October 18: Attack on Benazir Bhutto’s rally at Karsaz, Karachi (From the archives)

Despite the Tragedy, Extremism Will be Fought by Pakistanis
Published October 20, 2007 (blogcritics)
180 are dead and more than 500 injured in Karachi suicide attacks on the biggest rally of the country’s largest political party. Millions had rejected extremism earlier on the streets of Karachi

October 18 was the day of unforgettable 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 willful machinations and deceit. Only time will tell.

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

The show reaffirmed that her massive party was intact and alive as the moderate, secular reality of Pakistan. Her supporters couldn’t care about the cost or the process. That was for the armchair classes of Pakistan to ponder about. The pull of the Bhutto name for the have-nots was once again reestablished.

So began a journey on the blood-lined roads of Karachi that have cracked with violence, and lawlessness in the recent years. Yet a million people 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.

Halfway done, this peaceful journey – a testament of what the real Pakistan is all about – halted. And, something had erupted: imperial projects, state diktat 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! Rumi had said:
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!A head  flashed on the screens – they can’t tell if it was a BB loyalist or the suicide bomber. The TV channels are flashing bodies again and again – 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:

There were people, bits of people, blood EVERYWHERE. An AryOne World {TV channel}, 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. … Puked a couple of times too .”

As Pakistanis we know that these are enemies of democracy and moderation. Their precise identity is known to all – who doesn’t know that they are looming with their hatred and arms across the country.

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 Mosque then it should be fought elsewhere and not against the unarmed, dispossessed political workers.

All Pakistanis have united in condemning this barbarity. Violence, militancy and suicide attacks are, and will remain, unacceptable. Legitimate politics must not give way to warlordism!

Down with Talibanisation! Benazir’s show of strength and the millions who traveled for days to reach Karachi proved that the lunatic fringe is not supported by the majority. Serious questions remain on how to fight it despite the popular rejection of extremism. The answers, perhaps, are more democracy, prosperity and development. Phony wars on terror will not do! It has to be a people’s war against extremism and the process has commenced on October 18.

Leave a Reply