The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

In the early hours of the dawn on December 14, 1986, in a slum colony at the foot of those hills, hundreds of armed men slipped from Toyota trucks into the cold, dusty lanes, their faces and heads wrapped in black bandannas, machine guns slung over their shoulders. They crept into the modest houses, squat installations of one or two rooms teeming with sleeping families curled under quilts and covers. Mothers and children and fathers and grandfathers all woke to a storm of strangers and bullets. The assassins weaved in and out of the houses of factory workers and vegetable sellers, day laborers and stone masons. They were bound in death by their common origins as refugees from India, the trailing wreckage of Partition. The gunmen went from Qasba Colony to Aligarh Colony, named after the university town too deep in India to be given to Pakistan. When they didn’t go into homes they went into shops, armed with Kalashnikovs, gifts of the Russians, smuggled across another border. They knew the unmarked paths well and had an ordered plan of mayhem, some invisible checklist that told them who was to be killed and who spared. Their mission lasted for hours, and when they were done it was past midday, a day’s work of bloodshed accomplished with diligence, leaving piles of bodies strewn on the streets and across doorways. According to the newspapers the next day, fifty people had been killed in the massacre in Qasba Colony on that winter day. Written in the sedate, edgeless prose of newspapermen who had now endured nearly seven years of martial law, the story said only that “an unprecedented massacre of innocent civilians took place in Qasba Colony, Aligarh Colony and Orangi sector 1-D.” It noted that the marauders had been armed with “Kalashnikovs and 7mm rifles.”
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The massacre in Qasba Colony, unprecedented in 1986, would be the first in multiepisodic saga of vengeance, of massacres that would pile one atop another until it would be hard to tell them apart.
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The Pakistan that Benazir returned to had changed particularly in regard to its treatment of women, who had borne the weight of an Islamization campaign intended to legitimize the rule of a military dictator. In the five years that Benazir had been gone, hobnobbing with world leaders and sharpening the oratorical and political skills she would need, General Zia ul Haque had passed law after law designed to cut women out of public life and disable them in private.
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The military government of General Zia ul Haque, perhaps too secure in its longevity, perhaps secretly anxious about the crowds that young Benazir could command, watched and waited, interfering only now and then, denying a license for a rally, spiriting away a party worker. Perhaps they underestimated the power of the fragile-looking Benazir,
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Toddlers waddled among the adults’ legs, hawkers screamed at doors, and women gave birth.
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the British Parliament signed the Indian Independence Act of 1947, which divided India and gave birth to two separate nations. It was the middle of the night in Bombay when the BBC reported the news, the street outside the hospital erupting into a chaos of firecrackers and shouts and slogans. The women inside were a mix of Hindu and Muslim, tended to by Catholic nuns in a hospital that had been built by a Zoroastrian businessman and was still run by the British.
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In a land the British had ruled for more than two hundred years, these acts of export consumption conferred quite a bit of status. Every can of coffee, every tin of biscuits was kept long after the contents had been consumed. They stood at attention, looking down on the family and their guests from the top shelves of cupboards: brightly painted Cadbury candy boxes and red tins of Ovaltine holding rice and lentils and garam masala long after the chocolate was gone.
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If India threatened their borders, the women agreed, polygamy threatened their marriages. An Islamic Republic could not be allowed to be a Republic of men, men who could secretly wed again and again and yet again.
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The Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961 was delivered to General Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan, by a procession of chanting, victorious women. At the head of the crowd of women was the president’s daughter Nasim, who handed over the proposed ordinance to her father, who then promptly signed it into law.
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Not all the men who came to the new country relished the possibility of many wives. Pakistan’s first governor, General Mohammad Ali Jinnah, came fleeing the memory of one who had, for just a few moments, lit his solitary life with laughter.
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For Jinnah, Ruttie left her dilettante freedoms, the whirl of parties and adulation and admirers. She also left the name that her parents had given her, transforming from Ruttie, the ravishing girl rebel of Bombay society, to Maryam, the Muslim wife at the side of the leader of the Muslims.
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Daughter of one of the richest Parsi businessmen in the city, Sir Dinshaw Petit, she met Jinnah, already a middle-aged man, and fell in love with him. To marry him, she defied her family, who thought he was too old, too stern, and too Muslim. He too defied the expectations of many Muslims by not picking a Muslim girl from a Muslim family.
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At first it was just as it should be. She moved in and changed the décor of his dour bachelor quarters. He tried to be home earlier and to indulge her little whims. But before long he was taken by the demands of leadership, by the drama of driving out the British colonialists, by concerns larger than the world of two that she wished to inhabit. The bloom on the new Maryam began to fade and with it the marriage began to wither. The birth of a child could not save it; Pakistan and Ruttie both seemed to want all of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and perhaps Mohammad Ali Jinnah believed that Ruttie would still be there after he had won Pakistan.
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In her last letter to him she wrote, When one has been as near to the reality of Life (which after all is Death) as I have been dearest, one only remembers the beautiful and tender moments and all the rest becomes a half veiled mist of unrealities. Try and remember me beloved as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon . . . . Darling I love you—I love you—and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you—only after one has created a very beautiful blossom one does not drag it through the mire. The higher you set your ideal the lower it falls. I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy which commenced in love should also end with it. . . . Ruttie Jinnah died on February 20, 1929.
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She was buried in one of Bombay’s Muslim cemeteries. It was here that Mohammad Ali Jinnah visited her in August 1947, in the days before he left for Karachi, the last days he would ever spend in Bombay. Here at the grave of the woman he had lost, for the sake of the country he had to create, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was said to have wept. One year later, he too would lie dying, far away in newborn Pakistan.
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Mohammad Ali Jinnah had gained a country but lost his love. He was buried in the center of Karachi, and over his grave a pristine white mausoleum of marble was built. Its unblemished dome could be seen far and wide. Mohammad Ali Jinnah came to Pakistan to die, and in death, he belonged to Pakistan. The children of Pakistan learned a lot about him, about his education, his political acumen, his strategic prowess; but we never ever learned about his (non-Muslim) wife, about the woman he had loved.
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From here she would make her last heroic effort, contesting elections against the military general Ayub Khan. This woman who was running for office against men could not, however, command the support of other powerful women.
