KARACHI: Not satisfied with the view from the ground, 17-year-old Abdul Basit ran towards the roof of a shop to get a good look at the football match taking place in Karachi’s Lyari Town.
The match was part of a series of games in the Youth Football Tournament which began with the month of Ramzan in Lyari’s Chakiwara No. 2.
As it always happens, the area where the match was organised was decked up with lights.
One man was assigned the task of asking people in Balochi vernacular to either settle down to watch the game or leave the street that served as the match’s venue.
Newly-elected Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MPA Jawed Nagori was one of the chief guests at Wednesday’s match in the tournament, which neighbourhood elders said was organised to motivate the children.
Playing right next in a street at Bizenjo Chowk, children, most of them in their teens, had been preparing for over a month for the tournament to take place. As soon as the prizes were distributed by MPA Nagori, a loud explosion occurred just a few feet away from the lawmaker’s parked vehicle. Though the MPA was quickly escorted out of the area, the children were caught in the blast, with some of them dying on the spot.
Wednesday’s game turned out to be the tournament’s last and final one and Abdul Basit who until the end of the match stayed on the roof became the first one to take the fall on the ground. His brothers Yasir and Saddam who were close by said it took them 20 minutes just to find him.
“By the time we reached him, he had already bled profusely. And although we were hopeful that he would live, doctors at the hospital pronounce him dead…”
At Basit’s home, his mother cries uncontrollably as women from the neighbourhood sit around her at a loss for words. “What can I possibly tell her? How can we pacify a mother who has just lost her son?” says one neighbour, Zarnaz Bibi.
Who is behind the attack?
Hours after the blast and a few minutes before the call for Zuhr prayers, shopkeepers try to fix the bent shutters outside their shops. Men, women and children gather at the site of the explosion, wondering who could have carried out the attack which claimed at least seven lives.
A shopkeeper named Inayat Ali said some people saw a man park his motorcycle near the shops lined a few feet away from the street where the match took place.
“Nobody knows exactly what he looked like, but I’ll speak for myself, I just saw the motorbike and no owner,” Ali said.
Moreover, Akram Baloch who heads the media cell of the proscribed Lyari-based Peoples Amn Committee (PAC), an organisation rumoured to be enjoying the support of PPP, said Nagori had been receiving threats from extremist groups for sometime.
“During the past few months, a number of militants were arrested from Lyari and they blame the PAC for providing the intelligence etc. The attack is similar to the one carried out during an election meeting in Kumharwara three months ago,” Baloch said.
‘I lost my friend’
The attack has left a terrifying impression on the children of the neighbourhood for whom football enjoys as sacred a status as cricket does in much of Pakistan.
Near the street where the explosion occurred, twelve-year-old Deedak stands huddled in a corner with his friends. “I lost my friend; he played in the match. I was here to see him.”
Deedak adds that this was one of the tournaments for Ramzan before which “we keep a cricket match in which children from Singhu Lane, Aath Chowk and Chakiwara come to participate”.
Following the blast, the ambulances took most children to nearby hospitals to swiftly provide them with medical treatment. A number of children were taken to the city’s Civil Hospital and Lyari General Hospital.
Dr Tariq Ayubi, head of the emergency department at Civil, said the facility had received three bodies and 18 injured. “Some of the people were taken to LGH who later succumbed to their injuries. They have not yet been registered with us,” he explained.
Inside Civil Hospital’s Surgical Ward, 15-year-old Sahad Ashraf is in a deep sleep while his family members sit anxiously beside him. With injuries on his chest, pelvis and thighs, the family says it is a miracle young Ashraf survived.
Ashraf’s grandmother who is seated right next to him says: “He had gone to watch the match. This is the only thing our children know and care for. What can you possibly say to those who attack children?”