KARACHI: “Bilal Sheikh was my regular customer. Sometimes he bought five kilos of fruit sometimes two. Today he asked me to pack fruit for making fruit chaat. I had packed the guavas and only turned to my right to weigh the grapes in my scale, when I felt like someone had shot me in the head,” recalled Shakil Ahmed, a fruit vendor at Guru Mandir, while undergoing treatment at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) after the blast on Wednesday evening.
“I just fell face forward and my tongue hung out. All I could think of then was reciting kalima pak,” said Mr Ahmed, who had a fractured left leg, a fractured left arm and several lacerations behind his left ear. He said he could only hear from his right ear as the explosion was so loud it affected his hearing.
Two women rushing towards Mr Ahmed’s bed in panic started crying uncontrollably as they saw him up close. The one who held a little boy in her arms then collapsed and fainted before being helped up by family members. “Please tell me he will be fine. Is he out of danger?” cried the young woman after gaining back her senses.
She said her name was Shahnaz and she had been married to the fruit vendor for seven years now. The young child she was carrying in her arms when rushing to the hospital was Saqib, their son. “He is three and his father’s favourite. I had to bring him with me,” she said.
The other woman who identified herself as Shamia, Mr Ahmed’s sister, apologised for their panicked state. “I know that God has spared my brother’s life but we have been through another such crisis before when my other brother was shot dead a couple of years ago,” she explained wiping away her tears.
“I live in PIB Colony and we heard the blast there. Switching on the television, we saw that it was in Guru Mandir. Most of our father’s side of the family runs a fruit business in that area so, naturally, I called my cousin who I knew would have been there, too, to know what had happened. But I found his phone off,” said Shahid Abdul, a cousin of the fruit vendor.
“That’s when I rushed there myself to find his fruit stall destroyed. I also saw a limb, well, someone’s leg, lying there on the roadside, without the body. That’s when I was told that the injured were taken to the Jinnah. I rushed here immediately. I didn’t think I would see him alive. But he made it, by the grace of God. Two of our other male family members are here as well. One, our 24-year-old nephew Faizan Wali, was operated upon to take out the ball bearings from his stomach and leg. He is in the recovery ward now,” the cousin said.
Abdul Khalid, one of the fruit vendor’s young assistants, was also wounded in the attack. “I was blown away by the blast and landed several feet away. All the glass windows in the nearby buildings shattered due to the blast,” said the 14-year-old boy who had fractured both his legs. His elder brother, Wasi Iqbal, who was at his bedside, said that he hadn’t informed their mother about the incident so far as she would be upset.
Meanwhile, the fruit vendors’ aunt, Jamila, was running to and fro outside the emergency ward downstairs. She said she had no news of a third family member, another nephew. “I couldn’t find him here. Could he be at Civil hospital?” she asked the other family members who slowly gathered around her.
Apart from the men at the JPMC, the rest of the injured, seven in number, were Mr Sheikh’s police guards. President Zardari’s security chief, his driver and another man, also said to be a fruit vendor, were the three casualties in the attack.