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The Pakistan she had heralded at the side of her brother as an independent, democratic, and progressive republic for the subcontinent’s Muslims was ruled by a military dictator and rife with ethnic enmities. The spats with India, in 1948 and again in 1965, fomented an attitude of permanent siege that justified routine suspensions of the law and an unquestioning worship of the military. The generals hated her because she touted democracy, and the mullahs now denounced her because she, once merely the sister of a leader, had had the audacity to try to be one herself.
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It could have been given to Dina, the daughter of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But she had stayed in India after the birth of Pakistan, stayed an Indian and then married a non-Muslim against her father’s wishes. Under the inheritance calculations of the laws of the Islamic Republic, she was not entitled to what either her father or her aunt left behind.
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The darker, smaller Bengali was to many an alien. Bengalis spoke a different language: neither the brash Punjabi that echoed through the barracks of Pakistan’s growing army nor the pedigreed Urdu, peppered with Persian and Arabic, that was spoken by the bureaucrats and industrialists fattened from the spoils of Partition.
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When elections were held on December 7, 1971, thirty-one million East Pakistanis went to the polls to choose 169 members of Pakistan’s Parliament.
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Nearly everyone in East Pakistan had voted for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Bengali leader who had given voice to their discontent and talked of an identity all their own, one that did not force another language down their throats, another unconcerned leader over their heads. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had failed to win a single seat in East Pakistan but had managed a majority in the West.
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It was named after Begum Rokeya Hussain, a woman who had been one of the first Indian women to write a story in English. Her work, “Sultana’s Dream,” told of a world where men and not women were sequestered.
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On the night of March 24, 1971, Rokeya Hall was suddenly silent, standing dark and severe against the rise of the smoke that engulfed it. Nearly all the girls had left for safer places as the news of an operation by the Pakistani military reached campus. Ordered to do so by their bosses in West Pakistan, the Pakistani military were out to capture Bengali nationalists they believed were hiding on the Dhaka University campus. Warned of the coming raid, the girls of Rokeya Hall had left as if they would return, trailing smells of the coconut oil that they used to smooth the braids and knots of their hair and the tea they made in the middle of the night.
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It was late evening when they finally arrived. The men in khaki from the Pakistan Army had already been to Rokeya Hall, hoping for a bounty of virgin spoils. They had ravished the empty rooms, turning over the beds and stripping the cupboards and roughly pushing the tables and chairs against the walls. When they arrived at the door of the provost, they came with the rage of men denied and duped. They fired through the gate and shattered the frail lock on the front door and the glass on the windows. At the entrance to the house they confronted Begum Akhtar Imam, their guns cocked and ready. The girls hid in the back rooms of the house and heard the men say, “Where are the girls?” once, twice, and then a third time. “The girls are gone,” Begum Akhtar replied, “the girls are all gone.” They left without coming inside. It was not over. A few hours later another storm of khaki prowling the dark campus appeared at the house of the provost.
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It had been almost six months since the December elections, six months since Sheikh Mujib and his party had won the majority of seats in Pakistan’s Parliament. According to Pakistani law, this meant that then president General Yahya Khan could invite Sheikh Mujib to form a majority government in Islamabad. His party members would then be able to elect him as leader of Parliament, making him the first prime minister to hail from East Pakistan. Six months had passed, and the invitation from the president had not come.
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If Mujibur Rahman did not become prime minister, Benazir’s father would ascend instead. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s most persuasive victory had come earlier that year. It was rumored that in March it was he who had convinced General Yahya Khan, the overseer of Pakistan’s transition to democracy, to order military operations against the Bangla secessionists. This latter option, he had argued, was better than to ask Sheikh Mujib to form a coalition to create a united Pakistan’s democratic government. It was allegedly at Bhutto’s home that General Yahya Khan had given the orders to initiate the operation.
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Within hours, the Pakistani military had poured into the streets and villages of East Pakistan, rounding up insurgents and anyone who looked threatening—and many others who didn’t. There was war in East Pakistan, and that summer its intensity had reached a frenetic pitch. But only bits and pieces of it reached the faraway public of West Pakistan. Thousands had already been killed by that summer, their bodies bayoneted and filled with bullets and dumped in mass graves by Pakistani soldiers egged on by their superiors. Pakistan had been won for Muslims, but it had now splintered in two. To motivate the soldiers, the generals told them that those fighting for independence were forsaking Pakistan, the Muslim country for which they had fought so ardently only decades earlier. If they didn’t stand their ground against the insurgents, they simply were not Muslim.
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On June 21, 1971, Benazir Bhutto turned twenty-one, a coming-of-age in the impending storm that was her father’s anointment. A few months later, when the summer had released its hold on Karachi and the coiffed wives and tanned sons of Pakistan’s elite had returned from the retreats where they had escaped the tumult of summertime secession, Benazir flew back to the United States to continue her education at Harvard University. When she returned to Pakistan for the winter break, she found her country reduced by half, with her father presiding as prime minister over what remained.
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The fates of all women were attached to those of other women.
