KARACHI, Jan 1: “I saw a bunch of ball bearings fly by me followed by people blown away by the force of the blast. Something hit me, too, on the side of my head,” Mohammad Shahid, a carpenter who was attending the Nine-Zero public meeting, told Dawn while pointing to his bandaged head in the emergency ward of the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital on Tuesday.
“They just took out a few steel ball bearings from my wound,” he said. “I grabbed the first person fallen in front of me and carried him away from there. It was an 18-year-old boy, and they just informed me here that he breathed his last. My father-in-law was with me and he was hit in the leg, so I also held him with my free arm and guided him away from there with whatever strength I had in me,” he cried.
Shahid’s father-in-law, Moinuddin Ansari, lay on a stretcher next to him.
MPA Bilquis Mukhtar was looking for her women co-workers with another senior MQM member Aliya Maqsood. “We had left the place after the conclusion of the public meeting and were getting into a bus. I think the blast happened in the bus ahead of us. Our sisters were in that bus,” cried Ms Maqsood as the MPA tried to console her.
“We have been in and out of the emergency and just can’t find them,” they said just before a stretcher with a wounded woman with her right leg bandaged was being rolled into the X-ray room and seeing it they ran to it.
Syed Sarwar Ali, an employee of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, also had a bandaged leg but was finding it hard to breathe. He was asking for water and would not lie down even after being urged to do so.
Sikandar Wali Mohammad, a worker in SITE, who was expecting to be discharged after getting initial treatment, said he was not sure if the blast was in a bus or a motorcycle. “But the blast was so loud, it must have been a very big bomb,” he said.
“We were heading towards the buses and someone said something. When I turned to look at him, I saw the explosion behind him. Then there was just smoke. Everything was dark, I couldn’t see anything,” said Raheel Shahid Hussain, a matric student, who was attending the public meeting with his friends. He had his head bandaged.
Siraj Sulaiman, a class-seven student, also suffered a head injury. “They took out grass particles from my head and shoulder,” he said while asking for a sheet to cover himself with. “I feel cold,” he cried. Then he blacked out.
“Please tell me if he is okay,” a trembling old mother, Bilquis, cried as her daughter, Mahnaz, held her. They were standing behind several doctors and nurses working on a young man whose entire face and head was bandaged. He was writhing in pain. “My brother is named Shaan. He is a painter. He was at the public meeting. Someone called to tell us he was badly wounded,” said the sister.
One of the MQM workers, Afaq Ahmed, calling themselves ‘sathi’, came to console the mother and daughter and they misunderstood the gesture, thinking that the young man was dead. The mother screamed. Later, she wept with relief to know that he was still breathing.
There was a lot of blood on the emergency room floor. “We are equipped to handle an emergency of 100 people and 50 people anytime,” reassured a nurse, Razia Hidayat, who was attending to the victim’s injuries. She was not in uniform as some of her other colleagues. “My sister Safiya Hidayat, Shagufta and Tahira live in the staff residency at the hospital so we just rushed here as we were. There was no time to get dressed,” she said.
Former Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal, his eyes brimming with tears, was going from bed to bed to try and comfort the victims in any way that he could and was distressed to find that he could not do much. A foot or two away, MQM leader Wasay Jalil, too, looked around helplessly. By that time they had received word of three deaths and 31 injuries. The numbers grew later.
Mr Jalil told the media: “So far we only know what we have been told by the police, that the bomb was planted in a motorcycle. But we will keep you updated on the matter.
“Whoever is responsible for this cowardly act must know that this cannot hurt or stop our work, and the revolution will go on,” he said.
“On behalf of our Quaid, we condole the deaths and are with the people in their pain.”
Meanwhile, Sindh health minister Dr Saghir Ahmed said that this was a time to also look at their weak links. “We will look into the strengthening of security and keep searching for the breach,” he said. “But the MQM has a history of sacrifices. We won’t be deterred by this.”