voices. Raza has worked in Pakistan and abroad in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.

  • pejamistri

    After being disappointed by BB for over 2 weeks, I am again optimistic. I was amazed to listen to her press conference and how eloquently she described the conspiracy. Here is what she said.
    “It was an attack not just against one political leader, it was an attack on all the political leaders of Pakistan. It was a message to all the political parties, on all those who believe in democracy that you can not go out and compaign because if you do a public meeting and go on compaign we will kill you , we will bomb you , we will kill your supporters so don’t go out, don’t exercise your fundamental human rights, don’t exercise your right of freedom of political expression.” It was an attack by a militant minority (read army) that does not enjoy the support of the people of Pakistan……….in a military dictatorship whether it is the dictatorship of 70’s , whether AlBadar and ALShamas gangs…or whether it is the militants (read agencies) of this era”

    She summed up the whole conspiracy in this.

    Pakistan needs democracy, we need “Corrupt” political leaders behind whom people come out in millions to show their support, these people, as Lal Salaam put it correctly, are not rent-a-crowd, they come on streets because they believe in their right to rule. Let Nawaz Sharif come and you will see similar people coming on the streets as well. Even the illeterates understand what it means by “Raj Karay Gee Khalq-i-Khuda” or “Right to rule by the people”. They come on streets when they have no fear, military dictator and his cronies for eight years kept saying that people don’t come on street they are not with the opposition in every talk show their only argument was that people don’t come on street. People don’t come on street when they have fear of their life, that’s why they will not come to get NS on the airport, they will not come in Karachi when CJ visited their. BB ensured with the help of US that the General and his cronies can not terrorise people by tear gas and bullets. And that made General and his cronies sleepless , recall his last message to BB almost like “please don’t come”. And unfortunately heartless agencies had to kill 138 people to ensure they never come out on streets again.

  • billo

    Great post, Raza.
    I thought of a Greek return as well (Anabasis?).

    I don’t know if you heard her press conference but it was one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a while.

    Her sentiments echoed yours: political problems require political solutions (something that ideologues like Bush and military dictatorships fail to understand).

  • Vidrohi

    You are correct, Raza. It;s high time to act, and not just to speak.

    No More Religious Extremism!

  • Ammar Ali Qureshi

    Well done Raza. Good post. you have rightly highlighted that extremism is the most pernicious problem of the country today. In the 90s it was corruption but in today’s Pakistan- extremism occupies number 1 position having displaced corruption- at least for the moment.

    We just need to look at our history to see what happens to a country when a country keeps it politicians out of the political process for a while. In the 1960s, Ayub Khan banned H.S.Suhrawardy ( probably the most popular if not the greatest Pakistani leader after Jinnah and Liaquat) from politics and kept Awami League out of the political process- even after Suhrawardy’s death. All this led to the rise of Bengali nationalism and subsequently the separation of East Pakistan.

    By keeping Bhuttos and Sharifs out of politics and political process, Musharraf has strengthened the hands of religious extremism. The vacum which has been created by the ouster of mainstream political parties ( PPP and PML-N) from the political space has been filled up by religious parties and this phenomenon abets, not controls, extremism.

    In the 60s and 70s, it was Bengali nationalism which resulted in the break-up of the country. Today it is religious extremism which endangers the existence and survival of Pakistan. In the early 70s, Pakistanis were killing Pakistanis in East Pakistan and this resulted in break-up of the country when India exploited the situation. Today, Talibanized Pakistanis are killing Pakistanis and if this trend is not stopped, we will be handing over another cakewalk victory to India.

  • Shaheryar Ali

    Ye Baazi Khoon ki Baazi he
    Ye baazi tum hi haro ge
    Hur ghar se Bhutto Nikle ga
    Tum Kitne Bhutto maaro ge!!!!
    “This is the game of Blood [o Bosses] and [certainty in “Absence”] You will loose this game!! From every house a Bhutto will emerge [eternal return] . [Proletarian mockery] How many Bhuttos will you Kill???”.

    It was the great French Philosopher Derrida , one of my icons, who gave a verdict “There is nothing out-side text”. Though English cant express what he said!
    In front of me are various articles from European leftists on the events in Pakistan. A international Marxist Website mentions the above lines and i am taken aback!