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NOVEMBER 14, 1971 The PNS Ghazi had come from America. She was a submarine built decades earlier by steelworkers under the gray, misty skies of the naval shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Back then, in her other life guarding other shores, she had been called something else. But in West Pakistan she was reborn. Her new name, Ghazi, was the Arabic word for “commander,” and she was the first submarine to be commissioned to any South Asian navy, a new Pakistan’s pride and joy, a real bit of the military prowess the new nation believed was crucial for its existence. As a submarine she was not only powerful but also secret, and secret weapons, everyone knows, are the most powerful. By November 1971 the battle that had started between the two halves of Pakistan over the election of a prime minister had become a war between Pakistan and India, which viewed Pakistan as provinces lost from its own pre-British wholeness. In Pakistan’s telling it, the Indians were the ones who had sheltered Sheikh Mujib and his supporters and had poured guns and bombs on the passion of jilted East Pakistanis, eventually transforming a political disagreement between two halves of a country into a battle for an independent Bangladesh. As a year full of bad news threatened to deliver yet more, the PNS Ghazi was given a crucial mission. It was to snake into the depths of the Bay of Bengal to do reconnaissance on the Indian naval ship Vikrant. The ultimate mission was to thwart the Indian effort to hack off a chunk of Pakistan. The captain of the PNS Ghazi was a fresh-faced commander by the name of Zafar Mohammad Khan, part of the hopeful, young cadre of Pakistani patriots who had risen quickly to the top of the military leadership. He left the familiar lights of Karachi Harbor on November 14, 1971. On the Muslim calendar, it was the twenty-seventh of Ramzan, an especially holy day that falls during the last fasts of the month when the Holy Quran was believed to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Around Karachi the mosques were lit up and crowded with men deep into the night, their white, gray, and blue backs swaying with the rhythm of Quranic verses read aloud. It was time for Taraweeh prayers, an extra set offered only during Ramzan after the compulsory Isha prayers, and often stretching deep into the night as the faithful took stock of the year, asking for forgiveness for the sins accumulated over its course. If the imams standing on pulpits did not know the details of the fighting, they had been assured of the villainy of the secessionists; they didn’t need to be convinced of the meddlesome malice of India. From loudspeakers that bellowed out over hundreds of hunched men, from marble-floored mosques in newly sprung suburbs to the bamboo-matted floors of the one on Manora Island far out to sea, they asked Pakistanis to pray for the victory of their troops against India, against the traitors who wished to divide and destroy Pakistan. So secret was Captain Khan’s mission, and so pressing the threat of interception, that he had been instructed not to open the orders until the submarine was well on its way toward the Bay of Bengal. The Ghazi had only recently been equipped by the Turkish Navy to lay mines deep under the surface of the peaceful sea. The first days of the mission went well, the ninety-three crew members following the rigid rhythms they had learned in training, waking and sleeping and praying while Captain Khan charted the coordinates with the precision he was famous for. On November 16, 1971, two days and nights after it had descended into the ocean, the PNS Ghazi was reported to be four hundred miles off the coast of Bombay. Later that day it reported coordinates off the coast of Sri Lanka, very close to its destination. Finally, on November 20, 1971, it entered the silent waters of the Bay of Bengal. The envelope detailing their mission to plant mines throughout the bay had by then been opened. With the bay teeming with explosive mines, the Indian Navy Ship Vikrant would not stand a chance. Once India was weakened, the Bengalis wishing for secession from Pakistan would have no allies, thus preserving the territorial integrity of Pakistan. This, at least, was the tale told to the crew. But the crew of the PNS Ghazi knew only half the story. While they silently scoured the ocean looking for Indian warships, the Indians were planning their own attack on Karachi. By December 4, 1971, Indian ships waited, just out of radar range but close enough to see through their scopes the unassuming tumult of a day in Karachi Harbor, the fishing trawlers emptying their catch, cargo containers being lifted on and off the berths of merchant ships, the call to prayer booming across the harbor and over the sea. The Indians had planned to attack Karachi at night while the city slept and the military entrusted with guarding them could not respond as effectively. A night attack would stun everyone, from the fishermen and the businessmen to the politicians and the pilots. The Pakistani Air Force would not be able to immediately arm their planes and bombard Indian cities in retaliation. At 11:30 p.m., the Indian naval ships eyeing the shores of Karachi finally launched their missiles, aiming them at the city’s Keamari Harbor and warships stationed off the coast of Pakistani naval bases. The explosions could be heard deep inside the city, waking groggy men and bleary-eyed children. Only a few could see the fires that erupted from the oil tankers and warships that had been hit, spewing clouds of black smoke that dissipated into the night sky. Servicemen from the navy ship Khyber, having been pummeled by the missile, plunged into the sea to their deaths. Karachi was under attack. At nearly the same time on the other side of the Indian Peninsula, the wearied crew of the PNS Ghazi, now nearly two weeks into their sojourn in the cramped, metal capsule, still searched for its target knowing nothing of the attack on Karachi. Theirs had been a long silence, tense and all-encompassing. They had looked so long and wanted so badly to accost their target that they began to believe what they may have otherwise questioned. The short bursts of commands filtering over the static of their radio controls must be coming from the elusive Vikrant. They must be close, they began to think. They had to be close, they argued. But suddenly amid this confusion came an explosion. Investigators would not be able to detect the origin of the explosion until its scraps floated to the surface several hours later. One such piece bore the crucial clue, the fading words “USS Diablo,” a name from the past life of the destroyed submarine. It was the PNS Ghazi.
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DECEMBER 14, 1971 It was above all an act of military theater, the first and only public surrender in modern military history. The official ceremony in which Pakistan gave up East Pakistan was held at Ramna Racecourse in Dhaka, and every detail of its orchestration was meant to humiliate.
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DECEMBER 14, 1971 It was above all an act of military theater, the first and only public surrender in modern military history. The official ceremony in which Pakistan gave up East Pakistan was held at Ramna Racecourse in Dhaka, and every detail of its orchestration was meant to humiliate. From the crowds of Indian soldiers, who stood leering behind the Pakistani general signing the document to the single, rickety table placed in the middle of the racecourse ground, all the visuals arranged to insure that the defeated indeed looked as vanquished as they were. The Pakistani general who had been given the task of representing a conquered Pakistan seemed eager to end the ordeal, while the neatly turbaned Indian general seated beside him was deliberately unhurried. Even the land participated in the jeers; the racecourse was where Bangladeshis had celebrated the birth of Pakistan twenty-four years ago, certain then that a single homeland for all the subcontinent’s Muslims was possible. On that same ground Sheikh Mujib had announced the end of that dream and the beginning of the quest for Bangladesh. Now the surrender had to happen on this land that had been three different countries in fewer than three decades.
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The Pakistanis’ roles were parts in a play, allowing no deviation from a ceremony that summarized defeat in a single photograph and a single signature. General Abdullah Khan Niazi, the face of Pakistan’s national loss, seemed uninterested in posing for the camera, his tiny eyes focused elsewhere.
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The language of surrender was simple: “The Pakistani Eastern command agree to surrender all Pakistani armed forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Indian and Bangladesh forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, air and naval forces.”
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A few days later, another surrender ceremony was held, as if the victors could not sate themselves with this new form of theater that made their victory tangible. This one involved even more Pakistani soldiers, not just the one sitting at a rickety table. This time they were lined up, all still in uniform, in a long queue whose length hinted at the entirety of their twenty-four-thousand-man presence in East Pakistan. On cue, the Indian forces arranging the show told them they must put down their weapons and jog backward, moving backward to convince their foes that they were indeed going home.
