KARACHI: The charred Toyota Hiace van stood where it was halted in its tracks at the entrance of the Confucius Institute at Karachi University, just a little distance from IBA campus, due to the blast. Its front grille mostly disintegrated with a portion of it lying behind the vehicle. The driver’s door was ajar and broken. Only the metal frames of the seats were left, the foam, the covers all gone. Pieces of window glass lay shattered all around though the front and back windscreens also lay on the road, one at the back of the van and another near the smouldering motorcycle of the Rangers officer, who was riding behind the van for security purposes.
The windscreen glass was not shattered, but burnt black and stuck to the road like a shiny layer of coal tar.
“The bomber must have been carrying five to 10kg of explosives,” a Bomb Disposal Squad official, investigating on the spot, shared with Dawn.
The strong impact of the explosion, said to be carried out by a female suicide bomber waiting for the van to appear at the institute’s gate before the afternoon class, had also shattered all the windows of the Department of Commerce that also houses the Confucius Institute on its second floor.
Sad and depressing scenes at institute named after philosopher who taught virtue, kindness and peace
The nearby K-Electric substation doors also flew open in the blast.
Chaudhry Hadi, a private guard posted at the Confucius Institute, was found praying for his colleague, the injured guard who used to accompany the Chinese staff from their living quarters to the Institute. He was injured badly in the blast.
“The van driver Khalid Bhai couldn’t make it but please pray for Hamid Chachu,” he said. “He is not just a senior colleague, but also our supervisor. He used to ride in the van with the Chinese with a gun to protect them. Still, who would have known that he wouldn’t even get the time to take out his gun or get them all to a safe place? It was all so sudden, so unexpected. No gun can save you from a bomb blast,” said the gate guard.
Asked where he was at the time of the blast, Mr Hadi said that he was upstairs in the institute. “The entire building shook. The windowpanes also broke. The shattered glass from there fell on the feet of some girl students below who were screaming as they got cuts on their feet and toes,” he said.
Getting over our shock, we helped vacate the building, though there were not many there as yet. The staff used to arrive around 2pm after leaving for lunch following their morning 11am sessions.
The afternoon class would commence at 2.30pm and that’s when most of the students in that session would reach here, too. Thankfully, they had not arrived as yet, otherwise there would have been many more casualties,” he added.
“Still as soon as he could, one student, though not from the Confucius Institute as we would have recognised him then, jumped into the flames to break open the driver’s door to pull him out. But seeing that it was futile and all in vain, he backed off to save himself from getting engulfed in the fire too,” he added.
Another young man watching quietly from a little distance as the guard talked spotted a chair near the parking area of the Confucius Institute to then slowly walk towards it to sit down. Every now and then he would get tears in his eyes, which he wiped with his shirt sleeve.
“These teachers were here to educate us about their language, their culture, they died doing all that. They may not be Muslim, but does that not make them martyrs? They were our guests here. I wish we had taken more care of them, provided them tighter security,” said Mustajab Hussain, the young man, who introduced himself as a student of the Confucius Institute.
“I live not far from here in the students’ hostel because I originally belong to Gilgit-Baltistan. I have been getting constant calls from home after the blast to know if I’m okay since my family knew I would be here around this time,” he said.
He said his favourite teacher, Chen Sai, also died in the attack. “Today, I lost my calligraphy teacher Ding Mufang, our director Huang Guiping and my favourite teacher Chen Sai,” he said with a lump forming in his throat.
“All these educators were not just our teachers, they were our friends. It was only the last night that I messaged Chen Sai that I had not been able to complete my assignment. And she had replied that it was fine and that I should still show up in class even though I would not be handing in my assignment. And here I am, to find her gone,” he said quickly wiping off another tear, slightly embarrassed to be crying.
He then took out his phone in which he had several of their photographs together. “Chen Sai was my teacher but she was so young. I think she was in her early twenties. The others were older than her but also so kind to us. There kind of teaching does not include scolding or punishment,” he shared, adding that the Confucius Institute is a great place for anyone interested in learning about China, and not just the Chinese language.
“They offer diploma courses in language, which I had enrolled in. They also have a longer four-year BS course in language for which students can study two years here and two years in China,” he added.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2022