    The greatest betrayal , people of Pakistan saw was not from the hands of their Army, but rather it was from those who claimed to be “Leftists”. They betrayed the Text. For 6 months we saw the worse kind of media propaganda against Miss Bhutto and her party. i was stunned at the amount of distorsion , manipulation and blatant lack of Objectivity in analysing democracy and her position on it. Our leftist intelletuals have even forgotten the ABC of liberterian politics , they were on the forefront of this “Right wing agenda” to malign the largest political organization of Pakistan.
    The most canonized and CLEAN [today best loved word of Paki middle class]Leftists of Pakistan Mr Asfand yar Khan Walli and Mr Mahmood Khan Achakzai are sitting in with Jamat e Islami and Taliban’s creators Fazul ur Rahman. The politics of “Pakhtoon , Revolution and secularism” for more than 100 years has been presented as a gift to Mullah Omar and President Karzai. Never have i seen greatest betrayal from socialists any where else. Rome[ read Pakhtoonkhawa] was burning and Asfand was dancing or “Praying” behind Fazal ur Rahman!!!!
    why? because they have become Leftists of Urban Middle classes” . Their issues are “corruption”, “restoration of constitution” “Judiciary” , yea same Judiciary , that cant listen to a Habeas Corpus of Farooq Tariq , or Mr Akhtar Mangel , or any other pro people left wing revolutionary . A “liberated Chief Justice”, who cannt take a “Suomoto action” against genocide in Baluchistan , who would not take any Soumoto moto action against the cold blooded murder of Mr Akbar Bughti , though he comes from same province . But the great Chief Justice will go to “any extant” to “liberate” Al Qaida members, former ISI warriors of god!
    He will come to rescue of Red Mosque terrorists. He will order rebuilding of “den of terrorism” in heart of Islamabad on “ILLEGALLY OCCUPIED LAND”. and our great left wing intellectuals will dance on with him , and JI and JUP , In search of “Democracy” and “Socialism” from “CAVE OF OSAMA BIN LADIN”.
    This is “Democracy” without “People”.
    The people , in millions came to streets to welcome Miss Bhutto , now our learned democratic activist will say “ignorant masses”.
    This is defeat of APDM and a victory of Bhutto, why because Bhuttos know “ignorant masses” are the Pakistan. not 2% parasite class living in cities. She knows what are the “issues” of the people. This is bond of blood that she has with People of Pakistan, the real people. the cobblers, the landless, the hindus, the catholics, the ignorant, the being less , smelly Pakistanis that eat grass and drink poison . They know Why Bhutto was killed. They will die for lady of “100 castles in west” , because they are people. The proved that Human shield is more effective than any Jammer in the world. i saw them dying but not Leaving Benazir. These ignorant people know what Harvard educated Middle class intellectuals dont know. what is Democracy ?, what is the “People”. what are the issues and what is the “Media Matrix” that Noam Chomsky and Baudrillard talks about.
    When the bodies reached Liyari the real Pakistan in Karachi , the mothers said , if we had more sons they will die for Benazir too. the faces of “great Journalists” of GEO , etc showed confusion at these remarks. “The ignorant cult”!!
    The greatest tragedy of any nation is when “Middle class thought” becomes its dominant thought a great French Psychoanalyst and Philosopher once said. This is the tragedy of Pakistan. That great Socialist Dr Mubashir Hassan is in Supreme court of Pakistan , not for ending operation in Baluchistan, or for “restoration of human rights in Tribal areas”. Not for the release of “Baluch Revolutionaries”. Not for “seeking to repeal” Hadood Laws, the Evidence Laws, the Blasphemy laws, Not to seek help for Hindus of Sindh from hands of Arbab , not to prevent rapes of Hindu girls from his family. Not to get justice for Dr Shazia Murree who was raped by Army officers in Sui.
    Our great clean socialist leader and thinker is in Supreme Court of Pakistan to “seek end of NRO” to stop “corruption”. To get Benazir arrested. Yea thats is most important issue of Pakistan!!!! of all the world at least a Marxist and Socialist should have known corruption is soul of capitalism.
    But People slap , and they slapped hard on faces of such “socialists” and”intellectuals” and “great Media brains of Pakistan” [all right wing thugs ]. They died and payed the price for slapping the bosses. But Bosses have forgotten. Those who are murdered become “Ghosts”. Derrida talks again and again about “Ghost of Marx”.
    Pakistan , its military , its parasite middle and upper classes, their allies the elitist liberals and Mullahs should worry of “Ghost of Bhutto”.
    Time will come when Resurrection will take place , which Faiz Ahmad Faiz predicted.

    Yahen utthe ga Shor e Mehshar
    Yahen Hisab o Kitab ho ga

    That Bomb as Benazir said was not blown by Taliban or Al Qaida , it was Not blown by them Even if the Suicide bomber was a member of Taliban . It was blown by those who didnt wanted Real People of Pakistan to Rule.
    But as a student of Philosophy , i can tell what t Nietzsche calls “Eternal Return” and which Deleuze adds is “Return as New”. Ghosts retuns , in 1986 they were a Million, in 2007 they are 3 Million.
    One Bhutto haunts , 150 Bhuttos will will kill n possess.

