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

Published Jan 14, 2013 11:24am


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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


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (59) Closed

hitesh Jan 16, 2013 09:41am
Dear Salman, if you have killed our thousand soldiers in cross fire on the battle-ground then we would have appreciate bravery of enemy soldiers. But you know what did they do? Until you couldn't appreciate the sorrow and agony of Non-Muslims no Muslim could live in peace.Ammen !
Feroz Jan 15, 2013 03:10pm
These murderers and terrorists(whatever you call them) kill because they believe those they kill are Kafirs since they have been taught from childhood that Kafirs are evil. Those Muslims they do not agree with are also treated like Kafirs and eliminated. It is a question of upbringing and the kind of education provided that fills innocent Souls with hatred from a young age. It is very difficult to teach a hate filled adult compassion and love, it needs to be taught at a very early stage in life. The sermons being given in Mosques leave aside leading the faithful to spiritualism and enlightenment, often creates creatures with the violent mindset of the Taliban. Without control and regulation of Mosque and Madarasa and an immediate overhaul of the educational curriculum, change will not only remain evasive but levels of violence will likely increase.
abbastoronto Jan 14, 2013 07:28pm
AHA: AOA We have been living here in Canada/US for the last 45 years. When we came, no one asked what religion we were. 20 years ago they started asking whether I was a Christian or a Muslim. 10 years ago they started asking whether I am an Ahmedi, Sunni, or Shia. The awareness of Islam and its divisions are growing. And with the sectarian carnage in Iraq and Pakistan, the bereaved minorities (Christians, Hindu, Ahmedi, Shia) are now lobbying every government here to open the doors for them for asylum and immigration. And with the front page news the governments are beginning to listen. If the things go on they are, tomorrow, the people will be start asking the Sunnis whether they are Wahhabbi, Deobandi, Barelvi, Sufi, et al. Profiling is an advanced art here in the West. Best wishes
shirin Jan 14, 2013 02:16pm
They cannot be called Faithfuls, but can be called Sunnis. And they are. And till the Sunnis rise up, the whole world will will continue to call them Sunnis. The violence didn't just come out of the blue. Deep rooted prejudice has plagued our sunni community for a very long time. We have no loyalty to the prophet, we just have hate for all those who don't accept our way as the only way. Only the very arrogant kill.
Jay Jan 14, 2013 07:13pm
Interesting that you forgot Hindus, who have gone from 10 or more percent of Pakistan to 1-2 percent.
Feroz Jan 15, 2013 02:41pm
Aish, I do not think these terrorists killing citizens are non Muslim. Even if you dislike non Muslims should you blame them even though they were the first to be decimated ?
Salman Jan 16, 2013 09:04am
What a thought ! Alas whole world start thinking the way you mentioned probably we would have one religion/faith of LOVE, Affection, Supporting, Let Live and let living, a peaceful environment. Kudos to your thinking and your upbringing who taught you such high level of thoughts, I am upset to see negatavism into this good thought process as well.
POLICE Jan 15, 2013 02:18pm
And what about those on pak side? Need of the time is to identify the common enemy which is behind such merciless acts. i don't claim to have all people of friendly and kind nature on pakistan side, but please try to realize/identify enemies of humanity on your side too. Event of samjhota express, effectively, points out something; ''man'' involved in, was that not a common enemy?
khanm Jan 15, 2013 06:07am
Very well said. unfortunately it is infested in our heads from our child hood. We need to change even the way we are brought up including our education system. Thanks to Zia and his legacy he fortified it further.
Siby Kumar Jan 15, 2013 05:26am
Does it hurt when something like this happen to own people? Thank about those mother, wife and children whose only breadwinning member was beheaded by the soldiers of Pakistan. Try to solve your internal issues first before you dare to cross our border again.
