My encounter with guns as an 11-year-old

Young girls from factories were grabbed by their shirts, pulled down from the bus, and dragged to God knows where.

Maham Kamal January 01, 2013
Jalao’, ‘ghairao’ and ‘hungamay’ were words I only heard on the news - until I faced the bloody chaos which marked the streets on December 27, 2007.

Being an 11-year-old at that time, the idea that a simple evening of school vacations could turn into a life-threatening escapade didn’t cross my mind when I set off from Karachi Club at Dr Ziauddin Road with my mother.

We confronted a heavy traffic jam on our way and thought it was the usual rush-hour clog, until we learnt that former premier Benazir Bhutto had been shot.

Suddenly, our car took a right turn with a big jerk. I looked through the window and saw a casually dressed man aim a gun at me with one hand and raise the other to stop people from moving. He carelessly fired a few shots in the air.

After lurking around the area in bafflement, we reached the NIPA Bridge and parked the car under a nearby tree to decide how to reach home safely. There were houses silenced with fear towards our left and a road full of burning cars on our right.

A bus loaded with people coming back from work was stopped by a group of people. Young girls, probably returning from factories were grabbed by their shirts, pulled down from the bus, and dragged to God knows where.

Others just ran for their lives, and the vehicle was set aflame as soon as it was empty.

We decided to take refuge at an acquaintance’s house in the vicinity, but I couldn’t sleep that night thinking that hundreds in the city did not reach their homes safely that day; did not meet their parents, children, families or anyone because of a group of frustrated men pretending to be enraged by a leader’s death.

Every day dozens of tender hearts and minds face up to the prospects of death and loss owing to atrocities in Karachi.

Every day is a ‘first experience’ for several of them. Today, I only pray that no 11-year-old goes through the trauma I went through on December 27, 2007.

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Maham Kamal The author is an International Baccalaureate graduate, studying Policy, Politics and Law at American University, Washington, D.C. She tweets as tweets @mahamkhanum (
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