    There is Nothing out side Text

    Ye baazi Khoon ki Baazi he
    Ye Baazi Tum hi haro ge
    Hur ghar se Bhutto Nikle ga
    Tum kitne Bhutto maaro ge??????

    “A specter is haunting Europe——-
    “150 specters are haunting Pakistan—–

    Shaheryar Ali

  • Meg

    My condolences to the tragedy that happened recently in your country.

    As an American, I have to say that the articles and blogs surrounding Bhutto’s return to Pakistan have opened the world to further understanding politics in Pakistan. Of course, sometimes one must read between the lines to understand the truth from news organizations, but I treasure reading this blog for its honesty.

    I hope the conflicts in your country can be resolved peacefully and I hope the power returns to the people. You’re in my prayers.

  • Ayesha

    I friend remarked to me today that we have started getting over such incidents too quickly. I think she is damn right. I was numb for a couple of hours. And then just got back to the paper I had been working on. Just like that.

    We need to stop getting over it. We need to start getting really angry about it. How long will we just stand back and condemn it?

    It hurts. Yet, we don’t do something about it. Including me.

  • mystic

    Taliban or ISI…both need to be wiped out !

    F*** Bastards – Aik mehman the, dusre chowkidar aur ab isi mulk ko tor rahe hain !!

  • Aamir

    The route back to democracy is painful, but certainly worth traversing. For a country like Pakistan, there is really no other hope, no other alternative. We have seen it in the past and we are seeing it happening again. We must atone for our collective sins the hard way, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Inhi Patheron pe chal ke agar aa sako to aao,
    Meray ghar ke rastay main koi kehkeshan nahin hay.

  • Asma Pervaiz Khan

    BB openly admits that she knew well before that there will be great risks involved and grave dangers to her life and party workers, and despite government warnings for her to stay away, she came anyway and she put the lives of thousands of people in danger.
    I have stopped questioning that because its useless anyway, the WHY’s and WHY NOTs… but somehow I have failed to supress that urge, the simmering anger that stems from the feeling of helplessness and the apparent non-chalance on part of our leaders. Why O Why?

  • MadSufi

    Asma, I agree with you. Bhutto knew very well that she was going to be targeted. But I don’t think it was wrong of her to return to Pakistan. However, there was no need to arrange such a homecoming parade for the time being.

  • priya

    my condolences to the tragedy .was that needed ?i wonder………

  • Shirazi

    Raza, you have deep insight. You have the power to change when ever I read you and I am not talking of this post alone. Keep up.

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  • kinkminos

    Hypothesis: Politicians Are The New Feudal Lords (and Ladies) of Pakistan

    First of all, whatever my (sketchy at best) political outlook may be, what happened on the night of October 18 was a tragedy (I mean the bomb blast, not the return of BB). I hope and pray that we are galvanised by it to demand without compromise that true and fair democracy be instituted once and for all in Pakistan.

    Mr Shaheryar Ali states that
    >>> the mothers said , if we had more sons they will die for Benazir too.

    Why for Benazir?
    Why not for Pakistan?
    Why not for democracy?
    Why not for universal rights of man? For tolerance? For justice? For liberty? For honesty? For integrity? For sincerity? For accountability? For equality regardless of race or creed? For roti kapra makaan?

    Oh, sorry. I forgot. Mohtarma stands for all those things and has in the past delivered all of them to the suffering people of Pakistan. Forgive me, I have lived outside the country for too long. Absence makes the head grow softer, don’t you know.

    btw, Mr Shaheryar, which constituency do you hope to get a PPP ticket for? Please let me know so that I may register as a voter there and vote for you. You have articulated all the things that are wrong with Pakistan and I have no doubt that, together, you and Mohtarma will right these post haste. Jiyeeeeeeeeee Bhutto!

    Come on people…
    Let’s vote for Benazir. To compensate her for us having hanged her father.

    Let’s vote for Benazir. To compensate her for us having gunned down her brother in cold blood.

    Let’s vote for Benazir. To compensate her for us forcing her to live in destitution outside the country she loves so very very much.

    Let’s vote for Benazir. To compensate her for us having murdered 150 of her party faithful at the stroke of midnight.

    Finally, let’s vote for Benazir, for she is the one and only rightful heir to the throne of Pakistan.

  • kinkminos

    i have written (a little) more about it here:

  • RR

    Dear friends, many thanks for visiting and leaving these comments. There are so many views on the key issues here – my post was NOT about politics per se – of course politics cannot be divorced from reality of our lives.

    However, I wrote this at a purely human level – as I was moved and upset after seeing so many people dead on the TV screen – ghastly and inhuman with no justification..

