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“Every second person from the tribal areas has lost someone to militancy”

Published Sep 03, 2012 03:12pm


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Staff at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar work with victims of a terrorist attack. – Photo courtesy Media Cell, Lady Reading Hospital
Staff at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar work with victims of a terrorist attack. – Photo courtesy Media Cell, Lady Reading Hospital

“Two killed, 19 injured in Peshawar attack,” read the headlines on a busy Monday morning in Pakistan. The attack, in the terror-hit province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, came three days after a bomb ripped through a busy market, killing 11 people.

A few months ago – when I was visiting the province – I met with the staff at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), which remains at the forefront of catering to victims of terror attacks that have been plaguing the region for the last six years.

The list of victims is ever-growing, as is the endless task of their medical healers.

“The situation had improved for a while, but it is back to being the same again,” said Yasar Yousafzai, who works as coordinator of the Vesicovaginal Fistula unit at LRH.

Over 200 acts of violence, including bomb attacks, targeted shootings and improvised-explosive-device (IED) attacks, have been reported in the province and its adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) up until August this year. Last year, 1,206 people died (511 civilians, 364 militants and 331 security personnel) in 242 incidents of violence, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), whose timelines for both years present a gruesome picture.

“Every second person from the tribal areas has lost a family member to militancy,” said Dr Nasreen Ruby Faiz, Head of the Department of Gynecology at the hospital.

According to Dr Rahim Jan Afridi, a forthright man who was until recently serving as the Medical Superintendent at LRH, one bomb blast can result in hundreds of casualties, of which, most arrive here.

“We treat almost 90 per cent of bomb-blast victims of the province. It is a very busy place – and not in a good way. What is most painful is to see is when children and women are also among the casualties. One blast can result in hundreds of casualties.”

Afridi himself hails from Khyber Agency in Fata.

“Sadly, we are able to do very little for the injured in those areas, as we have our limitations as medical practitioners. Most hospitals in the tribal areas have been shut down due to drone attacks and bomb blasts. We are unable to help them. Government servants in the tribal regions don’t venture due to threats of terrorism. Even I cannot even go to my hometown, even for a wedding or a funeral. I joke that I am an IDP (Internally Displaced Person),” said Afridi, frustrated at his helplessness.

Dealing with thousands of casualties in a month or hundreds in a day can be traumatic.

“It’s not just the medical staff. I believe the whole community of this area is psychologically affected. Over time, the medical staff has to develop psychological resilience. Our feelings are very real, but fear takes over the sadness. The fear of getting abducted. Every morning, at every signal, I fear for my safety,” confessed Afridi.

When terror victims are brought to public hospitals, they not the only affect the people working on them, but also those who have spent hours and days awaiting the medical staff’s attention.

“Obviously, the terrorism-victim patients are VIP patients for us. All their treatment is free of cost and they get our utmost attention,” said Afridi. Consequently, other patients slide down on the priority list.

Investigating the plight of bomb-blast victims and hospital staff who treat them, I met with victims of the Parachinar suicide blast on February 17, 2012. The powerful explosion after Friday prayers ripped through Kurrmi bazaar and subsequent open-fire on protestors by security forces resulted in 43 deaths. Some of the injured were still being treated when I met them.

Thirteen-year-old Abrar Hussain was lying helplessly on the bed, partially conscious under the effect of the pain killers he had been given, with blood being transfused. I couldn’t help stare at this innocent, handsome young man, who was unlucky enough to be in Kurrmi bazaar to buy a pair of chappals for his mother.

A few beds down the huge hall that houses several bomb-blast victims who are lucky enough to have survived, was Qaiser Hussain, 14. A student of seventh grade with the sole aim of recovering in order to “go back to school.” His mother, Fatima Bibi, could not answer my questions despite the presence of a translator, simply because she could not stop crying. The family had lost two relatives in the same blast. The doctors told me that Qaiser was still serious, with severe abdominal and limb injuries. Many a night, I have wondered how Qaiser is. Has he gone back to school? Is he okay? How many Qaisers have been added to the list of casualties since my trip?

The people of KP are stuck in an abyss. Will they ever come out of it?

The author is a freelance writer, activist and blogger.


