Where were you when Benazir died?

Published: December 26, 2010
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Three years after December 27, 2007, a cross-section of Pakistanis recall the day Benazir died.

Dr Ishrat Hussain, former governor State Bank of Pakistan

“I was in Karachi watching television when red breaking news alerts began to fill the screen. First came the report about the attack on her rally… and then, bit by bit, came the news that Benazir was critically injured, and finally came the biggest blow… Benazir was dead. I had believed firmly that her return to power would have been the best thing for this country. No one can replace Benazir, and the shock and dismay of her death will never leave me.”

Deepak Perwani, designer

“When Benazir died I was at work on Karachi’s Zamzama avenue. My first emotion was fear… within ten minutes I saw the entire Puma store near my outlet being plundered and destroyed in front of my eyes. I also remember walking out in the middle of the night to the corner roundabout near my house where an armoured personnel carrier stood. I asked the police what was happening and they told me they were as scared as I was. As for Bibi, Pakistan will never be the same without her. The Diana of the Muslim world is dead.”

Mohammad Qasim, shopkeeper and resident of Mochi Bazaar, Sukkur

“I was sitting at my shop when a friend of mine told me about the murder. I remember there was no electricity at the time, so I immediately called one of my friends in Lyari in Karachi, who confirmed the bad news. First I thought that she was killed by terrorists, but then it came to my mind that other people who had vested interests could be behind her murder. It was very hard to believe that she was no more.”

Ayesha Tammy Haq Host of 24/7 on Business Plus

“I was at a studio in Korangi judging the TV show: ‘Who Wants to be Prime Minister,’ when Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune came in and said that Nawaz Sharif’s rally had been attacked. Moments later Azhar Abbas came in with the real story: the attack had been on Benazir and she was critically injured. Then the news broke that she had been killed. All I could think of was that I had to get to my friend Tariq who was her cousin.”

Taimur Hassan, cost accountant

“I was at The Marina in Dubai when my father called to tell me about the bomb at the rally. Benazir was injured at the time and I thought, oh no, is she still alive? Five minutes later I found out she was dead. I was devastated because in her moment of death she was transformed from a monstrous corrupt leader into a mother.”

Awab Alwi, blogger at ‘Teeth Maestro’

“Ten minutes after I had reached my home I received an sms that said Benazir had been critically injured. I panicked as my two young sons were on their way home accompanied by the maid and driver. A few hellish hours later the driver called, saying that disaster had narrowly been avoided. A raging mob of teenagers had come running to the car in an attempt to burn it, but our driver pleaded with them, pointing at the fact that there were two kids in the car. The mob moved on, but others were not as lucky. After four hours, the maid and driver arrived home in a total state of shock.  The kids, sheltered by their youth, excitedly told us stories of fires and mobs… in their innocence they did not realize the gravity of the disaster they had survived.”

Zafar Hilaly, former ambassador

“I had accompanied BB when she met Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier that day. When we returned to Bilawal House she told me about her meeting with US Senators in the evening. “I’ll talk to you about that later,” were her last words to me. I was sitting in Rawalpindi, with a friend, when I heard the news that her rally had been bombed. This was followed by a report saying she had been hit. I ran to the car. I was driving with the radio on when the news of her death was broadcast. I pulled over, stopped the first car that was passing and asked the driver if the news was true. Yes, he said, he had also heard the news.”But she cannot die,” was what I said. ‘’She cannot.” And then I started sobbing. Others were doing the same — grown, wizened and seemingly strong men.”

Shahzad Roy, musician

“I was in a meeting at the Fatima Jinnah School operated by the Zindagi trust when an sms came in saying Benazir had been killed. I didn’t believe it because I did not want to, but then my phone started ringing and the truth could no longer be denied. We tried to leave but the roads were jammed with panicked people all trying to get home. I did not see any rioting myself but the threat of violence was in the air… The only female prime minister of Pakistan had been killed and the sorrow of that day will stay with me forever.”