Mehwish Jan 15, 2013 01:43pm
Failed state yet to provide Security to people of my country
Salman US Jan 15, 2013 03:32am
In karachi alone about 20 to 25 innocent people are killed every day in so called Target Killing, what you call this Jihad or violent culture?
shirin Jan 15, 2013 03:27am
Do you know in Portland, OR, there is only one Muslim cemetery. No Shia is allowed to be buried there. There was a case of a shia lady who miscarried. Her six month "unborn" fetus could not be buried in the cemetery because the mother was a shia. The Islamic society of Portland lists ALL the mosques in the greater Portland area, except... you got it, Shia mosque. Is this the sunnat of the prophet? who the heck are we kidding! But we are most most cordial to Americans. Oh, so honoured to have them be our guests. Acknowledging our deep rooted prejudice brother is not inciting hatred. Just because Sunni extremists have killed more sunnis than shias doesn't make them less of a problem. It is about time we swallow our pride and hang our heads in shame for what we are doing to ummat of the rasool
Tariq Jan 15, 2013 03:01am
Pakistan does not have a violent and jihadi culture. Its a group called Wahabis which have a violent culture. Al qaeeda, Taliban, lashkarr jhangvi, and Boko Haram in Nigeria or terrorist groups in Mali belong to Wahabism. They are modern day barbarians
AHA Jan 15, 2013 02:39am
Very well said.
abbastoronto Jan 15, 2013 02:41am
Correct. Those who wish ill on Muslims and Islam tried to create a Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and have failed, because the clergy of both sects got together and declared that it was a no-no. Pakistani ulema should do the same.
khanm Jan 15, 2013 11:10am
Talking heads and sleeping tongues what rest of the body does?
Salman US Jan 15, 2013 02:30am
Pakistan has a violent and jihadi culture today. There is no such thing as humanity or religious in Pakistani society unlike western countries. Unfortunately I don't see any future of Shias and other minorities in Pakistan. The violence against innocent people will get worse and the government and the army is not interest in stopping and getting rid off it. In think Zahra and Sidra are courageous women they are surviving despite of these enormous tragedies.I agree with the writer how can human corpses and the acrid smell of explosives lead the way to paradise?
AHA Jan 14, 2013 04:58pm
One big difference. The 19th century Russia was full of reason, and not just full of despair. They had hope. We don't.
AHA Jan 14, 2013 04:55pm
All Muslims, and not just Sunnis, have suffered because of the extremism. When I travel, the immigration staff does not ask me if I am a Sunni. They just look at my name, a very Muslims name, and forward me to a 'special' queue. But I agrre with the spirit of your post. Thumbs up.
AHA Jan 14, 2013 04:46pm
If the "time and place is fixed" as you say, then the murderers are not guilty of any crime. The 'time and place' of their actions was also 'fixed'.
smhusain1 Jan 14, 2013 03:49pm
I grew up in Lahore in the fifties and sixties and cannot comprehend the madness enveloping Pakistan for the last thirty years. There has no improvement in literacy, the uneducated mullah has access to the media through the microphone and the internet and is sowing hatred all over the country. Where is all the money coming from needs to be curtailed, in Somalia and Sri Lanka,, the insurgency died when Canada stopped the flow of funds. Whatever the reasons, the grandson of the prophet was not spared and we Muslims, especially in Pakistan have become tools for this tussle between extremism. Why is this problem not present in Malaysia, Indonesia and even India. I have been very optimistic for the future of Pakistan with all its problems but I must say, I am losing that confidence. Why has Pakistan taken the mantle as spokesman of the entire Muslim brotherhood? What are the qualifications for this?
Aish Jan 15, 2013 12:53am
Probably Pak needs to immediately get rid of sick & corrupt Politicians who are unable to ensure safety and security with proper law & order in the country. Bring a change like other revolution by getting in fresh & healthy minds without being orthodox who understand religion as the way of living not way of killing be it Muslim, Sindhi, Christian, Hindu, etc. No religion teaches to kill others including ISLAM. How these un-religious, so called Mullah, NON muslim terrorists want to justify themselves by seeing the disturbed & devastated families, crippled economics, unemployed youths, innocent children, infants without mothers or father, aged parents without the loved ones, is impossible to answer those calls from the bottom of anyones heart. Message to them.. Please start living by making this world a better one, so the generations to come could appreciate. We have enough of other natural, uninvited problems to solve...why to create haterd on the name of religion. Just practice religion the way you want not make others to follow you in either way. Let the freedom prevail to think, all are blessed for some message of Allah, Jesus, Rama,... Just listen to that...Sincere request to all my misled brothers, come to the peace ! Amen.