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Comments (20) Closed

Ramallah Khan Sep 03, 2012 04:32pm
The seeds of destruction were sown by Pakistan for 20 years to destroy -- other countries -- how has it backfired.
Naved Sep 04, 2012 02:28pm
Get rid of gun culture and hatred on any basis like religion, sect or language. Then peace will come. If today we start practicing these things then hopefully within 15 - 20 years we can transform our society in a peace loving & worth living society.
Human Sep 04, 2012 09:28pm
I really don't understand, what the elected govt is doing in Pakistan. Why can't they start taking action one state at a time. This way they can clean up the whole country. Poor people, bad politicians...
Khan Sep 05, 2012 01:54pm
Chief Justice of Pakistan takes suo motu action against incidents of sectarian violence, will it help control the situation? this is the survey conducted by Dawn news. majority people voted NO. we have no faith in our goverment and we have no faith in the justice system either
Lixi Sep 08, 2012 03:28pm
I agree. Not enough people have suffered in the region. Carry on.
Deepesh Sep 03, 2012 06:03pm
Absolutely true...we as Indians feel very sorry for all the victims family.I hope this ends on both sides of the border and may Allah and Ram punish the murderers!!!
saad k Sep 03, 2012 04:38pm
though the story highlights some core issues, however there is a lot of exaggeration. the population of FATA according to 1998 census is approx 3.18 million. so if every second person has lost someone that makes it to about 1.59 million people at least. will the author comment on this.
Cyrus Howell Sep 03, 2012 06:50pm
"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." -- George Orwell
Purna Mishra Sep 04, 2012 04:29am
Please read it again. It says every second person has lost some one that does not mean that lost one is unique. For example in a family of 18, if one person is lost, then you could say that the other 17 people has lost someone. That lost someone does not have to be unique. Please do not comment half baked on serious topics.
Tamilselvan Sep 04, 2012 11:42am
Don't debate the statastics, look little bit more and see how many are suffering due to ethinic conflict in the "land of pure". Imagine if you have lost someone or someone you personally know has lost his limbs then you would understand the hatred mullahs are spreading in Pakistan
Raheel Adnan Sep 04, 2012 05:53am
Saad, you might have misunderstood the statement,
Neeraj Sep 04, 2012 01:25pm
pathanoo Sep 03, 2012 09:46pm
The poison of hatred has penetrated so deep in the Pakistani DNA that the cure might kill the patient. Welcome to the " Land of Pure - Pakistan."
Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam Sep 03, 2012 07:54pm
Thank you for the feedback Saad. The quote you mentioned does not talk about FATA alone but says "tribal areas". The entire North-Western belt is a tribal social setup. Secondly, the quote never suggested any statistics. Thirdly, it is an individual's quote based on her estimation. Fourth & last point would be that in a tribal community set-up, there are marriages within the communities and people are related to each in multiple ways. So yes, this quote would not be wrong. The number of people lost to violence in this area is heart-breaking. Do take a look at the timelines (see hyperlinks). Thank you.
Asif Sep 05, 2012 10:14am
The fact is that, innocent people are dying for no cause. Whether 1 or 1000, numbers not important. Just put yourself in the situation of a single family whose loved one killed by drone or infiltraters attacks. Will you justify if the drone kills someone in your neighbour and it kills you too??
saad k Sep 04, 2012 02:01pm
the timelines negate the quote. an individual's quote is being used in a sensationalist manner, anecdotal evidence as opposed to facts is never good. most importantly why were you interviewing gynea department personnel for a militancy story?the gynea dept drs dont treat blast victims per se. mr afridi last was there in jan 2012, so his quotes are quite old too. had you spoken with someone in the emergency department it would have made sense. using dated quotes isnt bringing the real picture to fore.
An Indian Sep 03, 2012 04:03pm
My sincere pray for all the victims.. In the fight for power innocent people are paying the price. Please clean the whole society of this cancer otherwise its evident how it will end..
Saleem Sep 03, 2012 09:19pm
I feel sad for my beloved Peshawar which are suffered so tremendously due to geopolitical games of Pakistani and foreign establishments.
s.subrahmanyam Sep 04, 2012 10:59am
Cyrus, I like your pithy comments. So true and so biting. Keep it up.
Vikas Sep 03, 2012 09:22pm
You guys should have realized this when supporting terrorism. Now suffer