30 Dec, 2007

7 pm, Sunday

30 Dec, 2007

Today is the third day of mourning. Soyem prayers for Benazir Bhutto are being held nationwide with the heart of the gathering in Naudero, Sindh, where all her family members will be gathered. There will be soyem ceremonies, after which a PPP meeting will be held and the future of the party will be decided.

Here, in Karachi, in honor of BB’s memory, a group of us, cousins and friends, pile into two cars and head toward Boat Basin toward Bilawal House, the home of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. There, arrangements have been made for prayers. In the small gu[Image]lly between Bilawal House and the main road, PPP members have set up durriees and shamyanas, men on one side and women on the other. There is a large crowd, but much smaller than usual—the city is still shut down and there is no public transport.

Collective prayers are said. As women cry, organizers pat them on the back: “Don’t weep. Don’t cry. We have to show the world we are strong.” Around us swarms The Press (national and international) armed with cameras/ video cameras, brazenly pushing lenses close to women’s faces so they can be the first to capture the grief.

As a woman wails, photographers swarm within six inches of her and the sound of prayer is dimmed by the rapid clicking of cameras and whirling of buttons. The woman behind me, wearing a cap and a PPP waistcoat, beats her chest and cries louder, and photographers step over the line of seated women to reach her. At times such as these, the difficult role of the press is brought to mind again: While it’s important to share news with the world, how can the media do so without making grief a public performance?

After the soyem, the men march out, shouting slogans of revolution. Three blank gunshots fired into the air are a frightening reminder of the past few days and th[Image]e crowd rapidly disperses. Out on the main road, a collection of men march, waving flags and calling out: “Benazir zinda hai, Bhutto zinda hai.” When I get home, Minal asks me: “Did you go to Benazir’s house? Did you go there because she was sad?”