KARACHI: “I heard a blast and felt a sharp pain in my left side. I ran as far as my legs could carry me. Then I fell. I could hear gunfire, too, before I blacked out,” said Ziarat Khan, one of the lesser injured people of the Landhi blast which killed 11 and wounded 39 on Saturday morning.
“I was in charge of driving voters to the polling station,” he said after having undergone initial treatment at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), where the wounded and the dead were brought soon after the blast.
Naseer Ahmed, another man nursing a head injury, said that he owned a confectionery shop, Sargodha Sweets, at Dawood Chali. “I think I got a nasty cut on my head from the broken glass in my shop,” he said.
Abdul Samad, a teenager, had his very worried mother sitting near his head. Akbar Jan, the mother, said she had sent the boy to buy some chicken and vegetables. “I don’t think I can let him go out of my sight again,” she said quietly while thanking God for saving his life.
“I was on my bicycle and had just passed the Mazda milk truck when there was this loud explosion. I don’t know what happened to my bicycle or my slippers,” he said.
Other young boys, some even under 12 years of age, with broken and plastered limbs stared blankly in space.
Outside near the hospital morgue, Tajber Khan was looking for his 12-year-old son, Yaqoob. “He had been so excited about these elections. Throughout the past month, he had been leaving home at odd hours to watch the preparations under way in the area,” said the man.
“This morning, too, he left to watch people lining up to cast their vote. I called him back but he left home again after having breakfast. Now I can’t find him anywhere,” the father cried. “I have looked everywhere, in the morgue, among the wounded. I don’t know where else to look for him.”
Among the dead was 22-year-old Asad Khan. His friends sat on the footpath outside the morgue with ashen faces as they surrounded the deceased’s young brother, Subhan, who was hysterically screaming his brother’s name, saying that he knew something like that could happen. “We are all neighbours in the area, living within two kilometers of each other,” one of the friends, Mohammad Usman, said. Asked if the boys had any older relatives, the friend said that their father was also wounded in the explosion and was somewhere in the main hospital.
Another inconsolable young man was being given a bottle of cold water to have a sip and catch his breath in one of the Chhipa ambulances parked outside the morgue after identifying his brother’s body. He was unable to talk.
“Two of our workers, too, lost their brothers in the blast while one is seriously injured,” said an ambulance driver in blue uniform.
An elderly man, Dawood Khan, came to identify his brother Nawab Khan’s body. “I rushed to the JPMC when I heard the injured were being brought here. He was not among the injured so someone suggested I come here. I found him here. He was only 35,” he said wiping off the tears from his eyes.
Advocate Amanullah, an MQM worker, also came to the hospital when he heard about the blast. “The regional office where the blast occurred is owned by my old friend and class fellow, Shaukat,” he said.
“Shaukat was also injured in the attack,” he said, adding that there was no army or security personnel in sight at the place of the incident. “We only had our own private guards, some of whom also didn’t even show up today due to transport problems, etc.”
Meanwhile, head of the Accident and Emergency at the JPMC Dr Seemin Jamali said her department had received 11 bodies, three of whom could not be identified. “One of the dead was a three-year-old boy,” she said. The number of injured was 39, 10 of whom were children under 12, she told Dawn on Saturday morning.
“Seven of the injured are on the critical list,” she provided.
Asked about the injuries, the doctor said: “Well, we did find metallic pieces and bearing balls in the wounds but the forensics lab will be in a better position to explain the kind of explosive used in the attack.”
“Terrorists responsible for this don’t want the three parties to contest the elections. They think they can gain more strength and make it to the parliament by killing their competitors. Well, there is another parliament on a higher level where today’s martyrs will present their case to our Maker,” said ANP Sindh chief Shahi Syed while speaking to the media outside the hospital’s emergency department.
“There have been so many children injured and one dead in this latest attack. The children were all young, around three, eight and 10 years old. What kind of a coward did this?” he said.
“To my colleagues, I will say please remain calm. We are fighters. We will still be contesting, we do not intend to boycott the elections though there will be a three-day mourning afterwards. But no strike call, mind you.”