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Not only the soldiers turned their heels to Karachi that December. In the shadow of defeat were also hundreds of thousands of Bihari Muslims, who had never fought but had doggedly supported the Pakistani dream their fellow citizens had abandoned for Bangladesh. In the drama of Pakistan’s defeat and Bangladesh’s independence, they did not fit, their story too messy to include in the black and white of winning and losing, jogging backward and forward. These living casualties of war, who had already propelled themselves from one home in the Indian province of Bihar to the independent East Pakistan, now staggered to Karachi. There, in the craggy northwestern edge of another strange city, far from the ocean they had heard it bordered, and in lanes already puddled with refuse, they founded Orangi Town, a slum that would in the following decades become one of the largest in the world. In its unpaved lanes and open sewers, the people who had been discarded by two countries set up shanties and pinned them with nostalgic names—Usmanabad and Ghaziabad and Hanifabad—harkening back to India or East Pakistan or Bangladesh, a first, a second, or a third migration. They kept coming, with bedrolls and broken trunks filled with carefully wrapped copies of the Holy Quran and bridal gowns and deeds to land they would never see again. They kept coming, until Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the new prime minister of Pakistan who lived by the sea, said they could come no more, that Karachi was full and had no more room for the migrants of defeat.
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where others stood smoking and chatting, oblivious.
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It did not mention the blasts at all, only that the president, General Zia ul Haque, would be visiting Karachi the next day. The morning paper reported the details of the Bohri Bazaar blasts, the first of their kind in Karachi, now a city of eight million.
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her period arrived every month like a red flag of failure.
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On their way to these boys, the Stinger missiles stopped to rest in the city of Rawalpindi, just south of the small capital city of Islamabad, and set deep inside Pakistan in a cozy circle of green-topped hills. None of the ordinary citizens who lived in Rawalpindi knew then that the Stingers were stopping there, and those who did decided not to tell anyone. Rawalpindi served as general headquarters of the Pakistani military, from whose manicured lawns General Zia ul Haque, the president of Pakistan, ruled the country. At 10:00 a.m. on April 10, 1988, when the local housewives were just beginning to fry the onions for their daily curries and the schoolchildren had started to squirm in their seats in anticipation of recess, the blasts began. They came from a place known as Ojhri Camp, a depository for military weapons in the middle of Rawalpindi.
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why an arms depot sat among millions of unsuspecting civilians.
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In the days that followed, more stories and even more bodies were extracted from beneath the shattered glass and twisted pieces of metal, bits of flesh still stuck to them. Tales of the dead were smuggled to newspaper offices, where editors published them in bits and pieces. One official body count was one hundred. The body count based on these unofficial accounts was estimated to be anywhere between one thousand and four thousand people, felled by weapons intended for another place altogether.
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The Ojhri Camp massacre showed ordinary Pakistanis just how little they knew about the deals their military rulers reached with the United States. The country that had been wrested from the British as a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims was now a convoy for funneling arms to the Afghan mujahideen, so they could fight the Soviet Union for the United States. The people in the middle, Pakistanis, were an afterthought it seemed to all involved. In the aftermath of that tragedy, few knew what had really happened at Ojhri Camp.
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Military bases were magical places where children, even girls, could ride their bikes to the cantonment store alone. Little reminders of its specialness were everywhere: on the tree trunks outfitted in painted uniforms of green and white stripes and in every bush and flower standing at attention. There, you would never be confronted by boil-covered beggars pressing their palms into your face or glimpse Afghan refugee children picking through the trash heaps.
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In fact, no trash heaps at all were to be found inside the military bases, the rubbish having been carted away magically to some faraway place, where neither smell nor offensive sight could assault the senses of Pakistan’s warriors.
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There was scant mention of the thirty-one other men who had also died that day. One of them was General Akhtar Abdul Rehman, the general of Ojhri Camp and the chief caretaker of the Stingers that had killed so many others a few months earlier, but no one commented aloud on the coincidence.
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Bushra Zaidi
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Like all girls colleges in Karachi, Sir Syed Girls College was a fortress of high walls and gates designed to enclose girls yearning to learn and to keep out the men yearning for them.
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This was Karachi, and there was too little of everything. One or two people died in the path of the buses every day, their deaths either forgotten or forgiven or both.
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Hours after Bushra Zaidi died on the street outside Sir Syed Girls College, the girls came out into the heat, into the hordes of men that still waited at the gates, into the blood puddles that marked the spot where their friends were hit. The police who had surrounded the college after the incident, the police who were refusing to register a report against the driver, now panicked. They had never before seen girls emerge into a street, young girls, college girls shouting slogans.
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few hours after Bushra Zaidi’s death, in the scorching late afternoon heat of a Karachi April, the street was full of angry, young girls. Slowly, the demonstration inched toward a police van parked outside the gate, their every step forward marked with their collective chant for justice for the dead Bushra.
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The policemen in the van were outnumbered. Rather than standing by, allowing the wispy, unarmed girls their protest, they charged at them with the police van. It was mayhem. One girl at the front of the line folded to the ground in the first frontal assault of the van. Then the policemen in their black and khaki uniforms stormed the crowd of chanting girls and began to beat them with batons. These were untouched girls who never spoke to strange men, girls who were permitted to leave their homes only to get an education, girls who asked shopkeepers to place objects on counters to avoid even the barest brush of a male hand, girls who had never protested.
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The policemen didn’t care. They grabbed and groped the girls, their breasts, faces, and hair, intent on teaching them a lesson. They were being taught not to leave the boundaries of their campus, not to ask for something the men did not want to give them; they were being taught the consequences for speaking up.
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Crumpled by their numbers and their guns, the weeping, beaten girls retreated inside the college walls and the terrified college administration shut the gates to hold back the swarm of armed police. But the military assault on the girls continued. Shells were lobbed over the college walls, streaming tear gas through the open windows of the buildings and leaving hundreds of girls crouched on the ground, coughing, sputtering, and crying.
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After the killing of Bushra Zaidi, Karachi erupted. The story of the dead girl and the man who murdered her were whittled down to their ethnicities. She was Muhajir and he was Pashtun; she was dead and he was free.
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NOVEMBER 16, 1988
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Angry Muhajir mobs set fire to Pashtun buses, their burned-out carcasses left charred and sulking at every intersection. Orangi Town, the slum that housed the children and grandchildren of the refugees, became the center of conflict, with Muhajirs fighting Pashtuns and gangs of Pashtuns striking back.
