Villagers slept soundly only a feet away from the boundary wall of a yard where Nato vehicles were parked on Tuesday night. Dozens of houses rested on all three sides of the yard, in the village of Dhok Paracha.
Around 11:30 pm, the villagers awoke to the sound of heavy gunfire. Children began to cry out of fear. The gunfire turned into explosions towards midnight. A huge blaze set off outside the house of a villager, Muhammad Zahid. He feared his entire house would catch fire but was too scared to go outside. As soon as the situation was brought under control when police and rescue teams arrived at around 1 am, the residents packed up their belongings and fled. Most have still not returned.
After the terrorist attack on Nato supply trucks and oil tankers on Tuesday night that killed seven people, the village of Dhok Paracha is giving a near-deserted look, with the residents too scared to return to their homes.
“It was a horrible incident for us,” one villager said. “People are staying away because they fear these vehicles can be attacked again.”
Another resident, Abdul Rahim said, “We moved our families uphill a few meters away from the village. Some went to the nearby village for shelter; others have been sitting under the open sky.”
Islamabad administration is responsible for managing the area of Dhok Paracha. People blame the administration for the incident, terming the security arrangements insufficient.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed responded to people’s concerns and said, “Our rescue teams reached the yard immediately and got the situation under control. The area has been secured and there is no need to panic.”
Rahim said the entire yard had been engulfed in the fire and it had looked as if the fire-fighters could not control it.
“Initially we were certain that the fire would engulf our houses. Some people even moved some property to safer places,” Rahim said, adding that the rainy weather helped the fire-fighting effort to a great deal.
Another villager Abdul Rehman who went out of his house when the incident occurred said: “The heat was so intense that no one could go near the yard. People were running in panic.” Rehman rushed into a friend’s house for shelter. When the firing stopped, he ran out of the village.
He said that when the male members of the families later returned to their village to see what had happened, efforts to control the fire were underway. “The fire-fighters did a good job; they continued fighting the fire till morning and finally managed to put it out,” Rehman said.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 10th, 2010.