Arshad’s story ‘After Partition the Pakistani government gave good jobs to the Indian migrants. My grandfather worked as a railway-station manager in Marri Indus, Punjab. He made plenty of money and bought some land for agriculture. When my father was nine months old his mother died. My grandfather’s new wife was cruel and often beat his children. My father ran away to Peshawar when he was 14 and worked as a labourer on the Warsak Dam. Later he started a transport company and by the time he was 28 he was rich. My father’s partner in business was a wealthy Punjabi. He had 12 sons and a daughter. He asked my father to marry his daughter. My father came to Karachi to find his family to invite them to his wedding and discovered they were living in Lalukhet. The family asked him to marry his cousin, my mother, and he agreed. My father’s partner was so angry they split. My parents were very much in love and lived at first in Jammah Cloth market in the old city. Then they moved to Lalukhet and stayed there until my father died. My mother was 17 when I was born in 1967. My father started his own transport company in Karachi but started losing money. By the time I was born they had nothing. I was born in a house with only one bedroom. However, my father felt I gave him courage and by the time I was four or five he was rich again. He loved me so much. I have beautiful memories of him from my childhood. He would have given his life to provide me with everything; he was just strict about manners. We lived in a poor area and my father forbade me from playing with the boys on the street because they were badly behaved and dirty. If I did, he slapped me. That helped me to become a good person. So he’d beat me but afterwards he would take me and make me lie down on him. I miss him so much. I wouldn’t be in this trouble if he was alive. He’s my hero. As I got older I learned about religion and human rights. I saw no-one giving me human rights or treating me fairly so I joined MQM. I hated the system and admired Altaf Hussain who wanted to change it. For example, after my hardworking years in education I still needed to pay bribes or find personal contacts to get a job. I was so angry. Merit was absolutely unimportant. After all our sacrifices, Mohajirs were treated as third-class citizens. I was qualified as a ship’s

radio officer but I couldn’t get a job. My Punjabi class fellow had a lower-grade certificate and got a job. I had to pay a bribe of five lakhs. My father agreed to pay but I didn’t want him to. Around then Altaf Hussain appeared on the scene talking about my experience exactly. He urged us to unite and fight the system. He showed that because 2 per cent of the population ruled over 98 per cent, a lower-middle-class, educated, intelligent boy couldn’t become a general, a colonel or reach a high post in Pakistan. That’s why I joined. But to change the system I knew I’d have to die. This was a revolution, it wasn’t going to happen in days. We were like the first drops of rain on the earth. You know, the earth soaks up the rain at first but if the drops keep falling it will become a flood. So I knew that this was a struggle of my life and my children’s lives, but that maybe the third generation would have human rights. I was in college when I first heard about Altaf Hussain. In the beginning I was cynical and uninterested. I first saw him when he visited Lalukhet. He talked about human rights, which attracted me. Then I went to his house and asked him to tell me more. He explained that MQM believed in achieving equal rights for Mohajirs as Pakistani citizens. I was a student then and very sensitive, it was like fire-blood in my body. Everything I’d heard about Altaf was true – that he’s a great leader and if you listen to him once he will change your life forever. He was perfect. I’m not talking about now, but then his words were like magic. They went straight into my heart. He didn’t give false hopes. He said ‘We can try, but our dream may be impossible. Or, so hard we will die. So prepare yourself to die if you want to change this system.’ So I made a decision because I wanted to change the system and was prepared to die. I didn’t care about killing people. Anyway Pakistani politics was so violent. Politicians influenced each other not by dialogue but by power, money and by how many boys they had. There’s no law. All those politicians who were previously enemies united against MQM and started killing us, so we had no choice. I wasn’t ashamed then but I am now because I can see we were fighting for some other reasons. He sold our blood. I was about 18 when I joined. There was a neighbourhood guy who was close to our area leader. MQM was poor then and needed money. Our leader controlled Zone C, which covered half of Karachi including my area. So I worked for about six months and when he was satisfied he introduced me to our leader and I became his bodyguard and gunman. I knew I was in a war situation and so many innocent people had to die. I was convinced killing was the way to make changes. The first time I killed, nothing physically bad happened to me. I didn’t sleep well that first night but on the second day I had to do it again and I quickly had to get used to it. It didn’t bother me at all. We took orders from our leaders. They each commanded seven boys, so altogether we were two groups totalling 14 boys in charge of MQM’s security wing. We didn’t answer to anyone else in the Cabinet, we could even refuse them a glass of water. At that time we hadn’t had any training. It was just a spontaneous war. Our leader thought we needed something more so they sent a few of us to Afghanistan where we learnt to use all kinds of weapons. When we returned, he refused

to go anywhere without us. Eventually, some other bodyguards set up the Haqiqi faction and he could trust no-one. I think that is why he finally left Pakistan. I think he’s a coward but he was such a good speaker. I had already killed and could see that the system was very corrupt and when he spoke we became so emotional. We could do anything, his words were like magic, so powerful, he could make us cry. For example, once a group of 30 Punjabis came who belonged to the Punjabi Pukhtun Ittihad, MQM’s enemy. Altaf addressed them for just 45 minutes and afterwards all 30 men were crying. They could have killed him if they wanted but they said

We were wrong, we were so confused, we’ve heard so many bad things about you, but really you are an angel. Now we announce we are with you. We will kill these bureaucrats, they are really bad. We came today wanting to kill you but now we can kill anyone for you.