Nauman Ghani, fashion designer, Lahore

“I was at home when my sister called, crying. She told me about the assassination and I was upset and sad. I am not into politics at all, but I always respected Benazir as a leader and an educated woman.”

Salman Uppal, creative director, Lahore

“I was at home and my colleague got a text about the incident which we took as a joke. Then we started getting more texts and I called a friend at a news channel to confirm the news. She was hysterical. But I felt nothing.”

Iftikhar Ahmed, veteran host and analyst

‘I was in my office when the news came and I immediately broke down in tears. She was the kind of leader that comes only once a generation and I had so many hopes that were linked to her. She had matured as a political leader and when she spoke of her vision for Pakistan, I could sense the conviction in her voice. All the trials, tribulations and challenges she had gone through and overcome… all that she could have done for this country… all was gone in an instant. Benazir was dead and all hope was lost forever.’

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Bee
    Dec 26, 2010 - 7:11PM

    Good read.. I myself was luckily or unluckily out of the country at the time but have heard countless terror stories from friends and relatives who were right there.Recommend

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Dec 26, 2010 - 7:28PM

    I was in Germany in the hospital examinig a patient, when my wife and son called me from Zürich, telling me that BB had been shot and moments later they called again saying she was dead. Oh my God I said and put the phone down. The patient sensed that something was wrong and asked me whether I was OK and whether she should call for the nurse. My shock was unbeleivable…I had known BB personally and had worked in the “Peoples Health Committee”. Recommend

  • M.Adnan Chand
    Dec 26, 2010 - 7:45PM

    As this is the story of every Pakistani, i can not state every thing in this short column.
    Me, my elder brother, my cousin, a friend and above all my mother we all on the way towards KARACHI, we were coming from LARKANA and almost at 5:30 pm a while before dusk we had a call from our elder brother that there is a incidence with BB and she is in a critical condition so take care of your life and your belongings and get any nearest station to stay.
    After that we rush to the petrol pump to get our fuel tank full, distance from that petrol pump up-to our house is almost 300+ K-Ms but what i can not share over here is the story from that point to our home, time consume by the over all journey in normal circumstances is almost 7 hours but that day we were on the road for almost 18 hours and once again, what we have seen on road is nothing to state over here this is really a story for a drama producer. Apart from every negative and positive of that day that 18 hours were the real ordeal for our family and our relatives.Recommend

  • Majid Maqsood
    Dec 26, 2010 - 8:05PM

    On 27th December 2007 I was at Airport 2 of Dubai and I just got the boarding card for karachi, I was phoned by my friend that BB has been killed in rally but I didnt believe him because 15 minutes before I was told that BB has been at home peacefully, when my Mobil was continually ringing, it doubted me and I called to some leaders in Pakistan, and they confirmed me this bad news. I was just stopped by this news and I could not move an inch and my body was shivering and no any friend was there to share my pain. Our flight was delayed for 5hours and my family was so worried about me and they were insisting me to go back because Karachi was set fire after this news but my visa was expired and I had to leave the UAE for exit. It was ever painful day for me. Recommend

  • ali
    Dec 26, 2010 - 10:09PM

    I was just 16 at that time and at home watching Tv. saw it on the news when i heard the news I prayed a silent prayer for her and i cried a little.Recommend

  • Dec 26, 2010 - 10:16PM

    Sad day…. was the first time cars and shops were burnt in DHA, Karachi. Recommend

  • Dec 26, 2010 - 10:24PM

    After watching one of the Pakistani channels late into the night, I had just woken up and got a call from one of the leaders of a rival party that Benazir was no more. Neither I could believe it nor I wanted to believe it.

