Shahid Fiaz


The October 18th – we will remember it for a long time and for all the wrong reasons. Today is 21st October – the third day of the bombing of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rally. The nation is mourning the dead and trying to help the injured.


I went to the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Collage and Hospital with three other friends to meet the victims of the October 19th bombing (the bombs exploded at 12.13 a.m on the 19th). I must thank to this friend who actually pushed me to join her. I also want to confess that I should have done it on the 19th of October. This friend of mine wanted to help those in need at this point of time so four of us went to the hospital with a limited financial support for the victims.


We talked and listened to around 40 injured persons in the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College and Hospital in Karachi. It will be interesting for many to note (both for the PPP leadership and other parties) that out of 40 injured all of them come from lower economic strata of the society. They were factory workers, Rickshaw drivers, drivers, peasants, daily wagers, mechanics in workshop, and few students coming from lower middle class families who were educated but unemployed. They represent a group of ‘true Pakistan’ as I met people from all parts of the country. People came down to Karachi from places like Siachen, Chitral, Quetta, Gwadar, and Tribal Areas of NWFP. Sindh and Punjab were better represented for various reasons including the size of the population and better transport and road connections to the port city.  


BB (read PPP) should be happy to know that a strong majority of them (98%) having lost their limbs but still chanting “Jia Bhutto”. (high time for other political parties to envy PPP and get worried as they don’t have this breed of workers– it was phenomenal). One man on the bed who had lost his son in the blast told me that “I can sacrifice my whole family to Bhutto”. Another young Rickshaw driver from Orangi Town in Karachi started chanting Jia Bhutto and made V sign when I along with other friends entered the ward number 14 th in the Jinnah hospital. Talking to this man was fascinating. He had a broken leg coupled with other minor injuries but I have never seen a person like him who in such a great pain was not only smiling but showing great courage to fight it pain and dancing on the bed. Jia Bhutto! He said with a broad smile on his face and started moving his body in a dance form…of course he could not move his broken leg – his siblings were as happy as he was and gave him their complete support.  


The people of Pakistan know a place called Siachen but I really don’t think that many of us (large majority) have even the vaguest idea of the land and people who live there. About their culture, rituals, festivals and what language they speak. The only reference to Siachen is war on the world’s highest altitude (our media and junta take pride in this war and are always boastful of the achievement against ‘ the enemy’ but we never heard about the people there). A young man, who happened to be from Siachen but lives in Karachi, was taking care of two seriously injured youth (Villayat Ali and Akhtar Hussain) from Siachen – their families don’t know what had happened to their kids – And most of the leaders landing in the hospital were not even aware of their presence. I was told that Benazir Bhutto had visited the hospital today but she visited only one ward of the hospital – probably due to ‘security reasons’ but that ward by chance had only the Jannasaran-e-Benazir – the group of people that formed the human shield to save BB. I was also told that BB distributed some token money among the injured but later on I found that even the token money (5000 rupees less than $ US 100) was given only to the Jannasaran (no comments on this bias). I am sure party will compensate the siblings of the dead and injured!  


The brief interviews with the victims of bombing provided some food for thought to all political parties. The findings can also provide a guideline to PPP for survival as the high-spirits and firmly determined cadre of the party will not last forever – especially if there is no Bhutto let me assure you there will be no People’s Party!!


All forty activists interviewed from three wards of Jinnah hospital (ward 13, 14, 17) come from the lowest economic strata of society. They were daily wager laborers (13), gardeners, factory workers (4), drivers (7), rickshaw drivers, auto-mechanics (3), students (5), unemployed educated young people (4), and farmers with small landholdings of 3-4 acres (5). {in the original dispatch, the number of dead and their occupation were in Table form – Ed.)


The figures show a strong base of PPP among the lower income groups but an eye opener also. Daily wagers with bleak or no future make the largest groups of PPP supporters followed by rickshaw drivers and small farmers. Interestingly, all of them were proud workers of the party and some of them refused to accept token money from BB when she paid a visit to hospital on October 21.


However, there is more to the rally and the bombing i.e., ordinary people – which mainstream media tends to ignore because it is not sensational and sexy and no big names attached to such stories. Let’s take a look at the few ‘short stories’ below and find out who is who in the wilderness of politics? Let me also make it clear that narratives of all 40 individuals are similar and I am only narrating few of them.  


1. Sajjad is a 13 years old young boy who is unconscious since October 19th when he was brought to hospital. He is an orphan and lives in Baldia Town (a shanty town without basic amenities) with his uncle. His parents died long time ago and know he lives with his uncle (mammon) who himself is a daily wager and a family of his own to feed to. Sajjad has three sisters and he is only the breadwinner of the family. He used to work in a motor garage to contribute his uncles’ income who feeds four of them.


