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The Day My Father Died By Fatima Bhutto

September 29, 2008

20th September, 2006


The Fact: On September 20, 1996 seven men were killed under the eyes and ears of the Karachi police force outside of 70 Clifton. It was around eight in the evening.


One of those men was my father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto.


He had been on his way home after attending a public meeting in the suburbs of Karachi where he addressed a gathering in Surjani Town. Just before he had walked out of the house that afternoon I had come running down the stairs to talk to him. Papa and I were supposed to play a game of basketball and he was reneging on our deal. He promised we would play later that evening when he returned home.


Fact: He never came home. 



I felt something was amiss. There had been tanks stationed outside our house for the last four days. Everyday there was a new one across from the house or behind it. In truth, I was worried. As he walked to the door that afternoon I asked him to wait a minute. “Just let me get my shoes”, I pleaded, “I’m coming with you.” My father said I couldn’t come. “It’s dangerous,” he said. “I’ll see you in the evening.”


I spent the whole day feeling restless. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I roamed around the house counting the hours until he would return. This was before the ubiquitous cell phone had entered our lives; I had no way to reach my father, so I waited.


Fact: By the evening of September 20, 1996, 70 to 100 policemen were stationed near 70 Clifton. There were men in the tress, ready in sniper positions. The streetlights had been shut and traffic had been diverted. Guards at the nearby Italian, Iranian, British and Russian embassies were told to retreat within their residences.   


I was on the phone talking to a classmate about a school assignment when I heard the first shot. My brother, Zulfiqar, who was six years old at that time, was sitting on the bed in our parent’s bedroom watching TV. We heard one shot first. We later learned through court proceedings and police reports that it was the signal to commence firing. When my father stepped out of his car to ask why he was being stopped by the police, who came without warrants, he was recognized and the command was given. One shot. A barrage of gunfire followed. It lasted two to three minutes.



Fact: There was no “shoot-out”, no “encounter”, no “incident”. Forensics showed the only artillery fired was that of the police. The tribunal headed by Supreme Court Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid confirmed this. These facts are public record, check them if my word is not good enough for you. It was a premeditated attack. An ambush. An assassination.


I shut the phone and picked up Zulfiqar. Both of us took shelter in the dressing room because there were no windows there. We stayed in the small airtight room until the shooting stopped. My mother, Ghinwa, came running into the room and held us. We moved to the drawing room, there were no windows in that room either. We waited. Papa would be home soon; we had no idea he had just been killed.


Fact: The men were left to bleed on the road for approximately 45 minutes. They received no medical attention during that time. They were, in fact, being left to bleed to death.


Fact: Papa had not been killed in the firing. Only wounded. Though he had been shot several times, he would have survived if not for the last bullet wound.


Fact: After he had walked, yes walked, into the police mobile and laid down on the stretcher to be taken to the hospital he was shot at point blank range in the face. The autopsy showed that it came from an angle of someone standing over him.


We were told by the police outside our gates that dacoits were in the area – it wasn’t safe for us to leave our house they said, stay inside. We listened. They were the police. We trusted them.


When papa didn’t return home and we didn’t receive any word from him, it was I who found out he had been hurt.


I called my aunt, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, at the PM house in Islamabad. Her ADC came on the phone and sounded like he had been crying. “Are you ok Bibi?” He asked me. Of course I was. I replied; let me talk to my aunt. I was fourteen. I didn’t know what he was saying, or rather what he was not saying.


“I’m sorry,” he said and then he patched me through.


My aunt, Wadi I used to call her in Sindhi, didn’t come on the phone. Her husband did. I didn’t want to talk to Asif, do

you blame me? I asked for my aunt, he said I couldn’t talk to her and that she was unable to come to the phone. There were theatrical wailing sounds in the background, I didn’t buy it. “Let me talk to Wadi” I demanded, in as an assertive tone as I could muster.


“She can’t come to the phone” he repeated, “Don’t you know? Your father’s been shot.”

That’s how we found out.


Fact: By the time we left for the hospital – a generous term, papa was taken to Mideast, a clinic famous for not dealing with emergencies – the roads had been washed clean. There was no blood, no glass, nothing to mark the scene where the hit had taken place. Nothing.


When we saw papa at the hospital his navy blue shalwaar kameez was stained with blood. I touched his face and kissed him as we waited for doctors to arrive. When I moved my hand, my left hand, there was blood on two of fingers.


My mother sat near my father and spoke to him, she shouted at him, “Don’t give up, don’t die,” she yelled. “Fati and Zulfiqar need you,” she screamed.


Fact: Every time my mother uttered mine and my brother’s name, my father’s heart monitor would speed up. His heart was responding to our names.


Papa died after midnight. He didn’t succumb to his injuries. He fought them, but when they shot him, they shot to kill. He died.


It has been ten years since that night. Ten years of court cases and court recesses. Ten years of absconding. Ten years of police promotions and rewards.


Fact: The Intelligence Bureau Chief, Masood Sharif, was made Central Committee member of my aunt’s party; Wajid Durrani was promoted to the Deputy Inspector General of a special police branch in Karachi; Rai Tahir was made Senior Superintendent of the police in the Punjab; Shahid Hayat is surrently the Director of the Federal Investigation Agency; and after leading the Baluchistan police force during the American invasion of Afghanistan, Shoaib Suddle, was then promoted to head the commission on police reforms and is now the Head Commissioner of crimes against women.  