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It was the beginning of an ethnic war that would outlive them all. In the days that followed, hundreds died, and from their blood a fifth ethnicity emerged in Pakistan. There were no longer Sindhis, Punjabis, Balochis, and Pashtuns, each neatly attached to a province in a country that then had four of them. This new ethnicity was called “Muhajir,” or “refugee,” an umbrella name for all those whose families migrated to Pakistan post-1947, all those who now lived in a Karachi straining at its seams.
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Justice for Bushra Zaidi’s death did not come until almost two years later, and it was a justice erected on the shoulders of ethnicity, of who belonged where. On November 16, 1988, national elections were held all over Pakistan. It was the first time Pakistanis had voted since 1971 and they were electing a prime minister after more than a decade of military rule.
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On the eve of the election Karachi vacillated between two powerful women. On one end, at her tree-lined mansion by the sea, was the newlywed Benazir Bhutto, whose party won a national majority of seats. As the sun set that day, she knew her party was the only one with a majority and that for the first time in history a woman would serve as prime minister of a Muslim country. But on the inner edges of the city, in the slums of Orangi, in the squat houses of Nazimabad, in the teeming flats of Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gulistan-e-Jauhar, another celebration reigned. Benazir had won the country, but she had lost Karachi. The city and nearly every electoral seat in it had been swept by the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (a political movement to obtain equal rights for Muhajirs, migrants from India). Their victory was a victory for another woman, the dead but not forgotten Bushra Zaidi.
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Just when the women from the sky had been covered by the earth, brown trucks with green and white flags arrived, full of soldiers in crisp khaki shouting commands in Urdu and Punjabi, which neither the men nor the women could understand. They corralled the men away from the still smoldering wreckage, their commander conferring with the elder in a terse conversation that reminded all of past promises that had been made between the tribe and the military. This was the Pakistani military’s catastrophe to manage, and the tribe would be compensated. The men held back and watched, unsure but grounded in their places, as twenty-eight bodies were carried from the wreckage into the vans. They did not tell the military men about the two bodies they had buried; perhaps they were scared by what they might do. For three months the military men would not say what happened in Parachinar. The people who witnessed the incident would not tell their story for years. The bodies from the Afghan transport plane carrying thirty passengers that was shot down by a Pakistani F-16 would not be returned until the military could come up with an explanation. The Pakistan Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying “that a plane had been shot down by ground fire near Parachinar and that everyone on board had died.” A press report issued later quoted a spokesperson from the ministry as saying that the plane had been asked to identify itself, and when it did not, it was destroyed.
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Three months later a Red Cross plane carried twenty-eight bodies over Parachinar and back to Afghanistan, finally taking them home to be buried. They took with them a message from Pakistan to Afghanistan. With the Soviets gone and Zia dead, a new Pakistani military was in charge. In this new arrangement, the border straddled by Parachinar was real when the Pakistanis said so, and the night when the Bangash celebrated the return of their victorious fighters was the night when Pakistan had deemed that a lost Afghan plane was an enemy Afghan plane.
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DECEMBER 2, 1988 Dressed in a satiny green shalwar kamiz, her head demurely covered in a white headscarf, Benazir Bhutto, at thirty-five years of age, took the oath of office, the youngest and first female prime minister of Pakistan. The image of her standing next to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who had fewer than six months earlier announced the death of General Zia ul Haque, was splashed across newspapers all around the world. A woman, young and beautiful, recently married and not yet a mother, was about to lead an Islamic Republic that had for more than a decade been ruled by a military dictator who had executed her father. In the front row of the Grand Reception Hall of the National Assembly Building, where the ceremony was held, sat her mother, Nusrat Bhutto; her sister, Sanam Bhutto; and Asif Ali Zardari, the husband she had married a year earlier. It began, as official ceremonies always do, with a recitation from the Holy Quran. The man who recited the verses looked down at the Quran and never once looked up at the woman who would lead him. It all seemed unbelievable in its speed and cruel serendipity. Just before Zia had died, the most prominent religious clerics had slapped their palms together and smoothed their beards in triumph as General Zia ul Haque had promulgated the Shariat Ordinance of 1988, saturating the bureaucracy of Pakistan with religious clerics. A new court had been created to enforce this law. The Federal Shariat Court’s sole function was to police every jurisdiction in the country for any departure from the word of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. This June decree was a victory for the mullahs, as they declared that Pakistan had finally been reclaimed for Islam. And now in December they were confronted with a catastrophe worse than they could have foreseen. A woman, who under the dictates of Shariat law could not be allowed to lead prayer and whose testimony in court would be counted as only half of a man’s, was now taking the oath of office to lead the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. While the mullahs squirmed and wept, her political opponents, also defeated men, wondered at the path of compromises that had got Benazir Bhutto to that podium. The oath itself had to begin with a series of assurances that, while she may be a woman, she was still a good Muslim and believed that the Holy Quran was supreme. The headscarf she wore that day, and every day in office that would follow, was yet another assurance. Everyone knew that Benazir Bhutto had not covered her hair until she became a contender for her father’s political legacy, the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party, and now Pakistan itself. The headscarf, like the husband, could have been a compromise meant to make Benazir, an icon of female power, a little more familiar and feminine. Asif Zardari, the scion of a feudal family and who seemed to have little of her ideological fervor or her affinity for the people, grinned widely from under his curly moustache as his wife took the oath of office. Perhaps it didn’t matter to him whether it was money or marriage that made him powerful; all that mattered was the smug comfort that he indeed was.