shuaib Jan 14, 2013 01:39pm
Whatever you wrote is absolutely correct and words cannot explain the agony with which relatives of the martyres will pass through in their lives. If you just look at the headline picture, it will tell that a mother is holding head of her daughter who just lost her soul to stay and wait at some place before she will question her death on the judgement day. For the mother, she is seeing her dreams, her hope, plans of her wedding, her children; everything shattered!!!! Before 80's, we were not used to see this brutality. The Afghan War and the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Iran into the affairs of Pakistan has brought us here. Please keep both these countries out of our affairs and we may get back to living like we used to. One more thing, there were 120 deaths in Quetta, out of which 85 were Hazaras Muslims brothers and sisters; please when you write such things, do mention killing of Muslims. It will help a lot, if you could realise.
pkdesigns Jan 14, 2013 03:00pm
Peace is the right of every one!
shuaib Jan 14, 2013 02:57pm
err... correction... please read as "do call killing of Muslims (instead of just Hazaras)"
Foha Rafiq Jan 14, 2013 02:59pm
It does not matter if Muslim or not! This is the problem of this country... Muslim Muslim Muslim!! For God Sake it does not matter! Even if they weren't the fact that an innocent HUMAN life is taken is something to write about!
Ahmad Shah Jan 14, 2013 09:49pm
Yazid and his army in Karbala were Muslims and so are the people who killed the innocents in Quetta. Islam is a peaceful religion but not the Muslims of today. They are worst than Changez Khan. I have no more hope, it will get worse by day.
aabdul Jan 14, 2013 09:35pm
Both Sunnis and Shias scholars beleive in peaceful coexistance. WoW! But why do they send their warriors to other nations to kill indescriminately?
abbastoronto Jan 14, 2013 09:32pm
You are right. The Pakistani Hindus, a particularly oppressed minority, have not been very vocal in the past. But they are beginning to make waves too.
aabdul Jan 14, 2013 09:32pm
aabdul Jan 14, 2013 09:29pm
Profiling takes on amazing turn in Pakistan. Ahmedis are declared not equal to Sunnis. Shiites are blown to pieces. Christians are jailed on false accusations and Hindus are simply thrown out of the country. Soon music, dancing, movies, theaters, art and education will be banned. Compared to this hell in Pakistan, both US and Canada appear like heaven to Pakistani Muslims. That is why you reside in Canada.
aabdul Jan 14, 2013 09:24pm
Well said. Most Pakistanis believe they are Arabs. But Arabs treat them worse than Indians. Why is this mad obsession with religion?
aabdul Jan 14, 2013 09:21pm
When I read such articles, I always wonder why this angle was never considered when sending fighters to other parts of the world, where they engaged in similar activities that resulted in many innocent people get blown to pieces. What a shame that humans grieve only when bad things happen to their people.
stranger Jan 14, 2013 12:43pm
How can human corpses and the acrid smell of explosives lead the way to paradise ? True True.
Goga Nalaik Jan 14, 2013 03:11pm
OMG I'm in tears and no word to express my anger
Cyrus Howell Jan 14, 2013 03:15pm
Pakistan or 19th century Russia?
abbastoronto Jan 14, 2013 03:16pm
In the emerging era of Globalization and Free Trade, travel is a necessity of survival. Pakistani Sunnis do not realize what the extremists among them are doing to their prospects of a visa abroad. 20 years ago the world knew only one word
Cyrus Howell Jan 14, 2013 03:20pm
Assuming God created paradise for murders the will go there. The Gates of Paradise will be guarded by men with AK-47 assault rifles and clerics will have index fingers three meters long.
Anis Jan 16, 2013 08:55am
Well written, hope it would convey the message in the intented spirit !
Dia Jan 14, 2013 03:24pm
Made me cry. Heart breaking. Eye opener. Cherish your loved ones.
Cyrus Howell Jan 14, 2013 03:26pm
Time and place is not fixed. Predestination does not compute. If it did the people of Pakistan would be puppets on earth and puppets again in paradise. Hell will be filled with Talking Heads, each telling the others what Gods plans are. There are spaces reserved for those who do too much lecturing.
SOS Jan 14, 2013 03:35pm
You are playing into terrorist hand who are killing indiscremently. They have killed more SUNNIS then SHIAS. By Killing Shias, they want to start a Shia/Sunni clash and if they have it their way... one will start very soon, unless the sane among us call their bluff. Both Sunnis and Shias scholars beleive in peaceful coexistance. Sunnis and Shias should not even hurt each others feelings and respect each other belief, let alone causing physical pain. So dont insite hatred with your keyboard...
