“You know, my friends would often say, you live next to Chaudhry Aslam Khan, it could be hazardous. But I would just shrug it off and think that perhaps that made my house safer.”
Shahzad doesn’t believe this any more. Monday morning’s suicide bomb attack has taught this neighbour of CID SSP Chaudhry Aslam that it doesn’t matter where you live in Karachi, when they want to get you, they will. And he isn’t the only one on the block who’s realised this after eight people were killed in the attack that the Tehreek-i-Taliban have claimed as revenge for the top investigator’s arrests of their men.
For one, neighbour Shakir Dadabhoy, never imagined a bomb blast would happen in DHA, which he considered much safer than the rest of the city. His son’s driver Anwar Khan and his son were killed.
“My son did express concerns that we might be at risk as neighbours of such a high-profile police official,” he said. “Anything could happen. But as neighbours, we are in good terms with Chaudhry Aslam Khan, who, as a matter of fact, mostly stayed busy [and away].”
After the CID’s Civil Lines office behind PIDC was bombed in a brazen attack in November last year, a debate opened fleetingly on whether such sensitive places should be located in densely populated areas. The vice principal of the nearby Washington International School, Arifa Awan, is now questioning why she didn’t know more about her neighbours, especially since one of the them was fighting the Taliban.
“We didn’t even know that an officer who was on the hit list of so many terrorist organisations was living so close to our school,” she said, adding that all she knew was that some police officer lived there. “Had we known that there was a terrorist threat against the officer, we would have advised parents, teachers and students to avoid that road and asked them to come from the opposite direction.” One of her teachers, Mumtaz Khan and her son Moeed were killed in the attack.
Owais and Dr Tabbasum, who live right behind Aslam’s bungalow, will now have to pay for the damage to their house. Tabbassum picked on Home Minister Manzoor Wassan and asked what compensation he has announced for the families whose houses have been severely damaged. “People like Aslam shouldn’t be living in a residential area like this,” she said, tempering her lament with gratitude that the SSP’s family didn’t come to harm.
Aside from the deaths, the damage runs into the hundreds of thousands of rupees. At least a dozen cars, handful of motorcycles, a police mobile van and Aslam’s VIGO jeep were damaged. The spot where the bomb exploded looks like an under-construction swimming pool.
People living two streets down are still clearing up the glass. “Who will pay for these damages?” asked Samar Aijaz. “My husband is retired and the bill for repairs will run into the hundreds of thousands. How will we afford it?”
Those living closer to the SSP’s residence had a more intense experience. Sajida Shahid Peer’s house is now missing a front door. “A lot of money will go into the repairs and as usual DHA will not assist us with anything – from the repair of the road to ensuring a water supply to our house,” she said.
Orders were placed throughout the day for residents desperate to replace their windows. “We’ve been cleaning up the glass and asking the guy to take window measurements,” said neighbour Dr Altaf Hashmi’s son Ammar. “We can’t survive the dust and mosquitoes. But this loss is peanuts compared to the SSP’s immediate neighbours whose main door, furniture, windows, cars, everything has been finished.” In fact, two new houses, whose owners were just putting on the finishing touches, were reduced to rubble.
with additional reporting by zimyad ahmed and tooba masood
For pictures from the blast site, view slideshow here
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2011.