The wounds inflicted by terrorism in Pakistan are still fresh. The families of terror victims are still reeling in the pain of the loved ones they lost years ago. Among the many gory episodes of terror in the country, which many are still trying to heal from, is the Karsaz bombing of 2007.
On October 18, 2007, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned home from exile, which she had imposed on herself due to the dictatorship and unconstitutional government of the-then Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf.
Anwar Ali’s mother, Noori, is very old now and bedridden. When asked about Anwar, she broke down into tears. Overcome with grief at the death of her young son, she was finding it difficult to respond
From Karachi Airport, Benazir Bhutto’s caravan was on its way to Mazaar-e-Quaid where she was to address a public gathering at the Jinnah Garden. That night terrorists carried out two suicide bombings killing 130 people. One of them was 25-year-old Anwar Ali.
Anwar Ali’s elderly mother, Noori, lives in Golimar, an underdeveloped area of Karachi. Noori is old, timeworn, and bedridden. When one asks about Anwar, she breaks down into tears. Overcome with grief at the death of her young son, she finds it difficult to respond.
It has been 14 years since the incident but the pain of the old mother is still as excruciating. After a few moments lapse, she is able to talk about the separation from her son, with her lips trembling. She says how can she forget Anwar: he was not a little boy, he was a grown man. He had recently got a job in the bank. “I can’t believe that this happened to him,” she adds, “He hadn’t even seen the world yet. It is every mother’s wish to ensure that all her son’s wishes are fulfilled.”
She takes a deep breath and says, “I wish I would have died in my son’s place.”
She had prepared food and tea for him before Anwar went to the rally. Someone had called out to him saying that Benazir Bhutto’s rally was taking place; they asked him to come along. He left without eating. “He didn’t even tell me he was going,” Anwar’s mother recalls.
She further recollects he did not normally go to political gatherings but went to Benazir’s rally that day. “I waited for Anwar all night – all the family members were saying that he went to Benazir’s gathering, so he will come late. Everyone kept asking me to go to sleep. I was his mother, how could I sleep? I was not at peace. Just then Anwar Ali’s body came home late at night.”
When the son of Anwar’s brother was born, Noori suggested that her grandson’s be named Anwar Ali. The boy was named Anwar as per his grandmother’s wish, according to Anwar’s elder brother, Daad Rehman.
Anwar Ali’s sister Azizan says her mother thinks about her deceased son all the time. ‘Anwar has passed away so why am I alive? I should also leave this world,’ Anwar’s mother keeps repeating according to his sister.
Azizan retells the fateful day as she remembers it, recalling how her mother woke up at night and came to her house at two o’clock. Noori had gone to tell Azizan that Anwar Ali did not come, emphasizing that he did not usually go out. It was later found out that there was an explosion in Benazir Bhutto’s caravan.
Attempts were made to talk to members of PPP Karachi, but they ‘no longer trust the media’. ‘We do not want to upset PPP members. PPP provided employment and financial assistance to the affected families,’ says one worker anonymously
Azizan cries while mentioning her brother Anwar. She says he was fond of football. “He was very innocent,” she recalls. “He used to go to the football ground and stay busy in his work.”
Every member of Anwar’s family is upset. When his elder brother Daad Rehman is asked about him, he starts sighing; while remembering Anwar, he cannot stop his tears. After regaining composure, he says, “I can’t forget my younger brother. He never went to the rallies. This was the first time. He was forced to go by other players of the football team. For the first time in his life he went to a rally, and never came back.”
Daad Rehman says Qaim Ali Shah and other PPP leaders came to see them two days after Anwar’s death, and offered their condolences. They offered the job of a peon to Anwar’s younger brother, gave them a flat and Rs400,000 in cash. Daad adds that the flat given to him was in Quaidabad Landhi and in a dilapidated condition. “It was also far from our ancestral home. Therefore, it was not usable for us,” he maintains.
Daad also has a bone to pick with the PPP leadership. He says when the families of the blast’s martyrs were being given the keys of the flats in Bilawal House, Asif Ali Zardari promised during the ceremony that party workers and leaders would visit the families of the martyrs on the occasion of Eid. But so far, Daad reiterates, this promise has not been fulfilled.