Cyrus Howell Jan 14, 2013 03:43pm
It seems God has no time now to judge billions of people on the last day. He was able to handle a small number of Hebrews and the original followers of the Prophet. Unfortunately quantity is not quality and Muslims are not Ibrahim. Who are you fooling? Only the Fools of this earth speak for God. They just cannot help themselves because their intellectual lives are barren and they torture others in mind and body for entertainment. The seeds of bitter fruit will never blossom in Paradise and it will be cut down in this world. God may have begun again on another planet where intelligent creatures listen and do not bore Him with their egos.
Richard Jan 15, 2013 07:40am
You r right
Salman US Jan 15, 2013 09:19pm
There is a difference between a soldier and an innocent civilian, a soldier lives by the gun and dies by the gun, where as civilians were killed by terrorist thats why it is sad and tragic unlike your soldiers.By the way India started provocation by killing a Pakistani soldier and also LOC is not an International border for you info
I.A. Siddiqui Jan 14, 2013 12:13pm
No death is untimely, as time and place is fixed. No doubt the agony of death of a loved one is one of the most difficult times one can face. But the only way for solace is to revert to ALLAH. People who are involved into such heinous crimes of murder & loot cannot be called faithfuls.
nathan Jan 15, 2013 04:01pm
Dear all, first my deepest condolences to all who laid their life in the recent suicide attack, the so called radicals have to be brought to book, ISI and Pakistan Army should go hand in hand and arrest all who did this barbaric act. if action not taken now by the army nobody can save pakistan. i
Sunil Jan 15, 2013 05:37pm
First they came for the Hindus, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Hindu Then they came for the Christians and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Christian Then they came for the Sikhs, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade Sikh. Then they came for the Ahmedis, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Ahmedi. Then they came for the Shiyas, d I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Shiya. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Mohdudul Huq Jan 15, 2013 06:39pm
Enemy of Pakistan to destablize the country by creating a major social conflicts between different ethnic and regegious groups. Enemies of Pakistan have already stron bases all over the country and finances by non-Muslim countries.
Jalebi Jan 15, 2013 07:28pm
Dear brother it is not about Wahabism. For example i am a what people call a Deobandi. But unlike the Taliban i am not killing people. Muslims are people who believe in submission to Allah( In order to creat inner peace) No Muslim would kill someone else for just thinking a different way. Only people blinded by hate and noo knowledge about islam.
Ali Jan 15, 2013 08:06pm
Sister Faiza, thanks for writing the voice of our hearts. We really need writers like you to atleast play their role positively through their writings. We really do not seem to care until we lose someone of our own. We have truely become Zombies and our hearts seem to be losing sensitivity every passing moment.
Ali Jan 15, 2013 08:07pm
Bravo Sunil !!! 10 thumbs up for you.
Osama Ahmed Jan 16, 2013 12:31am
I agree with you % 100 thumbs up..
Osama Ahmed Jan 16, 2013 12:33am
Faiza you did it. you wrote this blog awh it made me cry.
Muhammad Haris Jan 16, 2013 12:52am
Sunil you are right that is good to mention that i am not shiya but sunil said right thing that when we suffered of these types of tragic then we realize that importance of every person for their families. Now we should be think about the humanity and we should not be allowed to do any person in.
Ahsan Siddiqui Jan 16, 2013 05:43am
Nicely put up,the article brought tears in my eyes as well.Hopefully,one day we will have a safe Karachi and safe Pakistan.
Syed Jan 16, 2013 06:08am
That's one brave lady in the story up there, to lose a father and than a husband and still be able to talk about it, she deserves our utmost respect. Faiza, you are touching the line that fanatics are not fan of, stay safe and kudos to your strength as well.
Ali Jan 16, 2013 07:38am
Jalebi! being a Shia myself, I respect your opinion & agree with it too. I have many deobandi friends and I dont see them as my enemies at allrather brother in faith. We may have small differences and we can wait for the day of judgement for Allah to get it all settled,and my heart says as long as we are obeying the Almighty in 'huqooqul Ibaad' (rights of humans) & huqooqul Allah (rights of Allah), Allah is all merciful to judge us fairly on those ground, rather than the small differences we make a big deal about. These are only few groups trying to create a havoc around the world by killing not only Shias, but christians. hindus and people from other faith. Being a Muslim I have learnt to respect them all on the very grounds of Humanity.