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Abbas Town: Rebuilding hope from rubble


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-Photo by Khaula Jamil.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

I was preparing to leave for the Teen Talwar Collection drive when I learnt that well known architects, Mr. Sikandar Hayat Khan and Mr. Iqbal Rizvi were looking for a photographer or two to accompany them and document the carnage at Abbas Town so that they could mobilise the architecture community into figuring out a plan of action to rebuild the site of the blasts. I immediately volunteered my self and fellow photographer Ali Khurshid and we left promptly at 3:45pm.

-Photo by Khaula Jamil.
-Photo by Khaula Jamil.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

Spotting a few rangers and one or two police mobiles at a short distance from the point of attack, we made our way towards the wrought iron gates of the destroyed building. A young teenager asked to check our bags, not allowing us to go further in till he finished checking us. We opened our bags and gently told him we were there to help. Respectfully but sternly, he shook his head and said he still had to check and that it was his duty. He was so emotionally charged; I could feel his sense of betrayal and the lack of trust toward everyone who was making their way through to the building.

Inside, significant amounts of people were hanging around taking in all the action. Children were running around amongst shards of glass, mothers yanking them out of the way as a large van full of debris tried to maneuver its way out of the compound.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

-Photo by Khaula Jamil.
-Photo by Khaula Jamil.

The main affected area was cordoned off and manned by scouts. The architects explained the purpose of our visit and they let us through. Dolls lay broken and bicycles hung off the balconies. A pink wallpapered room that probably belonged to a young girl stood exposed towards the street where we were. A man with a bandaged left hand and head roamed aimlessly in dusty clothes, staring at the destruction. We spoke to him later and discovered he had been driving by in his taxi when the bomb exploded and after tending to his injuries he had returned to help the victims.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

-Photo by Khaula Jamil.
-Photo by Khaula Jamil.

The people (whom we assumed were the residents of the place) returning to see what of their belongings could be salvaged, at this point, did not appreciate photography. Despite that, we documented as discreetly as possible because an analysis cannot be done without visuals.

Leaving the compound, I listened to bits of conversation around me as we made our way to the street. Amongst the “how did this even happen”, “we know who is behind this” and other random chatter, I heard plenty of laughter too – mostly children. Almost everyone was taking pictures from their cellphones.

-Photo by Ali Khurshid.
-Photo by Ali Khurshid.

Outside once again, we saw the teenage boy body checking a motorcyclist on the road who wanted to cross that area. We made eye contact and his look was softer this time. I motioned him to come to me and he jogged over. We asked him what were the immediate needs of the people. He looked at us and just shrugged helplessly;

“They’ve lost everything. How can I tell you what someone like that needs?”


The writer is freelance photographer/photojournalist best known as the photographer for 'Humans of Karachi'. View more of her work here.

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Comments (23) Closed

Mar 05, 2013 03:40pm
We should immediately enforce hire and fire policy in Police, Ranger and Military including all other goverbment departments if we want to see results. If I know that I will not be accountable why should I work diligently in resolving any issues.
Mar 06, 2013 02:42pm
its the sunnis,the shias within pakistan who are being used by bigots to kill each other in the name of who is a true muslim.ISLAM has no sects,sects are man made.ALLAH gave through the prophet the Quran as a guidance and not some mullahs or books written by thousands of people which only further corrupted and divided the muslims on sectarian lines.
Mar 06, 2013 02:46pm
@ Syed T......ON seeing this,am sure the founder of pakistan would not have partitioned pakistan and the dreamer of pakistan would have hidden his dreams in his mind.
Mar 05, 2013 06:26pm
The flats look as if there was an aerial bombing on this property, they are not fit for living,the government has to raise the complex to the ground and rebuild it from scratch.The compensation announced is peanuts and should at least be doubled so that the residents can live elsewhere until this complex is rebuilt as promised.The media has to follow this up on a regular basis.
Mar 05, 2013 03:58pm
Author, by showing blast pictures, trying to gain of consciousness of people of Pakistan. He must know that some religious values make people blind.
Mar 05, 2013 04:48pm
(For those who cannot read Urdu), the slogan on the wall in the last pic says:
Cyrus Howell
Mar 06, 2013 12:11am
Syed T
Mar 05, 2013 09:42pm
If founder of this nation were around to witness what has become of his dream land,where murder,corruption,looting, mistrust, callous disregard of precious human life has become order of the day.If elected leaders canot protect life, property, honor of their citizen than they do not have the right to govern. God help our helpless nation. amen
Mar 06, 2013 01:09pm
I can see that ....
Mar 05, 2013 10:28pm
we will soon forget this as we had did b4 .........SO SAD... when i look at east i see muslim when i look at west i see islam
Mar 07, 2013 03:00am
Great advise. You are a good man.
Mar 06, 2013 02:34am
The goverment should demolish buildings in Abbas town and build new apartments and hand over new apartments to the people effected by the bombings. It is the goverment's responsibility and those super rich goverment ministers
Mar 06, 2013 04:04am
and here in US, they tell me its not the sunnis doing this. Its an international power or themselves. What is wrong with you people!
Mar 06, 2013 04:51am
This is the irony. We have always been living in denials or we had always been taught to blame others for our follies. Unless we start speaking truth to ourselves, abyss is our ultimate destination
Mar 06, 2013 07:32am
forensic reports tells they used phosphorus that is one of the deadliest fire spreading element ...what sort of people are these??
D Bhai
Mar 06, 2013 07:43am
Truely very right!
Mar 06, 2013 08:24am
we really feel sorry for our brothers and sisters. being a mother i can feel the pain one mother must be carring with her who's childrens are victim here,in dis blast. I just want to give one suggestion to our goverment and to all head achos....if your inner soul is still alive......RESIGN! and leave your positions. Quratulain Aziz
Mar 06, 2013 08:32am
Bro, If our govt. had realized their responsibilities, then why that type of things should happen.
Mar 06, 2013 03:58pm
Amen to that...
Latif Khan
Mar 06, 2013 10:43am
I am 100% convinced that Pakistan needs a divine guidance which is the only way to solve sectarianism and other differences in today's various sects in Islam. Only an holy man of God can bring them togather and maitain peace in the future. All Muslim Umma should beg Allah for sending that person to learth in order to lead Muslims and unite them under one the banner of Islam. For immediate action, I request government to cart away dangerous rubbles to filling area and construct new accommodations for people who lost their places. At the same time alternative suitable accommodations with proper security should be provided with all amenities. People should come forward and take part in this charity and donate whatever they can offer. May Allah bliss the soul of innocent people who lost their lives.
Mar 07, 2013 06:18am
Dont have any false hope brother because Mohammed was and will be our last prophet. By asking for one more prophet, you are committing blasphemy.
Dhanus Menon
Mar 07, 2013 06:29am
There is no proof that God exists. Try to unite your people by doing good rather than asking for some divine help. The guy above is a myth. Help your self first
Mar 07, 2013 09:45am
We have reached this stage because we ask God to do everything for us, even those pity things which we ought to do ourselves.