RAWALPINDI: “Baba, I am alright, you don’t need to worry. Everyone is safe,” a young man said into a mobile phone, his voice cracking with emotion.
He was shaking as he sat down next to an injured relative lying on the hospital bed. His relative, Sikandar, had injuries on his head and his foot. “I am alright,” he said, grimacing through the pain as he pointed towards his bandaged foot.
They were not alone: the corridors and wards of Rawalpindi’s District Headquarters Hospital were filled with people bleeding on stretchers and relatives making frantic phone calls.
“We are all injured. We are all dead. We all are here,” screamed a teenager, overwhelmed with emotion.
Only a few were talking to members of the media, most of those coming forward were young men, volunteers at the imambargah. All others seemed to be muted by shock and a palpable sense of fear.
A person with minor injuries to his arms and head sat holding his head, in obvious trauma. “I have no idea what happened, all I remember is a loud blast and then darkness,” he said.
Nadeem Ali was inside the imambargah at the time of the blast. “I was sitting inside the main hall, the milad ceremony was going on when we heard a loud boom and then the electricity went off. At the time I had no idea what had happened,” he said.
“It was a lucky escape thanks to the brave souls who managed to stop the suicide bomber outside, otherwise we would all be dead” he said.
Meanwhile, security at the hospital was tight and visitors were searched before being allowed to enter. A number of local religious leaders arrived at the hospital to condole with the victims. A sit-in was also staged outside the gates of the DHQ Hospital, where people expressed their anger and called for national unity in the face of such sectarian attacks.
Published in Dawn January 10th , 2014