I was told that doctors say that Sajjad probably will never be able to work as he has severe injuries in his spine. Even if he survives he would need long-term medical treatment and rest to recover. He went to the rally along with his friend Saddam Hussain who was unfortunate (or fortunate) as he lost his life on deadly October 19 th night and avoided the horrors of prolonged poverty and lack of proper treatment. The worries of his uncle are enormous and quite visible on his withered face as his children will have to share their piece of bread with Sajjad and his sisters now….   Sajjad will live like a handicap, dependent on others which he never wanted to do!


2. Ghulam Rasool, a man in his late forties was asking everyone if they have seen his son, Nauman Jamali. A 17 years old from Nawab Shah (Mr. Asif Zardari’s hometown) who came to welcome BB and is missing since then. The unfortunate father had seen the lists of the dead and was running from one hospital to the other in search of Nauman who along with other people came to Karachi on night of 17 th. He did not tell his family anything about the program as he feared that permission may not be granted by his parents. The father had lodged a complaint, had met the DCO (previously known as deputy commissioner) and was also carrying a reference of Zardari House. All his reference and pleas failed to locate his son. He wanted us to help him but we found ourselves in an utter state of helplessness and referred him to PPP camp meant to facilitate such people. The pain of the father seemed more traumatic than those who had lost their kids…


To me this man, Qalandar Baksh, seemed quite a character. He was lying on the hospital bed with no one around and saying something about Bhutto family in Sindhi language. I don’t quite understand the language so I asked my colleague (Simi) to talk to the man as I do not want him to switch to some alien language. The translation of the conversation makes a ‘good read’.


The man in his late 40’s had come to the rally along with his family. One of his two sons was killed on the deadly night of bombing and second one was missing since the devastating night of October 18 th. This man appeared to me like a mount-Everest of courage (I sincerely hope he was in his senses). After losing one of his children and other missing he showed his complete confidence in the leadership of Benazir Bhutto. He, with severe injuries on all over his body, chanted in a loud voice “Jia Bhutto” and rest of the injured followed him by repeating Jia Bhutto. I asked him what his party has done for him in the last three days and in the last two tenures when BB ruled the country. He remained composed, content and what he said was so intriguing for me as well as it will for many others “it does not matter what does for me – I am with my party even if it does nothing for me or my children. We will keep on saying Jia Bhutto. We have to payback to Bhutto family which has given great sacrifices for us – they (the Bhuttos) lost Bhutto Saheb, Mir Murtaza, and Mir Shahnawaz for the people. My son sacrificed his life. He followed the path of Murtaza and Shahnawaz. I will not hesitate to sacrifice my life and my other son for Bhuttos”. Qalandar Baksh runs a roadside tyre-shop and his children were illiterate.


It goes without saying that PPP has a support base that no other political party ever had in Pakistan. They were, among the injured, young, middle aged, old people – Sindhis, Balochis, Punjabis, Gilgitis, Urdu speaking Sindhis, Pashtuns, Hazarwals, Saraikis, and Chitralis but no one had any regrets. They were in high spirits and fully charged to take on any political challenge put up to PPP or more specifically to BB as PPP does not exist beyond the Bhutto’s – It’s not a party but a cult!


Activists, mostly men, were determined and unshaken and ready to fight back despite their wounded bodies and shaken souls. But women of the injured and badly injured had their side of the stories. They were worried about their livelihood. Almost all of the injured with few exceptions were the sole breadwinner of their families. Those who died and those who survived have families to be fed – “I don’t know what will happen to us. My husband is injured and doctors say that it will take few months when he will be able to go to work again. He is factory worker and we don’t have any savings. These few months are going to be very hard for us. We will need money not only for our food but for his treatment as well. I am not saying that party is responsible for our misfortune but all of us know that my husband was in the rally because of his party”  


One cannot but admire and eulogize the spirit of the Bhutto cult, nevertheless there are questions and issues that need immediate attention of BB, PPP and PML (Pervez Mushharaf League).


  1. 138 dead and over 500 injured (most of them seriously) that means over 600 families need immediate attention of the party and state in terms of financial support, compensation, and medical treatment. The small survey shows that 98% of the victims belong to lowest income group and were the sole breadwinner of their families and they still need to be fed.
  2. Fixing of the responsibility is important and there are specialized agencies to work on that – party must take immediate step and scrutinize those among the injured who might need more specialize medical treatment – there is one man in the Jinnah hospital who was in coma on third day of the blasts when visited the hospital. He did not have any attendant.
  3. Though PPP has announced to set up a party fund for the victims but I believe it will take some time when money starts pouring in this kitty – families of the daily wagers can not wait for the fund and need to be compensated on urgent basis.
  4. Government of Sindhi compensated the victims of May 12 mayhem – It must repeat its generosity here as well and pay the same amount to each injured and families of those who dead in the suicide attacks.

Finally, one may ask that what is future of such rallies? Ban on political rallies definitely is not a solution and can not be supported but who is going to ensure the safety of ordinary people and how? 

Top - Home