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As the clouds set over Quetta a throng of people descended upon a house on Meckongy road. They were gathering to condole over the death of Abdul Razzaq, a member of Quetta’s Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS). ‘Commander’, as his colleagues lovably referred to him, lead from the front whenever the BDS was called into action.
Remembered as brave and self-sacrificing, it is this unselfish attitude that led him to Sariab road on the evening of February 13, 2016, when a bomb threat was called in. Routinely defusing bombs since 2006, after the rapid deterioration of law and order in Balochistan, Monday evening was to be Razzaq’s last call to duty.
Working with the special branch of the police for over two decades, Razzaq had offers to join the army and the Frontier Corps, with handsome salaries and other privileges. Declining the riches on offer, he chose to serve the people of his hometown, despite earning lowly wages of Rs.40, 000 a month.
“He would go into every nook and corner of the province, particularly in the city, to defuse bombs,” recalled Mohammad Tariq, Razzaq’s grieving brother adding, “[it] had become his passion.” Tariq further revealed that Razzaq would be first on the scene, often cajoling his BDS colleagues to let him do the defusing.
Read: BDS officer's death
Born in Quetta in 1974, Razzaq had joined the police force’s special branch at the age of 21. Throughout his career officials had spoken highly of him, lauding his honesty and heroism. Members of the squad share stories of when Razzaq would spend money from his own earnings to attend court hearings in Quetta, highlighting his professionalism.
On that fateful day the BDS also lost Abdul Majeed, who happened to be Razzaq’s apprentice. An eager learner himself, Majeed would follow his mentor into action, observing in close quarters the tense task of dismantling an explosive.
“Compared to the lives of the people, the dangers of my work are nothing. When I defuse bombs I don’t consider danger, or risks to my life,” Tariq reveals of his brother’s bold reply, whenever he was quizzed about his profession.
“He saved thousands of lives by defusing bombs in hundreds,” extoled Ahsan Mehboob, Inspector General of Balochistan police, before lamenting, “we lost an expert.”
While some may deem it careless, Razzaq often defused bombs without wearing the protective bomb disposal kit. Weighing at almost 80 kilograms, officials like Razzaq deem it an impediment in regards to mobility and speed, considering the time sensitive nature of the process.
Officials claim he had defused over 1000 bombs in various parts of the province, without a kit, “because he had confidence in himself.”
“He would not even wear the police uniform,” reveals Safia bibi about her son opting to wear plain clothes. When irked about his fashion sense he would often quip back at his mother, asking why she wore old clothes.
Clutching a picture of Razzaq, with tears streaming down her face, Safia bibi believed that out of all her children it was him who took most care of her.
“He was my lovely son; I am proud he sacrificed and dedicated his life for the people,” she echoed, adding more prominence to his professionalism and passion.
“He would tell me that he would not marry until or unless he would buy a new house,” she revealed about Razzaq’s commitment towards providing a more comfortable life for himself and his family.
Seeing his mother grow weary and unable to hold back her tears, Tariq related a story of his brother’s desire to rid their nephew, Farhan, of a brain tumor. With Quetta lacking facilities and treatment in Islamabad deemed expensive, Tariq admitted, “he would go into rage and say that he would sell his medals Farhan’s treatment.”
Even though Razzaq’s expertise merited many accolades, the only medals to his name were the Pakistan police and Quaid-e-Azam medals. The only remuneration he would find is in the words of those who surrounded him.
Much like his family and his colleagues, IG Mehboob feels, “Balochistan and the police department have been deprived of a brave man… we have been robbed of a precious asset.”