    I only hope that such tragedies are not repeated and that somehow overcome the menace of violence – sounds naive but hope must not be lost!

  • Amena Saiyid

    I am devastated by what has happened. But as an outsider I cannot but help question why she decided to stage the same triumphal return that she had pulled off in 1986. Did she not know that the times have changed. My heart does not bleed for her. I do not see her a symbol of the people’s power cos the people’s plight did not improve during her two stints as Pakistan’s PM. However, I am saddened by those people who have been lulled into believing she will save Pakistan. Those people who were innocent victims of this murderous attack. Benazir should have acted more responsibly rather than leading those poor lambs to the slaughter. I am not blaming her, but I do think that she is smart enough to have known better than to get so carried away.

  • Asma Pervaiz Khan

    11 MadSufi says:
    October 21st, 2007 at 1:52 am
    Asma, I agree with you. Bhutto knew very well that she was going to be targeted. But I don’t think it was wrong of her to return to Pakistan. However, there was no need to arrange such a homecoming parade for the time being.

    Sufi, that was exactly my point. I am not against BB or her coming back to the country per se but the show they created was uncalled for, the devastation caused should not have happened, the people killed left thousands mourning after them, the hundreds wounded and crippled for life was not what I had in mind.
    I don’t like blood of the innocent people being spilled for these thankless goons.
    I am saddened like everyone else. I just wanted to add my voice to it but these are mere words, ineffective at best…

    Eh rehbar e mulkow quom bata
    Yeh kis ka lahu hai, kon mara

  • kinkminos

    instead of flocking in droves to reverently prostrate ourselves before Her Imperious [sic] Majesty, we should look her in the eye and demand that she and her merry myrmidons display the character, personality and morality that they decry the lack of in EVERYBODY ELSE in and around the political arena.

    when will we shed our feudal vassal mentality?

  • Neena


    Great Article!

    It’s not Benazir’s fault that those people are dead it’s the fault of those who are behind this attack. We need to realize that there are factors among us who wants secular forces in this country to be wiped out so they can bring extremism.

  • Neena

    Here is “A look at Karachi’s violent history in a glance”.

  • kinkminos

    her majesty blames punjabi-speaking gujratis.
    punjabi-speaking gujratis are blaming the exiled prince consort.

    as in an ashuran weep-fest, everyone is pointing a finger in one, two and three directions… i.e. everywhere but in their own direction.

    one commentator hit his head right on the nail, so to speak:
    >>> …it’s the fault of those who are behind the attack

    have mian ush’baaz and mian un’waaz picked a culprit yet? imagine how much fun it would have been if pakistan had legalised gambling and we had high street betting shops in all our metrops:

    10-1: Taliban
    5-1: Government and/or C.I.A.
    100-8: R.A.W.
    100-1: Richard the Loin-Clothed
    2-1: A consortium of television channels keen to boost ratings
    2-1 on: Vested interests
    3-1 on: Chaddi interests

    the horses line up – under starter’s orders…
    and they’re OFF
    to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of

  • Fahim Ali

    Well that was really saddening but noi body could stop it. Suicide bombinmg is just impossible to stop unless u identify the attacker and kill at the moment. Nation will keep on dying the same way in such processions and that is shocking. Also read a very interesting post that relates to the same topic on the following link:

  • kinkminos

    this picture at the chowrangi site says it all. (well not all, but a lot a lot a lot):

  • Shaheryar ali

    @ kinkminos

    Thanks for your comments!

    “Why for Benazir” , why not for Universal Human Rights??

    Alas , the poverty of thought! Dear friend, use the Magic wand and deport the population of Pakistan and replace it with that of France.
    How did Right of Man emerged in Europe? In French Revolution , those people who had Softer hands were murdered. By similar “hooligans” that want to sacrifice for Benazir. the Poor.
    Later the same Revolution degenerated. it leadership was destroyed.

    The hatred is not for Benazir, its for the people, who are “foolish”. “uneducated” and “dumb”. But what if the country is full of them?

    Rome was not built in a day my friend, and Europe did not become democratic in an hour, it took 300 years of wars , million n millions of deaths, or betrayals.
    But No democracy is built without people. The only democratic party you have is PPP, how bad or how corrupt it, it reflects your society. From this mess democracy can emerge , otherwise its either Army of Bait ullah Mahsood. Choice is with Pakistan
    One more option as well, Nato bombs as West is not gona tolerate ISI-Islamist nexus any more!

    But Pakistani Elitist democrats will never learn, Rome was burning and some one was playing music—

    Universal Human Rights
    in a country whose Maternal Mortality Rate is worse than Nepal—

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