Someone on twitter suggested collecting stories of where you were when you heard the news of Bhutto’s execution. I hope others will post their stories below, I have a couple..and some random comments:
I was at home because our board exams had been postponed in anticipation of the hanging. I woke up to see Ami (my mother) crying…she just said “they have hanged Bhutto”. Everyone was stunned. All of Lahore seemed so quiet. We went to our uncle’s place and there was a Sui Gas (Natural gas) pipeline near his house (it was one of those things where a big pipeline comes out of the ground and goes back in and there is a fence around it, they are all over the place in Pakistan and I am sure elsewhere). I remember staring at it all day and imagining ways of blowing it up. Of course I did nothing of the sort. But two weeks later we were back in the hostel and studying late at night for our much-delayed board exams. I was with a like-minded friend and we got into some sort of “political discussion” with two boys who were Zia supporters. Upset at some perceived insult to the memory of the late chairman we went and got rooh afza (a red colored drink..meant to evoke blood) in something and threw it at them with the shout of “Chairman key naam per” (in the name of the chairman). That was the sum total of our protest…
A friend from south Punjab wrote this comment about his memory: That was very sad day, very sad. I was in school in Bahawal Nagar. I remember my dad was going to for a wedding but he returned home, about half an hour after he left home. He said something is not right, there is something very bad in atmosphere, he noticed movements of army in the town. …….. When the news came out, I saw women wailing on the streets, literally like someone close, a brother, father or son had died. People were so sad, they cancelled any joyful activity. That day in Bahawal Nagar I hardly saw any eye without tears. I did not understand well enough then, but now I know how much he was genuinely loved by people, poor people whom he gave recognition, a voice, an identity.
Another friend from Lahore had this to say: Hero for some in Punjab and Sindh but villain for all Balouch & Bengal, he is the person who declared Ahmadis a minority, murdered political workers in Balochistan, ordered ban on Alcohol, opium & Bhang and helped establish control of organisations like Jamaat Islami supported JTI in educational institutions, the list is very long.
In any case, the feelings he evoked in people and the kind of people he mobilized into politics are a separate issue and may still evoke a warm glow when many of his own actual choices do not. I am thinking also of the way many third world leftists felt (or can still feel) about terrible events like the Soviet revolution and the Chinese revolution and about mass murderers like Stalin and Mao who killed millions and destroyed the life and culture of so many captive nationalities…. The feelings of the admirers can be sincere and well meaning and can even evoke sympathy when the actions of the “leaders” were not at all what their distant fans imagined them to be. …I have to flesh this thought out. But this connects with the thought that in countries like Pakistan where “people’s revolution” is not even a distant possibility, the role of the “Left” is frequently positive. They stand for human rights, for protection against police brutality and high-handedness, for worker’s rights, for women’s rights, for better public education and better basic healthcare, for the rights of smaller nationalities and minority religions. They are at the forefront of efforts to support the language and culture of Pakistan’s nationalities against the imposition of Paknationalist monoculture. They do a lot of good work, especially in resisting the dominant Paknationalist cultural fascism. Suppose one could continue all that without slipping too far into higher level “class-based political analysis” and other such formulaic jokes (not an impossible task…many leftists repeat those formulas but actually work for mainstream parties and function pretty normally in mainstream “bourgeois politics”).. it would not make anyone happy, but….
Its just a thought.