“Our old mother would have been satisfied if they had met other members of the family. Every year on October 18 a meeting is held in memory of the martyrs. To prepare for this, corner meetings are held in our area in which PPP leaders participate, but no one calls us —they never returned to the family of the martyr. We only vote for them in the name of Bhutto and Benazir,” Daad says.
Daad Rehman further discusses the ailment of his mother. She has diabetes and high blood pressure, and is also suffering from the grief of losing her son. “All of us siblings have families and children, but we somehow manage to cover her health and other expenses.”
The majority of those killed in the Karsaz tragedy are from Karachi; many of them from Lyari, Chanesar Goth, and Malir. Attempts were made to talk to them and members of PPP Karachi division and district leadership, but they are not willing to talk about it, because they “no longer trust the media”. They think that this story could also be against PPP. “We do not want to upset PPP members. PPP provided employment and financial assistance to the affected families,” says one worker anonymously.
Zulfiqar Mirza said further investigation had been stopped at the behest of Zardari, who told him investigations were being carried out into the Rawalpindi tragedy, and probing the Karsaz tragedy could affect the inquiry
Muhammad Javed of Chanesar Goth was also killed in the Karsaz attack. His family has also been given a flat, job, and some cash by the PPP provincial government. Javed’s widow got remarried to her brother-in-law. His eldest daughter has been married off. When I spoke to Javed’s mother and brother, they flatly refused to give their position saying that they would not talk. But while talking about Javed, his mother’s sadness was visible on her face.
14 years since the Karachi tragedy the concerned authorities are yet to identify those responsible for the twin suicide bombing. Three high-level committees have been formed to investigate the blast, yet none of them has been able to reach the final conclusion.
To investigate the attack on Benazir Bhutto’s convoy, the-then Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim set up an investigation tribunal headed by former Justice Dr Ghous Muhammad. The tribunal had recorded the statements of more than 40 witnesses, but soon after, Benazir Bhutto was martyred in a deadly attack in Rawalpindi on December 27.
In the early days, Karachi police arrested a member of a banned outfit, Qari Akhtar, booking him for the Karsaz tragedy. According to the police, Benazir Bhutto had mentioned Qari Akhtar, claiming that he was planning to attack her. The police presented a report on Akhtar to the presiding judge of the special anti-terrorism courts, but found no evidence of his involvement in the carnage.
In 2011, four years after the Karsaz tragedy, then-Interior Minister Zulfiqar Mirza had said that further investigation into the incident had been stopped at the behest of then-President Zardari. Mirza said Asif Ali Zardari had told him that investigations were being carried out into the Rawalpindi tragedy, in which Benazir Bhutto was martyred, and that investigations into the Karsaz tragedy could affect the inquiry into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Therefore, Zardari maintained, the investigation into the Karsaz tragedy should be stopped for the time being.
The then investigating officer, DSP Nawaz Ranjha, had said members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Afghan Taliban had been interrogated, but even after this interrogation, the police had not been able to reach the final conclusion
Subsequently, former Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah set up an inquiry committee headed by the DIG in 2012. The committee could not come to any conclusion as to what the real facts of the incident were. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has now formed a five-member inquiry committee headed by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) chief.
Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto’s bodyguards Shahenshah and Bilal Sheikh have both been killed at different times and in different incidents. Shahenshah was assassinated outside his home in the Clifton area on July 22, 2008, while Bilal Sheikh was killed in a suicide attack in Jamshed Quarter in July 2013. Shahid Bikik, who was accused of being a part of the Lyari gang war, was later acquitted of the case due to lack of evidence from the court.
The case of the attack on Benazir Bhutto was registered on the first day on the complaint of the government, but the PPP approached the Sessions Court to register a second FIR. After being ordered to register an FIR, the-then Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim’s government challenged the decision of the Sessions Court in the Sindh High Court. The Sindh government withdrew its petition filed in the High Court and registered another FIR as per the order of the Sessions Court, which included the names of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, present federal minister Ijaz Shah and the late retired Lieutenant General Hameed Gul. No evidence was found against them after the case was registered.
The then investigating officer, DSP Nawaz Ranjha, who was later killed in an attack, had said members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and even some arrested Afghan Taliban had been interrogated. But even after this interrogation, the police have not been able to reach the final conclusion.
After the murder of Khalid Ranjha, the investigating officer of the case, the investigation was handed over to the then SP Niaz Khoso. Niaz Khoso retired in 2014 after which the case was transferred to CTD, following which it is lying dormant without any progress.