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DECEMBER 1988 In the dark inner rooms of the women’s wing of Karachi’s Central Jail, twenty-six-year-old Shahida Parveen could not see the new prime minister take the oath of office. The new prime minister had herself spent some time in the jail, between the episodes of house arrest and exile that had filled her life after her father’s execution and before she left the country. But on that day, Benazir Bhutto was far from the grim realities of the life of a woman prisoner like Shahida. Inside prison walls, this day passed like any other, with Shahida and the other women taking care of the children they had been allowed to bring with them. Mothers nursed their babies and played with the toddlers dressed in donated hand-me-downs. The prison remained suspended in the endless monotony and degradations of punished life—time spent waiting for relatives who never came, and always at the mercy of the abusive male guards who did as they pleased with the women, especially those imprisoned for sex-related crimes. Shahida Parveen was on death row, awaiting execution by stoning. A year earlier, she and her husband Mohammad Sarwar had been found guilty of adultery and sentenced by a trial court under the Zina and Hudood Ordinance that had been promulgated by General Zia ul Haque in 1979 to Islamize Pakistan. Their crime was the failure to register Shahida’s divorce from her first husband, which in the opinion of the trial court made her relations with her new husband automatically adulterous. The old marriage law, which was still on the books as part of Pakistan’s civil code, clashed with the general’s Islamic additions; Shahida Parveen had not known that divorces had to be registered, and so for the crime of marrying again, she had been declared an adulteress. The fact that she was pregnant counted as evidence of the act. Shahida Parveen had not known about any of these laws, the old ones or the new ones. When her first husband attacked her in a fit of rage in his father’s house and yelled, “I divorce you,” once, twice, and then three times, and dragged her by the hair to the door, she had taken him at his word. So had everyone else—his parents, her parents, all their relatives and prying neighbors; everyone thought these words sufficient for a divorce. It was what they knew, what the imams in the neighborhood mosques told them: saying “I divorce you” three times was sufficient to get rid of a wife. But the Federal Shariat Court expressed a different opinion. The absence of a registered divorce meant that Shahida had been married when she took up with another man, and this errant wife must be disciplined. In prison Shahida recalled a time when she believed her luck had changed, when a new marriage proposal had arrived a year after she had been forsaken by her husband. The suitor, Mohammad Sarwar, had been a simple man, and perhaps she would not have considered him back when she was young and whole and a virgin. But as a woman abandoned by her husband she was just grateful that her fate had not been sealed. How ironic it was, she thought as she lingered in prison, that by accepting this new opportunity for marriage she would be walking into an even more dire predicament. But her new-found happiness was too much to bear for her first husband, Khushi Mohammad. As soon as he learned that she had married again, he raged and bellowed at anyone who would listen. A woman once his was always his, he declared. One of the men listening to his rants suggested he visit a lawyer. Khushi Mohammad found one who enlightened him about the laws, these weapons he could use to insure that the misery he had mandated could not be undone. With his lawyer’s help he now told a new story. He had never divorced Shahida, he now insisted; he had never registered the divorce, or even said the words three times. The woman was still his. Shahida’s statement in own her defense ended up indicting her, because she could not provide documentary proof of her divorce from Khushi Mohammad. Under the Zina and Hudood Ordinance, her testimony amounted to a confession of adultery, because it did not deny her relationship with Mohammad Sarwar. Once she and Mohammad Sarwar, the man who had chosen to take a divorced woman as his wife, had admitted that they believed they were married, the case was closed, because no further proof that they were having intercourse was required. They were adulterers, and the punishment, they now knew, was death by stoning. But suddenly, just a few days after Benazir Bhutto took office, Shahida Parveen and the women in Karachi Central Jail received news that an amnesty for all women prisoners had been granted by the new prime minister. All women except those imprisoned on charges of murder were to be released. It was a momentous announcement and the women who read it in the paper, the women who knew the laws and cared about rights, could almost hear the cheers going up in prisons, the droves of jubilant women cheering the young woman prime minister who had set them free. At Shahida Parveen’s prison, however, there was only confusion. The released women sat on the steps, waiting and wailing. They had nowhere to go, as the families they had left behind did not wish to take them back. In their eyes these women were “dirty,” and no one knew what to do with them. “Think of your sisters,” one mother said over the telephone in the warden’s office. “Who will marry them if you return and remind everyone of your sins?” So the freed women sat on the steps, and some of them begged the wardens to take them back. Shahida was one of the women who had nowhere to go. If she went back to her neighborhood, Khushi Mohammad stood waiting, ready to exact the bloody revenge the new prime minister had forestalled. The women would be freed, but the law responsible for their imprisonment remained defiantly on the books of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
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Since only the men went to the mosques, they were the only ones to hear the Friday sermons, which during the winter of 1990 kept stubbornly coming back to the subject of women. To the purely male congregation the imam of Masjid-e-Siddiqia and other mosques named for blessings and righteousness and Mecca and Medina, the men preached about the horror of having a woman lead the country. They poised their sermons on the backs of a single hadith from Bukhari: “Those who entrust their affairs to women will never know prosperity.”
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JANUARY 1990 It was not enough to be born in Karachi to be from Karachi. It was not enough to live in Karachi to be from Karachi. It was also not enough to be born in Karachi and to live in Karachi to be from Karachi. To be from Karachi, you had to prove that your father, and preferably his father before him, had been born in Karachi and lived in Karachi, and therefore were from Karachi. If you were from Karachi by these markers, you could claim to be from Sindh, the province in which Karachi was located. If you could claim to be from Sindh, you could claim a lot more—a larger quota for government jobs, a larger quota for seats in government colleges, a larger quota on belonging and so a greater chance of making your life in Karachi as comfortable as possible.
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The domicile noted your ethnicity and hence also whether you belonged to one of Pakistan’s four major ethnic groups: Balochi, Pashtun, Punjabi, or Sindhi. If, like the millions of Muhajirs, you could not prove ancestry in Pakistan, you were left to compete for the tiny number of “merit” seats available in Pakistan’s public universities. In effect it meant that millions of students from Karachi, the children of Muhajirs, competed for a few thousand seats in the city’s government universities, while the rest were taken up by students who could claim Balochi, Pashtun, Punjabi, or Sindhi ethnicity based on their ancestors having been born, before Partition, in one of the four provinces of what would become Pakistan. Everyone else was a migrant, and so were their children and grandchildren.
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On the first day, Said managed only ten minutes in the line before discovering that a permission slip was required, which itself entailed navigating another line and obtaining a piece of paper that proclaimed official permission to stand and wait in this one. This took all day. He returned on the second day and managed to get about halfway, from the scorched courtyard to the stairs under the awning that cast the slightest shade over the waiting men. He had almost stepped inside the corridor when surprise struck again. A top official was visiting, and the higher-ups of the high-ups had decided the corridors were too crammed for making a good impression. “Clear them of people,” they told their peons, who in turn cursed the crowd and cast them away. The domicile window was shut early that day.