Those who are killed fighting for life can’t be called dead. On Monday night, on what have been my father’s 52nd birthday, my family and I went to lay flowers on the spot near our house where he was killed. There was a large crowd around us throwing rose petals and chanting slogans in his memory. As we recited ‘fateha’ and said a silent Happy Birthday for papa, I looked up around me. The rose petals were still being thrown; it seemed as if it was raining flowers.


The largest mistake my father’s killers made was one that they couldn’t help. They couldn’t kill all of us, all of us who were enraged and disgusted by the state’s public assassination of an elected official. They couldn’t murder our memory. And they couldn’t and still can’t silence our calls for justice. That will be their undoing at end.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2008 11:07 am

    i think something missing :S

  2. Ayesha permalink
    September 29, 2008 11:08 am

    Yeah trying to fix it 🙂

  3. September 29, 2008 11:20 am

    fixed 🙂

  4. September 29, 2008 11:33 am

    stunning post
    also if you can please share the source

  5. Ayesha permalink
    September 29, 2008 11:36 am

    It was published on the front page of The News on 20th Sept. 2006. I looked for it online but it isn’t available. And we know that the Jung archives suck at times. But you can try it if you like.

    I had it in my documents.

  6. September 29, 2008 12:36 pm

    Justice shall be served. Truth will triumph… inshAllah!

  7. Capt (R)Dr RazaHaider permalink
    September 29, 2008 2:40 pm

    May god rest him in eternal peace?

    A tragic event that took unscheduled flight as destined fate of this Bhutto family?

    A son murdered, a brother victimized, a husband butchered and a father assassinated.

    Murtaza Bhutto paid the price of being son of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

    19nth September 2006, a day, that again, entered as mourning event in, 70 Clifton.

    After going through the article, I have no hesitation to condole the bereaved family of unwanted death that became their part of sphere.

    This is the quality of female, whether, a daughter, a sister, a mother or a wife that she never escapes a single event that could not uplift the profile of her immediate belongings and bearings as intimation.

    The same theme can very well be acknowledged in the writer vocabulary of feel and emotions.

    Though there are some facts and ground realities as been pointed out and ignited as conspiracy, but still Fatima being a columnist, concealment of facts would always litigate the issue without results and Fatima, if being a loving daughter would mislead herself by feeling, then emotions would mask the outcome.

    Mir was a controversial figure.

    Being custodian of massive revolutionary power in terms of populace as heritage was the ultimate crown prince that could have breach the cause way to the throne.

    But! Iatrogenic implication supported by methodology of suggestion and input, by perhaps his own school of scholars as friends and family, has altogether intermingled the, upcoming breed in to a neglected child with no destination but revenge.

    This theme of thought supported the all time doers of sin to paste more crimes and offences in the books of crime, with the name of the bearer so to disembark the individual from the sight and scene of politics for ever.

    His arrival to the jurisdiction of law, in Pakistan, although, was unsupported and unwelcome by the bereaved sister and friend in need but still the irrational attitude as something immaterial and beyond grievances of avenging and revenging arranged and forced him to scuffle his life with a free ticket to the final destination.

    Benazir Bhutto never knew that what theme is being planned so to be pasted again on her family neither asif Ali zardari knew.

    This is useless term to engage the two in murder mystery and in my opinion it was the prefix attachment before the dismissal of the governance can be planned effectively along with easy removal of the escape goat from future botheration.

    Though I have a reservoir of thoughts and findings as per available data and docus in public and news, on the issue of sanctity of murder, assailment or accidental shootout but to cut the crap the tragic event terminated in catastrophe, what should never be the resultant?

    As to the reservation regarding police officials and their role, none of the officer are dissident or faulty, but what was the part of their service requirement.

    Fatima needs to understand the psychology of crime and criminal and similar behavior of law enforcing agencies.

    In order to excel as notion or voice, platform of illogical slogans and in genuine reservation shall only pierce the heart and soul as trauma.

    Can she answerer the theme and mystery behind benazir murder?

  8. Raja Naveed Sarwar permalink
    October 7, 2008 2:54 pm

    This is Pakistani Politics…………??????

  9. Ayesha permalink
    October 8, 2008 11:20 am

    That indeed is Pakistani palitiks… 😕

  10. dr.saifullah khan muhammadi permalink
    January 5, 2009 5:06 pm

    dear fatima bhutto we love u n mir murtaza alot n we have also the same feelings like u.
    this event is the most sorrowful day of all specially 4 the people closer 2 u n ur family including me n my family n all the families who loved mir

  11. April 5, 2010 6:24 pm

    Sad.. I hope justice is done..

  12. Arish permalink
    May 26, 2012 11:28 am

    What happened on that night was completely unjustified! I cant forget that night and probably I’m one of the last people who saw Mir alive we were coming from PC hotel and they from the other end we met up together on Abdullah Haroon rD his convoy and me sitting in front in my friend’s car which was tinted and had a PPP flag on the dashboard we were teenagers when our car stopped beside’s Mir’s at the Schon Circle signal his guards were going to get off to come towards us as they felt our car was suspicious I could just feel the tension on their faces and everything around was silent at that moment Mir signalled them to hold back after he saw us as we pulled our window down, there was a guy who was selling flowers who went over to Mir saluted him and gave him a rose which Mir smilingly accepted and put it on his dash board after that the signal opened and we turned left towards Zamazama when I heard the single shot what happened after that is history and can never be forgotten or forgiven!

  13. July 25, 2012 8:57 am

    Appreciating the dedication you put into your website and in depth
    information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the
    same outdated rehashed material. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including
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