    The death of Benazir meant instant rioting in Karachi and my fears came true promptly when Jiyalas went on a rampage in Karachi against the Urdu-Speakers as if they had something to do with Benazir’s death. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/12/29/bhutto.death/index.html
    The Jiyalas were later released by Sindh Interior Minister Zulfiqar Mirza http://tinyurl.com/2aybc5e

    Coming back to Benazir…for whatever it is worth, I never took her seriously until a few months before her death. I believe that she sought and received political coaching. Great for her and her party. She showed political seriousness very uncharacteristic to PPP’s silly jingoistic, sloganistic, and financial clueless politics.

    I wish she had stayed alive for many more years and steered her clueless and corrupt followers in a direction beneficial to the country. Without her, PPP is up to nothing more than its usual shenanigans.Recommend

  • Dec 26, 2010 - 10:24PM

    Karachi bleeded when Ms. Bhutto died, it was like a hell in Karachi, i never witnessed that situation in Karachi, cars, buses, bikes were burning, people running in madness, just like the situation of hell, i was coming back from office and entered into one near by Flats in NIPA to avoid any incident, i spend the whole night there, n left 6:am in the morning for home, 3 of my friends were there with me. it was simply terrible for all of us.Recommend

  • Mohammad naeem
    Dec 26, 2010 - 10:42PM

    I was in my bank in larkana and it were closing hours. I was finishing my work when heard the shocked whisper of my colleagues “died.how can she” and in moments i guessed the words were for none other but BB. a fan of her and i got like hysterical. Out of bank it was like a storm, ppl shuttering down runing and atmosphere shrouded in fear of unknown. The whole way to home i was murmering in grief and despair to my friend how can they kill her. The cruels did this at last. That night and days even months after i could not recover from the shock. and could not believe even in front of her grave that she is no more. In fact her loss was like a loss of hope.Recommend

  • Ozymandias
    Dec 26, 2010 - 11:47PM

    I was in the geo newsroom when the terrible news came. So many of us broke down in tears and I was one of them. Many of my colleagues, used to a calm exterior were surprised and shocked at the reaction. Veterans like Iftikhar AHmed were crying like babies. And then when I saw them washing the scene the sorrow turned to rage. Never in my life have I felt such anger, such sorrow, such hopelessness. I wanted to murder the world. Three years on I just feel sad to see her name misused for fradulent schemes and expensive parks. It’s like someone said (inexact quote) history repeats itself…the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Rest in peace BB.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Dec 27, 2010 - 12:56AM

    On December 27, 2007, I was in Karachi and heard through the electronic media that some thing has happened in Liaquat Bagh, Rawlapindi.

    All of a sudden it came to my mind that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was supposed to address a gathering in Rawalpindi.

    Then news broke out on TV channels that some thing has gone wrong during a rally addressed by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

    As the election campaign was gaining momentum, both the former Prime Ministers were busy in delivering their speeches in Rawlapindi.

    Then sad news came that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto got injured. At that time no body knew what has actually happened in Rawalpindi.

    Finally the saddest news came that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has been killed.

    I was out from my residence and within minutes that all the shops and bazaars got closed and every one started going back home.

    All the roads were jammed due to heavy traffic so were the cell phones network. It became quite difficult for me to come back home.

    It was a very unfortunate incident. I could not believe that the news airing on various TV channels were right? Recommend

  • Footnotes
    Dec 27, 2010 - 1:17AM

    Name dropping and load of crap! ADD ( yes attention deficit disorder )Recommend

  • Dec 27, 2010 - 1:21AM

    I could only think of her children – how cruel for them to be robbed of their mother. I felt the same inexplicable loss when we heard that Rajiv Gandhi had been killed. It seemed like hope had been taken away. I dont think anyone can doubt her sincerity = she knew she would be killed. A true martyr. Recommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Dec 27, 2010 - 5:21AM

    I was at work in London on our trading floor looking at some bonds when the red blinking reuters news started flashing saying Benazir had been injured in a rally. Half an hour later they said that Benazir had passed away. Then I went to our conference room and wept.
    She was the most courageous leader of Pakistan; even more than her father. She took on all the dictators and won. None of our existing political leaders could come close to her intellect and guts. The legacy of Benazir Bhutto will live on for forever.Recommend

  • Yousaf
    Dec 27, 2010 - 11:59AM

    I was in my way to Sharjah when my brother called and said, BB is killed in a blast. I was shocked to hell… my CAR speed was very slow due to traffic jam otherwise I might have lost the control.

