He came spilling through the peeling, white arabesque arch of the Nila Gumbad mosque with the rest of the men, a husky fellow with a full, black beard.
Aftab Allam, he said his name was, and he owned two cloth shops there in the old quarter of Lahore. Like so many Punjabs who look older than they are, he appeared to be about 45, but he said he was 33.
He had come to the mosque during a two-hour break in the curfew permitted for sabbath prayers. In the sermon, he said, the imam had told them, "be prepared to lay down your lives for Islam." At 20 minutes after two, the service ended.
A half hour later Aftab had fulfilled the imam's exhortation. He lay dead in a dirty road a few blocks from the mosque, three bullets from a soldier's rifle in his head, chest and stomach.
Aftab's crumpled body lay in the road for more than 10 minutes. Thick blood oozed slowly from his wounds, staining his clean, tan pajama-like shirt and trousers, the Pakistani national dress. Then an army truck pulled into the street. The man who had killed Aftab and another soldier lifted his body into it.
Another man was killed, too, but some of his friends quickly snatched the body up and ran off with it, down a narrow alley.
At Mayo Hospital, just two blocks away, 11 men lay in blood-soaked beds. Two doctors hovered over one of them, pushing a plastic tube into his nose and pounding on his chest, but he was already dead.
Today was "Martyrs' Day" in Pakistan. The condition of nine opposition political parties called the Pakistan National Alliance had given the day its name to honor those who have died in the two months. of violence agitation intended to force Prime Minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto from office.
Perhaps the 300 or so men and boys who have been killed so fare were martyrs. Perhaps they were unwitting tools of the opposition leaders who are being detained in a comfortable police guesthouse near the nation's capital, Islamabad. I have some nine die in the last three weeks and I do not know.
Certainly there was nothing about Aftab to suggest that he came out of the mosque to die a martyr's death. He was so full of life and down and jabbed his hands into the air, his fingers in the "V" sign that has become the opposition's symbol.
As young men and boys in the streets joined the crowd from the mosque, it quickly swelled to about 1,000. The Iman was not among them and there was no political figure of stature to lead them.
So Aftab, who seemed to be a natural leader, began organizing the crowd, many of whom were university students.
"Bhutto is a dog," he shouted and the crowd turned it into a chant. Then he changed it to "Down with Bhutto," and the crowd echoed him over and over, their words reverberating off the dilapidated walls of shops and houses as they surged through the dark, narrow streets.
Twice Aftab tuned the crowd around when they came to groups of soldiers blocking their way and they moved down different roads.
"We have no particular place where we want to go," Aftab told me. "We just want to tell Mr. Bhutto that the people hate him."
Finally, they began moving up New Anarkali Road, a broad street lined with shops, their fronts sealed with steel shutters. That was when they saw the soldiers kneeling in firing position.
Aftab stopped. Everyone else did too. There was a moment of utter silence. Then Aftab turned and called for some men to move forward with him. About a dozen stepped out of the crowd.
Gingerly they began closing the 150-yard gap to where the 15 soldiers waited. Then Aftab began punching the air again with his hands and shouted, "We are your brothers. We are your brothers. Kill us if you will."
Two soldiers waved them back with their rifles, but they did not retreat. A young captain, the image of the classic Punjabi officer with bristling mustache, shouted through a battered tinmegaphone," go back, go back."
Still they moved closer. More than 10 feet now separated the handful of men from the soldeiers. Holding his emtpy hands high above his head, Aftab shouted one last time, "We are your brothers. Shoot us if you will."
Then a soldier squeezed off a single shot from his semiautomatic rifle, the wooden stock cradled between the shoulder of his green and beige camouflage shirt and his cheek. As Aftab crumbled to the ground, the soldier fired twice more. All three shots found their mark.
Perhaps a dozen shots in all barked out. The shooting lasted only a few seconds. Screaming, the crowd bolted for doorways and alleys. The road was empty, except for the two dead bodies.
A keening wail rose over the street. Women watching from balconies and rooftops cried out in shock, in grief, in disbelief. Punjabi soldiers, the pride of Pakistan's warrior caste, had killed unarmed Punjabi men in Lahore, the capital of the province and the heartland of Pakistani nationalism.
I had run into a narrow doorway. Seconds latrer a neatly dressed young man dashed in. He looked quickly at me and seemed startled to see a foreigner. Then he said, "These cannot be Pakistani soldiers. These are not our brothers. These are Indians. Only Indians would kill Pakistanis like this."
His caustic remark about Pakistan's traditional enemy signals a new bitterness that could explode into a rupture between the Punjabi population and the army, which is already showing grave signs of strain. Over the way the government is using it against the demostrator.
"Watch out for the army," a retired brigadier general told me this morning. "It is the key to everthing."
He explained that a significant minority of younger officers were already angered over Bhutto's selective promotion of a handful of generals to top leadership positions even before the current political agitation began. "When they have to starat kiling unarmed civilians, particularly their own people right here in Punjab, soem will obey orders, of course. We are a disciplined army. But some will crack," the former general said.
That is what the opposition politicans are hoping for. Retired Air Marshal Ashgar Khan, the most popular opposition leader, appealed to officers this week to disobey "illegal orders." An investigation on sedition charges against him has just begun.