The real hero: Abid Farooq risks all to defuse bombs

Updated 04 Jan 2015

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“I made a decision at that time, that I will enter the police and will show them that even if my father was not able to do this job, I will be able to do it,” says Abid Farooq.—Photo by Nadir Siddiqui
“I made a decision at that time, that I will enter the police and will show them that even if my father was not able to do this job, I will be able to do it,” says Abid Farooq.—Photo by Nadir Siddiqui

Abid Farooq is not deterred by threats. He is often called into court to testify against terrorists whose bomb attacks he has foiled.

“Imagine, we are present in the same court as the terrorists, they can easily identify us,” he says. “They tell me, ‘don’t think even for a second that if we are inside, nothing can happen to you, our resources are vast,’ and that’s how they intimidate us.”

But Abid stands his ground and often tells them that he is just doing his job; a job that he loves very much.

Abid’s early years were spent in Lahore, where his father was also in the police force.

“My mother was very upset when my father decided to leave the force after serving for eight years to start his own business. I don’t think she ever got over that trauma.”

When the family moved to Karachi, he decided to enroll into the police academy.

“I made a decision at that time, that I will enter the police and will show them that even if my father was not able to do this job, I will be able to do it.”

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In 1994, while in the police, Abid enrolled himself in a bomb disposal course, after which he was called upon whenever they received a bomb tip.

“In those days, we rarely ever received calls,” he recalls. “Perhaps, once every two to three months, and even then the bombs were simple, small and easily defused.”

Now, in charge of the West Division in Karachi, Abid’s cell phone is perpetually ringing. His unit gets between two to three calls a day, often in the middle of the night and that plays on the minds of his wife and three children.

Abid married Tahira in 1998. Initially his wife was very happy that she had married a police officer, but when she discovered he was working in the bomb disposal squad she was very upset.

“My wife watches the news; she knows what the situation is like in the city. Every time I get a phone call, she wants to know where I am going and whether it is to defuse a bomb. So now, I have to hide from her. I have to pretend I am going to the office, when in fact I am going to defuse a bomb,” he tells us.

Abid is a tall, quiet man who hesitates to talk about himself. When you meet him, you won't be able to tell that he has defused most of the bombs in Karachi.

“It’s my job,” he kept telling us. One thing that does become evident very quickly is that the high risk job has taken a toll on him personally. “The IEDs that are being used today are full of ball bearings and are connected to mobile phones, and placed in cars and motorcycles. These are the things that scare me a little.”

A few days before we met him, Abid received a call about a taxi laden with explosives near Sohrab Goth. When the unit arrived they found that the taxi was booby trapped and laden with explosives. The neighbourhood is densely populated; the human toll from the blast would have been catastrophic.

“I asked my superiors to evacuate the area,” Abid tells us. “Then I slowly made my way towards the taxi and began working on disassembling the bomb. The worry was that a suicide bomber or a second bomb could have also been placed. All of these things were weighing down on us while we worked. But we were successful,” he says with a smile.

“Whenever I go on such a mission, I perform wuzu, we know our bodies are not made of steel and iron, we are human, so we know the dangers. But there is this yearning, this passion, that maybe because of us, because of our sacrifice, this bomb could be defused and some lives would be saved,” says Abid.

On Sundays, Abid takes his son and two daughters to the park. There, amongst all the other families, it seems relatively normal. The daughters roller-skate on the cemented rink, and both the husband and wife lay a picnic out for them. They tease each other and laugh together and for those few hours, the family forgets the dangers and risks that lurk around them.

Abid’s meagre salary is not reflective of the job he does. He has received numerous job offers from other countries but is adamant to stay in Pakistan.

“My husband tells me this country needs me more than the others. That is why he has rejected the job offers, he wants to save his own country,” says Tahira.

We seldom award or acknowledge men like Abid Farooq — those who risk their lives for a meagre salary, for little or no rewards or benefits. Their families live with uncertainty every day of their lives. These are the real heroes. They are the reason many of us are still alive today.

If we were to look beyond the stereotypes and prejudices we carry, we would be able to see the men behind the uniform more clearly and perhaps then we would be able to acknowledge their sacrifices and once in a while salute them for their courage in the face of such adversity.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 4th, 2015