Why I spy on my Volvo?
Sitting 7,000 miles away I still look at it fondly because it brings back memories.
Here is what I wrote eight years ago after the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:
LIVE UPDATE FROM KARACHI 7:00pm December 27, 2007
On hearing the news of the death of Benazir Bhutto I knew things were going to get messy. I had arrived in Karachi from Dubai this morning. I switched off my computer and decided to leave the office in Clifton and headed towards Defence via the usual route I take — 26 th Street (Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar Road). (Abdullah Shah Ghazi is supposed to have been some saintly person and his Mazar or mausoleum is regularly visited by a large number of devotees as a sign of respect) As soon as I reached the Mazar — I realized that I should have avoided this area. On a Thursday the Mazar area is usually filled with devotees. Today a large number of people were standing by the roadside.
The moment I crossed the Mazar I noticed that cars in front of me had started to reverse. I tried to do the same. The car in front of me hit my car. I backed into the car behind me. Then I saw the crowd. Bricks and rocks in hand. Some had sticks. They were all heading towards us. A rock landed on my car. I was desperately trying to reverse. The people behind me were also turning their cars around. We did not have much time. Or much space. Another stone crashed on my side window. And then there was the sound of shattering glass. I had managed to turn my car around. The stone pelting continued. Young children, barely 15 were staring at me with menacing looks. Their leader had been killed. And they wanted revenge.
I said “La illaha illallah …,” (an Arabic phrase which one is supposed to recite while dying — I believe in one God, Allah, and Mohammad is his Prophet) and continued trying to get out of the place. Another rock came my way and shattered the rear window of my station wagon. I thought of reaching for my phone. I thought of my computer bag which had a camera in it. But this was no time for heroics. My life was in danger. I’d rather try to survive than tape my own destruction.
A man waved at the stone pelting crowd. Told them to let everyone go. Another man came with a metal barricade to block the road. I pushed the barricade aside with my car and tried to drive away. I heard the sound of more shattering glass. The old Volvo could take it no more. There was a gaping hole behind me. The next rock could land on my cranium.
I could see some space clearing up. I stepped on the accelerator. People quickly darted away. The cars that were behind me had moved. I stepped on the accelerator again and raced out of the place. I came back to the office. Shaken. And here I am writing — because I lived to tell.