    Soon after few minutes, I got a call from my Indian friend saying ” Your marriage is probably cancelled”… and I was afraid too as it was planned on the 2nd of January 2008. Trust me It was an extreme shock, not due to my marriage, but also that we had lost a capable and well known leader of Pakistan.

    The flights were delayed to Pakistan there were chaos everywhere in Pakistan. Recommend

  • GH
    Dec 27, 2010 - 1:27PM

    I was waiting for the Driver outside my office

    “BB Assassinated Check News” that was the Last SMS which I received from a Friend on 27th Dec, than the cellular Network Jammed.
    A 45 min journey to my home in normal days completed in 6 hours, with lots of tension.the worst part of the day was no communication, i wanted to inform my family about my position but I couldn’t. I only saw these situations in Hollywood Movies which i witnessed that day.Recommend

  • Dec 27, 2010 - 4:38PM

    I was with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in Liaquat garden.
    As i finished my notes of her speech and leaving some trouble appeared at the gate of Liaquat garden.Few gun shots were heard.Followed by a n explosion and finally I could see many people dead,some badly injured,,,BB’s jeep was being taken out .Yasin Aokha a PPP worker told me BB was injured…We all rushed to our cars,,,we were told BB was taken to Central Hospital.
    When I reached there I saw Zamurrad Khan and Babar Awan.
    Babar Awan announced death of BB…Recommend

  • Abdullah Gul
    Dec 27, 2010 - 7:58PM

    I was at my office in SITE area in Karachi & witnessed several scenes of violence & arson on my way to home. I could not make it to my home & had to stay at my uncle’s place.
    That night, we only had fear & nothing else in Karachi.Recommend

  • Dec 27, 2010 - 8:24PM

    I was at home in Karachi, using Facebook and having heated discussion regarding the imposed Emergency by Musharraf’s government. It had only been a week since I met Benazir Bhutto personally for the first time in my life, after her Larkana rally. I was aware that she had another rally, this time in Rawalpindi.
    I was in my room when I heard shout from my mother and my best friend in the neighborhood came running in with the news that something went wrong at the rally. We both went to my mom and she was watching the TV in horror. Only attack news was reported and it was said BB was injured. We were hooked to the news and after few minutes read the strip saying she is fine and out of danger. We relaxed a bit but still worried at the whole incident.
    Then suddenly the female reporter paused, and few moments later she stammered, announcing that Benazir Bhutto died of critical wounds.
    At that moment my brain had stopped working. The news simply refused to register and for a minute or so I watched blankly at the tv while my friend rushed out to his place and mom had cried. Then the world came crashing back as I felt the severity of the situation. My sister was out with friends while my father and brother were in Larkana for the upcoming elections. We were residing near Sohrab Goth and was well aware how ugly things would get. I called and ensured that sister was safe as she hurriedly fled to relatives place nearby and brother and father were safe back in Larkana.
    Then I sat in front of TV and watched the news, taking nothing in and blankly watching video clips. It was then, in many years, that I cried myself.Recommend

  • Dec 28, 2010 - 3:31AM

    killers did not kill Benazir Bhutto they also killed very spirit of Pakistan people’s Party.
    Now the PPP in government is bunch of opportunists,fortune seekers and have no love for BHUTTO philosphyRecommend

  • Syed
    Dec 28, 2010 - 4:14PM

    Well I was supposed to be at my friends place to study for exams, but I overslept. (Thank God). And my first reaction to the news was ! Really :D!!!Recommend

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