PESHAWAR, Sept 22: Dozens of ambulances with wailing sirens carried coffins of people killed in the devastating church blasts to the football ground of Saint John High School at Kohati Gate. Around 50 coffins were lined up in the spacious ground with hundreds of shocked mourners around hugging and comforting each other.
The school is adjacent to the All Saint Church, the second oldest protestant church in Peshawar built in 1893, which saw death and destruction on Sunday after a mass when hundreds of worshipers had started greeting each other and lining up for their lunch. The Kohati Gate area has a sizeable Christian population. This was the first terrorist attack on a church in Peshawar and the deadliest this year. The dead included women and children.
The tragedy was so devastating that volunteers of Al-Khidmat Foundation had to collect coffins from different parts of the provincial capital.
A large number of mourners, including women, were crying and wailing and sharing their woes. Most of them were asking the same questions: why we have been targeted? What was our crime?
“We are patriotic Pakistanis. We are as loyal to this country as our Muslim brethren are,” said Munir Gill, a member of the church.
Ambulances took the bodies from Lady Reading Hospital, the main public sector hospital in Peshawar, to the football ground where people belonging to the community from different areas had gathered. Relatives of the deceased accompanied the coffins carried by the ambulances mostly belonging to the Edhi Foundation and Al-Khidmat Foundation. Each coffin carried the name of the deceased.
Some families lost four to five persons. People were consoling the grief-stricken relatives but could not stop their outpouring.
One family lost four of its members while the fifth, a four-year-old girl, was missing. They included Naeem Nazir, his wife Mona, daughter Mehrab and brother Nasir Masih. Nazir’s daughter, Angel, is missing.
Jamil Masih, who was sitting next to the coffin of his wife Shahida Jamil, said they had come from Malakand to attend the Sunday service.
Initially, members of the community were in a fix over their next move. Some suggested that they should not bury the bodies and continue their protest because they had been attacked such a brutal manner. They complained that proper security had not been provided to them and after the blasts there was no proper medical treatment available to them in the hospital.
“We are waiting for our bishop and will take a decision whether to bury the bodies or keep them on the ground till the government ensures our safety and protection,” said Nazir Jan, a schoolteacher.
Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peter later arrived and it was decided that the bodies would be buried and they would chalk out a course of action on Monday. After the decision, relatives took the coffins to two major Christian cemeteries -- Gora Qabristan in the Cantonment and the other in Wazirbagh area.
The scene of the blasts explained the severity of the attack. The place was strewn with human flesh. Shoes, sandals, clothes and disposable plates meant for lunch were scattered all over the place.
The enraged mourners took belongings of policemen, including their uniforms, out of a room reserved for them on the church premises and set them on fire near the church’s main entrance.
“Soon after the service ended we came out of the main hall. Some people were greeting each other and others queued up for food when a suicide bomber blew himself up,” said Nazir Jan whose clothes were stained with blood. He alleged that the policemen on duty were roaming around inside, instead of remaining at the entrance of the church.