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About those who survived


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The news coverage of terrorist violence often dies with the dead. The shock value of these atrocious crimes depletes with every new attack. The 24/7 news cycle of live TV has somehow failed to keep us informed about the thousands crippled, orphaned, or widowed by bombs and bullets in Pakistan.

The ubiquitous violence in Pakistan has left 45,000 dead in the past decade alone. The number of injured is equally large; the number of affected households even larger. Since 1989, sectarian violence has caused the death of 4,137 individuals and has left 8,220 injured. While TV channels repeatedly telecast grizzly scenes of the dead and injured, and newspapers carry banner headlines of yesterday’s carnage, yet all is forgotten within weeks if not days. Seldom one finds the news media following up on the lives of those whose lives were shattered.

Those who are injured in terrorist violence need medication and hospitalisation. Often the victims belong to low-income households with not enough means to pay the medical bills. The government does provide free medical support, but only for the short run. The victims’ families, while grieving for the deceased, worry more about their economic survival. They are anxious about food, shelter, education and security. These are the concerns of millions in Pakistan whose family members have died in terrorist violence or those who were forced to abandon their homes and neighbourhoods when violence descended on the communities they called their own.

Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal (
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal (

With millions of victims of violence in Pakistan, one would have hoped to see a concerted effort by the state and the society to address the needs of the victims. At the same time, one would have expected to see studies highlighting the needs of the survivors so that relief efforts could be better planned. Regrettably, this is not the case in Pakistan. Despite the presence of millions of direct victims of violence, only a handful of studies have tried to assess and document the physical and mental trauma faced by the families of the victims of terrorist violence.

In one such study, Yasmin Farooqi and Maria Habib analyse the psychological trauma suffered by the 120 adult survivors of a suicide bombing in Lahore. The authors discovered that “female survivors of suicide bombing reported a higher degree of anxiety, depression and stress” than their male counterparts. These findings suggest that post-traumatic stress management interventions have to be gender-sensitive in Pakistan.

The harm caused by the terrorism violence extends far beyond life and property damage. In fact, the entire social order is impacted in the communities affected by terrorist violence. Abdul Waheed and Mokbul Ahmad discovered that when husbands or fathers die in terrorist violence, the surviving females lose all autonomy since other members of the extended family take over the day-to-day decision-making. Their study of the surviving family members of the victims exposed to violence during 2005 and 2008 revealed that in 91 per cent of the cases, the surviving women were barred from any subsequent decision-making when the victim died in a terrorist attack.

Education of the children was also adversely affected. In cases where the family member died in a terrorist attack, 42 per cent of the children failed to move to the higher level, another 42 per cent received lower than usual grades, and 16 per cent of the children dropped out of school. The economic hardships resulting from the death of the breadwinner is probably the reason why the children would drop out of school. The authors observed that the average household income of the family declined from Rs. 12,104 (before the terrorist attack) to Rs. 7,518 (after the attack). At the same time, the household expenses increased after the attack resulting in an average outstanding loan of Rs. 216,250 amongst the surviving households.

Despite the government’s claims of providing financial reprieve to the surviving household, not much actually reaches the surviving family members. Many have suggested that the government should do more to offer financial and other relief to the families of the victims. The federal and provincial governments, however, face a slight resource constraint: with only a million taxpayers in the nation of 180 million, government coffers are almost always empty. After feeding the army, servicing the debt, and paying salaries of the employees, the government in Pakistan is left with little to weave a safety net that could catch those who may fall through the cracks. This creates the need for extensive philanthropy in Pakistan to ensure that citizens step up where the state is incapable of offering relief.

Shaheed Foundation is one such organisation in Pakistan that looks after the welfare of Shia victims of terrorist violence. The Foundation disburses cash directly to the victims’ families to prevent them from falling into the poverty trap. Their monthly report for October presents a breakdown of 7 million rupees disbursed to 1,304 families across Pakistan. The targeted interventions by the Shaheed Foundation and other similar relief providers are vital for those who receive the relief.  However, the demand for assistance far exceeds the capacity of those who are offering help.

Pakistanis have to think afresh about how they can use philanthropy to address the harm caused by terrorist violence. Those who can donate should realise that they have a choice. The philanthropists could donate money to build even more mosques or they may donate funds to provide education, food and shelter to the millions who are fortunate to be alive, but their misfortunes have brought hunger and misery to their doorstep.


Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. He can be reached by email at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (41) Closed

Dec 05, 2012 03:55pm
I would also request Philanthropists to think twice before giving any charities and make sure that it is not ending or benefitting the extremists elements in the country. If the government opens a charitable fund only to be spend for government schools a lot of people will be interested to divert their charities there.
Dec 05, 2012 03:57pm
Murtaza brother, thanks for writing this. I often read your articles and feel the same pain you feel. I don't do as much for the community but I do try to donate a little to shaheed foundation or join a protest against the shia genocide in Pakistan. Its kind of sad we have to figure out what we should do to the victims and their families since we can't fix the main issue of eradicating terrorism and this evil twisted ideology. This world is still going because of good people like you and trust me God will reward your for it.
Dec 09, 2012 12:54am
Good article...just wanna say though ...Shadeed foundation is also helping out our Sunni Shohda's families
Dec 05, 2012 03:27pm
I agree with sentiments expressed here about the welfare of the victims but instead of creating centres to cater for their needs, we should be involved in a cocerted effort to destroy from the roots what is causing the killings. Creating such centres will encourage the killings to go on unrelentlessly since the wrong doers will have that in mind without any remorse "Well, at least his family will be well looked after, so what. Kill him" In a healthy nation, I would rather have a notion of a flourishing Ministry of Employment rather than a Ministry of Unemployment.
Dec 05, 2012 03:21pm
Does this includes the hidden count of Baloch youth sacrificed till date? I believe that are terrorist attacks committed by Army.
naeem khan
Dec 05, 2012 01:21pm
Both Sunnis and Shias suffer because of sectarianism so why mention only a Shia organization for charity Is it because the writer is biased to the particular sect because of his personal leanings
ahsan shah UK
Dec 05, 2012 03:28pm
My Heart brakes SC is paying compensation to Lal Masjid Terrorists. WHY not for these victims of terrorism?
Dec 05, 2012 02:37pm
Pakistanis hae become immune to such gross violation of basic human values. A life is a life, whether Shia or Sunni or Ahmedi or any other believer. As our Prophet Mohammed SAW said, to kill one human is as if you have killed humanity. Islam was the first to propagate Human Rights for all and unfortunately Pakistanis are in the forefront to abuse it.
Dec 05, 2012 01:14pm
Aniket is showing light. The same can be followed in Pakistan as well. Thank you Aniket
Dec 05, 2012 10:42am
Its a good job done by Shaheed Foundation to save our Shia minority community in Pakistan
Dec 05, 2012 01:11pm
Mr. Murtaza Haider, you are great to discuss such an important subject generally forgotten by the common man and intentionally overlooked by the Government. Like the terrorists the government is equally for the after effect of the attacks. It is not to imagine how a woman suffers her social degradation no sooner the Chief man of the house passes away. Terrorist incident adds brings her further psychological depression. I will request the children of such woman to please not her feel that she is now not more than a second class citizen of the family. She should remain to be a first class citizen. Shaheed Foundation is no doubt a great organization. It will remain blessed by the Almighty god. It is also the responsibility of the people not to let the Shaheed Foundation fall into any constrain. Is their any comment on the subject from the side of the terrorists groups and their supporters ? Murtaza Haider, may God bless you !! Syed Hussain Akbari Mississauga ON Canada
Dec 05, 2012 11:29am
Wonderful article. Mental health is much needed in the subcontinent... @Syed Khawar Imam Sorry to hear about your parents. May you find the courage to carry on your life. Peace be with you Rakesh
Dec 06, 2012 09:14am
Impressive article, It is true that we keep our eyes close for the the victims
MAH, Abu Dhabi
Dec 05, 2012 10:11am
my sentiments exactly! it is a shame that despite of so many news channels, the common Pakistanis could not be shown the continuing human suffering left behind the attacks ... the attacks that were supposed to transport the attackers directly to Allah's heaven! Just by presenting the 360 degrees of truth, the Govt. could have been more successful in winning hearts against extremism.
Dec 05, 2012 10:25am
The ruthless killers killing in the name of religion should be punished to make them example for their followers.
Syed Khawar Imam
Dec 05, 2012 10:32am
Good thoughts after a thorough research. I am myself a victim of a terrorist attack, and have lost both my parents in it. Good post, Murtaza.
Dec 05, 2012 11:47am
My deepest empathy is with you, my dear friend. When one of my friends lost her cousin in a bomb blast in Hyderabad in 2008, our response as then young undergraduate students was to set up a small organization which looks after the education of children of migrant manual labourers. We do that for six children now. We also make a conscious effort to be 'close friends' with the families, especially with the women of these four families and interact with them on an equal level, and with our education, we expect to raise awareness in these families about the importance of education, health, hygiene and women's rights. We also end up learning a lot from them. It's a small effort and takes little money, but a lot of time, effort and emotional involvement. It's also a long term commitment. Even if I am able to bring positive change to some of these families over a period of a decade, I think the effort will be worth it. I wrote it here because a large migrant community exists in Pakistan as well. By being friends with the family and exposing them to your modern ideas and having them benefit from the quality education you were fortunate to have, I firmly believe that a change can be brought in at least some families. And every such family educated and befriended means a few less people vulnerable to falling into crime, terrorism, drug abuse and exploitation.
