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A descent into darkness: The plight of the victims’ families

January 14, 2013

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January 10, 2013 can be considered as one of the deadliest days in the history of Pakistan when militants turned Quetta and Swat into an abattoir, killing scores of Pakistanis in two different provinces. The tragic incidents reduced some of us to tears, left most of us appalled and cringing with disgust and some completely devastated. However, those of us, who remain directly unaffected by the terrorist attacks, will move on with their lives clutching on to the hope that God considers them too special to put them in the line of fire.

Unfortunately, for many Pakistanis viewing terrorist attacks as bygones is not that easy.

“In 2004, I lost my father in a suicide attack at an Imam Bargah located on M A Jinnah Road. He went out to offer Maghrib prayers and never returned. We heard a loud explosion and the windows and doors of our apartment shook. We knew instantly that it was a bomb attack and the sound was out of the ordinary,” said Zehra*, who lost her father when she was only a young child.

“The sound made me and my mother rush to the Imam Bargah to inquire about what happened. The only analogy that can describe that scene is hell on earth. All we could see were corpses and blood splattered everywhere. Some worshipers were crying, others were running and many were lying on the ground in agony, unable to move. Under any other circumstance, we would have passed out from sheer shock but we were compelled to find any sign of the man who was the backbone of our family.  Unfortunately, we could not find him, at least, not alive,” she added.

“The first several weeks were almost paranormal. All of us harboured a secret anguish that we would see him striding in through the front door just as we saw him off on that last day. Dealing with the death of a loved one is always agonising but when you really understand that the death was untimely then it is even more heart-wrenching; you keep wondering why you were picked to suffer. I think his death made me a very bitter and pessimistic person and I don’t see that changing, ever,” said Zehra with an intense feeling of hatred and injustice.

Daughters, mothers, wives, fathers and sons who have been traumatised by the spate of terror that has left Pakistan paralysed, are unable to find justice anywhere. It seems that their plight is insignificant to the radical elements ruling the order of the day.

“I got married in January of 2009 and my husband was killed on December 28 of the same year in a suicide attack. People say that no one dies with a loved one but I certainly did. It has been more than three years since he passed away and there has never been a day when I don’t think that I should have been killed instead of him because the life I live now is a lot worse than death,” said a 29-year-old woman on condition of anonymity.

“I want to ask these people who indoctrinate young minds and prepare them for such attacks that what kind of jihad is this? If they think my miserable life and the deaths of countless innocent Pakistanis can lead them to the so-called heaven then I do not think that their heaven is worth it. Nothing is worth reliving death every day the way we do,” added she.

She ended the conversation by saying “I will hold their collars on the day of judgment. I will never forgive them for what they did to me and there will come a day when they will pay for their grotesque crimes.”

Her words were the real depiction of her resentment and made me think how can human corpses and the acrid smell of explosives lead the way to paradise? Do not all religions propagate peace and encourage people to celebrate and respect God’s creations in all their forms? Are the crying faces, crippled youths, screaming bodies the achievements that humanity can boast of to attain eternal glory? The puppets and the puppeteers — responsible for staging such horrifying events — deserve the highest punishment in all worlds.

Religious and revered places are not the only targets of attackers as when and where they strike is not controlled by rules or principles. In late September of 2008, a dump truck filled with explosives detonated in front of Islamabad’s famous tourist destination and accommodation — Marriott Hotel. The “rationale” behind the attack was perhaps to target the foreigners and American citizens, however, the attack claimed the lives of at least 48 people and most of the killed were Pakistanis.

“My brother was invited for a dinner at Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on the unfortunate night of September 20, 2008. He died along with other 40 or so people and our lives changed irrevocably. I still remember him being so full of life, preparing to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) to apply for a US scholarship. All it took was one fundamentalist group’s vendetta against the elites and foreigners to cut his life short and leave us devastated for life,” said Sidra*.

“It is very difficult to put all my emotions into words but every time I hear about suicide attacks and the entailing gruesome deaths, it reminds me of him. What is worse is that every day another sister like me is crying for her brother, a mother like mine is willing to move heaven and earth just to see a glimpse of her baby and a father is left remorseful, wondering about a life where his son would be spared to share his burdens,” she added, her voice choking with emotion.

“I hold the government as much accountable as the militants because they conveniently acquit the culprits due to supposed lack of evidence and then the investigation abruptly comes to a halt. Unless all the fascist groups are extradited from Pakistan, we will continue to witness such barbaric crimes,” she added.

The sadness and deprivation in their voices was so intense that I wanted to ask the merchants of death how can they find heaven by spreading such hatred and death? Isn’t the smile on their wrinkled and lonely faces worth more than a thousand such heavens? Are their tears and drops of blood any different from the fundamentalists who strive hard to ensure their eviction from the world? Why don’t these merciless beasts realise that they do not have any right to destroy human lives?

I only have one message for these faceless murderers who are destroying our heaven every day for the paradise that they will never see. I wish they could understand that our faith and school of thought — regardless of how different that may be from the radical elements — demand equal respect. We do not deserve to die the death that they plan for us and be buried in mass graves with our extremities missing.

Our children deserve to go to school and come back unscathed. Our brothers and sons do not deserve to die in their prime youth. We all have the right to live safe, peaceful lives without succumbing to the fear of an untimely end.

We deserve to live.

*Identities concealed for security reasons.

 


Faiza Mirza
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com