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It was he who had pointed out a gross deficiency in the domicile application Said wished to file: all the documents were official but not “attested.” Attestation required a further official stamp without which they meant nothing. “Get them attested,” he told Said. “It can be done with the payment of a few hundred rupees to any one of the men sitting under the trees outside.” Said had long wondered what these men with the stamps at the makeshift tables were
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On the third day, he reached the clerk. It was the chatty one, exuding fumes of coconut hair oil. Slick but nevertheless amiable, he was a man whose position at the window was still new enough to accommodate consideration for the supplicants that appeared before him. It was he who had pointed out a gross deficiency in the domicile application Said wished to file: all the documents were official but not “attested.” Attestation required a further official stamp without which they meant nothing. “Get them attested,” he told Said. “It can be done with the payment of a few hundred rupees to any one of the men sitting under the trees outside.” Said had long wondered what these men with the stamps at the makeshift tables were there to do, and he was about to find out.
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The government-issue clock sitting on top of the picture of the founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and behind the clerk struck 11:45 just as Said took his place before the domicile application window. This particular quarter hour was a delicate one, suspended between the clerks’ tea break and the coming lunch break, but Said did not know its significance. He also might not have been able to tell if the clerk who stood before him was particularly susceptible to the smells of the dal fry and the steaming chicken qorma special already being delivered by the restaurant boy on heaped trays. Behind the clerk the clack of domicile-producing typewriters had already ceased.
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Later it would be reckoned that ten men had been killed for every man that had been freed to obtain the release of Rubaiya Sayeed.
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Hyderabad, Pakistan, had served as the capital of Sindh for centuries, back when the now bustling Karachi was little more than a nameless fishing village. In 1843, when the British annexed Sindh to create another trade route to India, they focused their expansive energy on Hyderabad. It was in this humid city, a few hundred miles inland, where Amir Talpur fought the invading British forces. Rich and river-flanked, Hyderabad had been much beloved by the Talpurs. Descended from Mir Tala Khan, they had arrived in the region with the conquering Nader Shah. Their leader, Mir Fateh Ali Khan, had been declared Nawab of Sindh and hence the ruler of the mud fort that sat in the city’s center. They would come to rule the region for at least a hundred years.
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When the British came, they bought guns with them, so thick walls and strong forts were no longer needed. Pacco Qillo, and the whole city of Hyderabad, languished after the British annexation of Sindh. To ship what they had plucked from the land, the British needed a port. This inland river town did not fit into their plans, so Hyderabad was forgotten, and the attention of the British shifted to Karachi.
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According to some counts, more than eighty people died that day, most of them women and children. The residents of the illfated Pacco Qillo said there had been many more, bodies carried off by the police to unmarked mass graves when they realized they had killed those who never could have fought them. Years later, the Sindh policemen who had been carrying out the orders would also tell their versions, each one insisting that they had been told that a group of terrorists with a cache of illegal weapons had been hiding inside Pacco Qillo. They had believed that snipers were hiding behind the women and children, so they had fired and fired and fired again. The Sindhis and Muhajirs had long had differences of custom and language, but until the incident at Pacco Qillo, few would have imagined the fault line between the two becoming so bloody.
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On the afternoon of May 27, 1991, less than a year after Benazir Bhutto, a Sindhi, had taken office, unexpected visitors took the residents of Pacco Qillo by surprise.
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Dream, Royal Garden, and Sea Breeze Castle.
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Paradise Dream, Royal Garden, and Sea Breeze Castle. At these venues, festivities could be bought in packages and guests feted in hefty numbers, increasing the debts of aging fathers and requiring loans against the future paychecks of graduating brothers.
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But if Altaf Hussain was too far away to be caught, most others were not. Ten months after the February speech Altaf Hussain’s elder brother and young nephew were picked up by the military for interrogation near the headquarters of the MQM in the constantly curfewed suburb of Azizabad. Their bodies were discovered in a ditch in the industrial town of Gadap four days later. The marks on them indicated that they had been tortured.
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But in Karachi the searches and the disappearances, the killings and the discoveries of bodies went on and on. The military, it seemed, was not at all in a hurry. On February 16, 1994, in the midst of Operation Clean Up, the dark-skinned, clean-shaven Altaf Hussain addressed a crowded rally in Karachi. In just twelve years he had organized a minority that had not until then had a name. As a student leader he had rallied the children of migrants to organize against the politics of feudalism, patronage, and military domination. Now in his thirties, he could not speak to the gathering in person. As the leader of the MQM, he had been forced to flee the city after a record three thousand criminal cases were registered against him. But even by telephone he was a firebrand. “We sacrificed two million people to achieve Pakistan, not to see our children killed and elders humiliated by the law-enforcing agencies,”
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For every MQM worker whose body was found in some ditch or empty lot, the army released pictures of “torture chambers” run by the MQM, justifying their crackdown on the party. These pictures of dank inner rooms with exposed electrical wires hanging from ceilings appeared in national newspapers and magazines, lulling into silence those who wondered about the army’s intentions in Karachi. Barbarity breeds barbarity, readers may have thought, as they mulled over the news in Lahore or Peshawar or Islamabad over another cup of tea.
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The cranes unloading the American ships stood out against the dwarfish buildings around the port and the worn rags fluttering on the fishing boats. One by one, they unloaded the metal boxes full of materials for war. As was customary, an illicit trade soon began among the crane operators and the customs officials, and soon the American military gear could be bought at one of the many markets that stretched on the road between the port and the city. If the officers of the Pakistan Navy knew about this, they did not say anything. After all, everybody had to make a living.
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Despite these realities of commerce in Karachi, Tariq Road remained the dream palace for hopeful brides and hopeless housewives, maybe not the prettiest or the richest, but those most determined to replicate the patterns popularized in the Sunday newspapers.
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The possibilities came so fast that she could not order them or even taste the individual flavors of each against the more familiar tastes of her own hopes.
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wading through the foul waters left by the monsoon of 2006, the maker of the master plan of 2020 realized that Karachi’s problem was not the absence of a master plan but the presence of too many masters.
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Perhaps then, wading through the foul waters left by the monsoon of 2006, the maker of the master plan of 2020 realized that Karachi’s problem was not the absence of a master plan but the presence of too many masters.
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Schooled well in the art of fighting a living opponent, she battled a dead one, a woman whose every failing had been erased by death and whose every endearment was embellished by an absolute absence. At the store together, if he reached for a jar of jam whose flavor she disliked, she decided immediately that she must have liked it. If he paused for too long in the middle of a conversation, she felt the presence of the dead woman’s words. The assault of the second wife was constant.