Dec 05, 2012 12:32pm
This number has crossed the Kashmir killings ... and Pakistan Govt has the audacity to talk about Kashmirr...
Dec 06, 2012 08:53am
I think the NGO cash distribution is patch up work and a distraction from the real problem. Whats needed is an end to all this violence. But till the time our law enforcement institutes are not cleared from corruption nothing will work. We need a political change rather than more and more NGOs
Dec 05, 2012 03:59pm
Aniket. I can't believe someone gave you a thumbs down. May be the user belongs to the taliban school thought. Anyways God bless you for what you are doing and I have no doubt that you and your friends will be highly rewarded by the Almighty.
Dec 05, 2012 04:16pm
The problem is common pakistani is more worried about US,India,Israel conspiracy not about difference in their community and violence
Dec 05, 2012 04:26pm
As you sow so you reap....... Pakistan has been the epicenter of terroism for the past 30 years and now it is paying the price for it. One hopes saner sense will prevail and Pakistan elites will look inward to cleanup the mess it has created both in and out of the country
Dec 05, 2012 06:01pm
Taliban are the greatest threat to Pakistan and Islam. They give a bad name to Islam and our prophet SAWW.
Dec 05, 2012 06:06pm
Good article. However cash distribution scheme is corruption-prone, instead should help by building infrastructure/shelters/schools etc.,
Dec 05, 2012 06:33pm
Thanks for highlighting ,now day by day a nation is without culture ,language and land......ahhhhh
Dec 05, 2012 06:54pm
I know many shuhada's families and am witness to the great work that Shaheed Foundation has been doing since decades, they support families of Shia martyrs in every possible way for which they will be rewarded by Allah in this world and hereafter..
Sikander Abbas
Dec 05, 2012 07:51pm
Since you have given the website name, I would strongly advice to the foundation management to be on full alert and take whatever measures available to protect their lives and assets. May Allah keep the folks of Shaheed foundation under His protection.Aameen
Dec 05, 2012 08:19pm
One of my cousin in Karachi lost his ability to talk after seeing a live explosion and with flying body parts. Now he has to use pen to write and explain. USA has spent billions of dollars to spread vulgar culture through media in islamic countries and on their elites and our media feels indebgted to them as well. Corrupt culture of the elite is the root cause of violence related problems in Pakistan. We need to disassociate ourselves from this culture of barbarism and injustice or else Allah will never forgive our whole nation.
John F
Dec 05, 2012 10:10pm
One question Naseer, if you have the answer. Who created the Taliban in the first place? Till recent years, they were your strategic assets, weren't they?
Ernest( Australia)
Dec 05, 2012 11:48pm
that's okay but what about the Christian minority the Hindu minority, why they are not Pakistani, just thing about it
Imran Haider
Dec 06, 2012 12:04am
very good article
Imran Haider
Dec 06, 2012 12:05am
so true. agreed
Dec 06, 2012 12:49am
Why do you think this is true....what is making the people think this?
Dec 06, 2012 01:52am
infratructure/shelters/schools is a good idea but works usually for those effected by natural disasters such a flood or earthquake. Cash seems like only solution here because the families have shelter, but one to earn the bread.
Dec 06, 2012 01:55am
could not agree more. We are falling into the trap to set for others.
salma hasan
Dec 06, 2012 01:18pm
i don't know who these people are who are giving thumbs down for this comment. it's so obvious that talibans are doing these terrorism but stil some people love them.
Dec 06, 2012 01:22pm
No doubt both Shias and Sunnis are the sufferer; but who have suffered the most. Be fair and tell. And if there is any Charity Organisation supporting the Sufferers, whether Shias or Sunni please mention it. Don't get just angry.
Dec 06, 2012 03:05pm
I do not know who created Taliban. There are different theories. Some blame the war in Afghanistan, others blame the ISI, some blame the radical Islam being exported from Saudi Arabia, etc. I think blaming any one would not solve the problem. What is important is to create public awareness of this menace.
Dec 06, 2012 04:24pm
Unfortunately there is same trend overlooking the root causes of sectarian violence. Writer did not address the differences between sects and the solution to curb violence in this respect. Further I did not see in media anyone dare to discuss this menace. The solution lies in general debates and freedom to express view independently to all who are obliged to witness the demonstration and one sided propaganda on media, or there should have complete ban for all sect people to propagate their belief. No praises to any pious person on media without stating the achievement of the person etc. There should not have false statement by claiming without evidence the most brave, wise and soothsayer etc. to anyone.
Dec 06, 2012 07:22pm
Excellent Article touching a forgotten part...
Dec 06, 2012 09:10pm
The same question to you Mr John F. search the history of these and then answer here on this blog.