It was 1997. She was an 18-year-old, slender and shy girl and he was a 26-year-old handsome man, with a thick moustache and chest hair protruding out of his shirt. Just like they used to when they were kids, they were racing up a steep mount located behind their homes in North Nazimabad, Karachi. Once they reached the top, he took her hand and proposed.
“You see this downward slope in this hill. This is my life; this is where I am going. It’s going to be very tough but I want to marry you. Do you agree?”
It is 2015, and just hours before he is sent to the gallows, the wife of Karachi’s most notorious target killer is clinging on to a dream; a dream where Saulat Ali aka Saulat Mirza would walk away from hangman’s noose and they would both run off to New Zealand.
“I am positive he won’t be hanged. I don’t even want to think about that possibility,” Saulat’s wife, who chose to remain unnamed, told The Express Tribune, in denial that he would be executed at the Mach jail tomorrow morning.
For nearly two decades, Saulat’s family avoided the limelight, maintaining silence on his death sentence. Journalists would not even think of contacting them because of the fear attached to the target killer’s name.
But for the first time, Saulat’s wife and sisters for the past few days have begun pleading his case, demanding a re-investigation.
At the Karachi Press Club, Saulat’s family demonstrated against the sentence and criticised the media for not giving his case air time. But as the crowds dwindled, a slender-framed woman donning an oversized grey abaya, shared her life’s story.
Saulat’s wife refuses to call him Saulat, saying it meant aggression. “I didn’t like that, and started calling him Daniyal and Dani.”
The two had known each other since childhood, they were family friends. As they grew up, she recalls spending time with his sisters and him playing cricket and table tennis.
When they grew older, they became devoted to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (then Mohajir Qaumi Movement). “I would take part in the party’s cleaning (safai) campaigns. But Dani, he progressed very quickly in the party.”
In 1997, they got married. There was no ‘hangama’ at their marriage. A simple affair, the Nikkah took place during the day and on their way back they had KFC.
She doesn’t talk about the numerous murders that Saulat is said to have committed, but says, “Whatever happened had happened. We wanted to move to one side and start over.”
In their 18 years of marriage, the first three months after the wedding were the only time they were together.
He escaped to Thailand and was arrested in December 1998 by Karachi’s super cop Chaudhry Aslam, when he returned two weeks after his mother passed away. He was booked for multiple murders but sentenced to death for killing then managing director of Karachi Electric Supply Company, Malik Shahid Hamid, his guard and driver.
Saulat’s wife visited him in prison every week since his incarceration, till they transferred him to Hyderabad and then Mach jail, a year ago.
The main correspondence between the childless couple has been letters, a truck-full of which is present at their house. “I would write him 17 pages, and would ask him for a 20-pager. I would share every single thing with him,” his wife said.
She bought and rented religious and political science novels for him. “His favourite was Ibne Safi.”
“Life has been difficult,” his wife, a PhD researcher working on DNA vaccines, said. “I have been unpaid for the last three years.”
When she met Saulat in January, a year he had been transferred, she recalls he made a victory sign and shouted as he retreated: “Nazi be strong. Don’t give up.”
As his hanging inches closer, she clings to her dream of them being together in New Zealand, where “there would be no political parties, no violence and most importantly, there will be no one to recognise us.”