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In an instant, there was darkness. The lights on the streets outside the Aiwan-e-Sadr, where Pervez Musharraf, the army chief turned president lived, grew dark. The high-voltage bulbs that shot bolts of blue light outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan went out. The lone bulb in the shop that sold cigarettes just outside the diplomatic enclave also stopped shining. Suddenly, on the evening of September 24, 2006, in the middle of newscasts on television, while dinner was just beginning to be served to senior bureaucrats, and lesser bureaucrats were complaining to their wives about not being invited to meetings where dinners were served, and the clerks of the lesser bureaucrats were wondering why their wives had not yet served dinner, all Islamabad went dark.
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It took a few minutes for the TV and radio stations with their own power generators to realize that this was no ordinary outage; that the lights had dimmed not simply over Karachi or Lahore, for that was not news, or Peshawar, for that was certainly not news, but over the whole country. This was news.
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The cheering banished easily the memories of the two times she had been dismissed for corruption, the millions she had been accused of stealing, and the hundred-thousand British-pound diamond necklace she had bought with the money of Pakistani taxpayers.
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Baitullah Mehsud’s home base was Makeen, a rough-hewn town now sitting in the middle of the two militant volcanoes of North and South Waziristan. By the time he had become a fighter, Makeen was an ideal headquarters for recruiting and training followers and for planning operations. It was these Pakistani troops who would pave Baitullah’s ascent. On August 30, 2007, thousands of men he had culled from the nameless hills and unheard of towns of Pakistan’s northwest fought the Pakistani Army, which was armed by America and charged with flushing out militants from the northwest frontiers of their country. After a battle both bloody and loud, with gunfire and death and uncertainty echoing through the dry, gray horizon, Baitullah Mehsud’s men vanquished their opponents. Not only were they victorious but their army of foreigners and tribal boys also took not one or two but two hundred forty Pakistani soldiers hostage.
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The victory would change everything for Baitullah Mehsud; he became a household name in a country whose multitudes of militants rendered most of them nameless. The vanquished men were counted, recorded, and kept as hostages for two months. For the entire time it was Baitullah Mehsud, short, unassuming, and polite, who negotiated with the Pakistani military over what he wanted, what they wanted, and what sort of agreement might be reached to insure the release of the soldiers. During the entire time, his men guarded the two-hundred-odd prisoners in the massive training facility they and their foreign financiers had built for the purpose of jihad.
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At the end of September 2007 a deal was reached. Its stipulations mandated that the two hundred forty captive soldiers would be exchanged for twenty-five Taliban militants being held by the Pakistani authorities. The exchange happened one afternoon at the end of September, and Baitullah Mehsud himself was said to have welcomed back the freed captives. Each one of the released men, as the Pakistani government would later acknowledge, was a trained suicide bomber. They would not stay in Waziristan for long, for Baitullah Mehsud had given them missions all over Pakistan.
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He did not look at her, and for a long while he did not say anything. Then he cleared his throat and with the softest of voices poured out in words venom more deathly than blows. “You know, Amina, twenty years ago when I married her, I learned for the first time what it was to be happy, to be with someone I truly understood and who truly understood me.” He looked directly at her now, over the empty plates of curry and the almost full bowl of pudding. “I could have left you then, as so many men do. We did not have children and your father could have given you a home.” He stared at Amina, her face flushed as if freshly slapped, and he kept on, his eyes glassy and his lips wet. “I did not leave you because I did not want you to be disgraced, to live like an abandoned woman, and so I . . . we put up with you, put up with you when we did not have to, when we did not need an interloper, someone watching and hearing and listening and blaming. Now she is gone and I am left here with you. . . . Leave me be. We will never move to the first floor, or to the second floor. They are sacred for me, for they are what I shared with her, and even if she is gone I will not let you take what was hers.”
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On December 15, 2007, Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud called together a shoora, a meeting of commanders and allies from all over the tribal areas of Pakistan. The men came from the seven tribal agencies as well as from the “settled areas” of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwestern Pakistan.
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They came from North and South Waziristan, from Khurram and Orakzai, from Mohmand and Bajaur. They came also from Kohistan and Buner and the Malakand Division. Maulana Fazlullah’s men came from Swat, they were the men who had descended from the mountains after the earthquake and vowed to restore the rule of Islam to the little village.
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After hours of negotiation, all the members of the shoora agreed to unite under the leadership of the little man from Makeen who had brought them there. Under his leadership, they decided the consolidated organization would be called the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
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the new arrivals who came from Uzbekistan or Yemen or Libya,
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Before the men of the Tehreek-e-Taliban departed to make the journey back to their homes, Mullah Omar, the newly selected Tehreek spokesman, issued an ultimatum to the Pakistan Army. Reported the next day in newspapers and television channels all across Pakistan, the declaration gave the Pakistan Army “ten days to cease all operations in Swat, withdraw all troops from the region, and close all military checkpoints between North and South Waziristan.” Mullah Omar wrote, “Our main aim is to target US allies in Afghanistan but the Government of Pakistan’s ill strategy has forced us to launch a defensive jihad in Pakistan.” If their words went unheeded, Baitullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said, “the Government of Pakistan will be paid back in the same coin.” The ultimatum’s ten days would be up on December 26, 2007. The news reporters who wrote down the date, and the readers who read it in the paper, did not know then it would be a significant one. No one knew that the day after, December 27, 2007, would be the day Benazir Bhutto, the freest woman we knew, would be assassinated. EPILOGUE FEBRUARY 2014 My grandmother Surrayya died on a Sunday while I was visiting my parents’ home on my frequent trips to Karachi from America.
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Since September 2013, nearly thirteen thousand people have been swept up in an operation to “clean” the city of militants, gathered during more than ten thousand raids into the city’s alleged militant strongholds. Army Rangers, who have now made Karachi their near-permanent home, carry out the raids. They are helped by the Karachi police, whose string of constantly changing chiefs reflects the uncertainty about who really controls the city. There have been five chiefs since 2013. One of them, Chaudhry Aslam, was killed by a huge bomb planted on the ramp of a major Karachi highway. The explosion was forceful enough to catapult the multi-ton bulletproof SUV he was riding into the air. He was killed instantly and the Taliban took responsibility.
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