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October 18, 2017

Oct 18, 2007 — one of the bloodiest days in Pakistan’s history


October 18, 2017

October 18, 2007 will be remembered as one of the bloodiest days in Pakistan’s history under a military dictator—General Pervez Musharraf. The occasion was the triumphant return home of Pakistan’s only hope for democracy, peace, progress and prosperity-- Benazir Bhutto- after eight long years of exile.

It was a bloody attempt engineered by the dictator to eliminate his main political challenger and instill fear in her brave followers to force them to desert her. She barely escaped the suicide bombing as she had gone down to the lower portion of the container. Had she been on the upper deck she would have been killed then and there only.

I was contacted by Aljazeera to have my views on the tragedy. Aljazeera’s contact person told me that hundreds of her party jiyalas cordoning her vehicle were blown to pieces. Her diehard workers on seeing the suicide bombers pounced on them to save their leader—all got blown up into pieces. Over 150 died instantly with several hundred injured, some maimed for life.

It was a welcoming cavalcade of millions in a very happy and emotionally charged atmosphere. Few minutes before the blasts Jiyalas were ecstatic in their welcome, dancing, waving, raising slogans in full throated ease. And the next moment the whole area was rendered into a Karbala by the suicide bombers, littered with human body parts in pools of blood. When I saw the clips of the horrendous tragedy in the Aljazeera studio at the time of my interview, I could not sleep for days. Later when my friend Kelvin O’Shea of Sky TV returned from Pakistan and what he had to show—I can never forget. Very thought of it raises hair even now.

General Pervez Musharraf had given an assurance and his word to his foreign mentors in London and United States that he would provide fool-proof security to Pakistan’s only internationally recognised leader. There was no trace of his fool-proof security that day. His security people had left it as an open field for the killers to strike as per the wishes of their pay-master. Had it not been the sacrifice in life and blood of her party workers dream of General Musharraf would have been fulfilled that day only and not December 27, 2007.

I did several interviews that night and as soon I returned home I contacted Bibi. When I heard her voice I could not hold back tears of my joy that she was alive and not at all shaken. “Wajid Bhai, I am OK. He tried to kill me as he had threatened.” She was referring to General Musharraf’s warning to her. “He thinks he has scared me and my supporters. Inshallah, I will show him neither his attempt on my life has scared me nor my Jiyalas. It is a battle cry. We shall do and die for the cause we have struggled for with our blood and untold sacrifices. We shall not allow Bhutto Shaheed’s blood to go in vain, come what may”.

Next day she called me to let me know that General Musharraf had put her under heavy siege of hundreds of Rangers and police, barbed-wired Bilawal House and virtually put her under house arrest. “He thinks that after last night’s blood bath he can stop me from going out to meet my people. He is in for disappointment of his life.” I tried to cool her down and told her that discretion is better part of valour and she should take the next step with extra caution.

Later she visited the hospitals where scores of her Jiylas were receiving treatment. Each one of them in utmost pain and agony told her ‘Bibi, we are with you even if we die’.

Much deeper were the words of the bereaved families that had lost their beloved ones. An elderly lady catching her hand, tears rolling down her cheeks—pointed at her other badly bruised son—‘he will die for you too. We all will, if need be’.

Who was behind the dastardly attack? One does not need Scotland Yard detectives to find or United Nation’s investigators to probe. Even an ordinary constable will tell you-catch the person who ordered washing up of the scene of crime and you will have the mastermind. Not only that, people were suspiciously intrigued to see fire tenders reach the scene of crime to hose the area clean as if nothing had happened.

Someone rightly remarked fire tenders must have been waiting nearby to rush in just minutes to wash away evidence much before ambulances could make their way to pick up the injured, littered limbs and bodies. According to eye-witnesses there was no security, not even ordinary police constables—around Bibi’s container or in the area. Anybody could take a pot shot at her from the unguarded under construction buildings.

Do you still need to know who the killer is!

He may have got away now, he may have been facilitated by his juniors to escape Benazir’s murder trial, to avoid prosecution but remember he must that there sits the Lord above whose justice is not tainted and who no general can bribe or pressurise.  

The author is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and veteran journalist

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