“You might have seen that picture of May 12 with the bodies of four men lying on a road near a silver car. I am the one in the white shalwar kameez.”
Iqbal H is referring to only the most famous image from that day five years ago. He was shot six times.
“The terrorists left me for dead but I have survived,” said Iqbal. (His name and residence have been withheld as he considers his life still at risk).
He and one of his friends, Umer S, had gone along with hundreds of people from their neighbourhood to welcome the suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry at the airport. However, when they reached Kala Board at Malir, shooters lying in wait unleashed a hail of bullets on the procession. “We got trapped near the railway track.”
“Two wounded men were already lying beside our car and I put them in it, but as we moved forward the shooters opened rapid fire at us and we had to stop. They then came and shot me five times inside the car and shot dead the three outside the car.”
A noted reporter with one of Pakistan’s largest private news channels was filming the violence at the spot. He pointed to Iqbal and told one of the shooters that he was still alive. The man with the gun dragged Iqbal out of the car and fired a sixth bullet into his right arm. “I didn’t flinch even though the bullet was extremely painful,” Iqbal said. “My eyes were open while I was in the car but I just could not close them, which is why when the gunmen kicked me out of the car I tried to cover my face with my shirt to hide my eyes.” Iqbal figured that they would give him away as being alive.
The men with guns left when a vehicle carrying journalists came to take pictures before passing on. “Then a child came to me and shook my head,” recalled Iqbal. “I told the child that I was alive and he needed to ask someone to take me to hospital.” He was taken to a nearby shop by men. There were already three other injured men there. Iqbal lay there for half an hour before he was able to get treatment.
“When they were shooting me, I heard the sound of the Azaan from a mosque,” said Iqbal. “I thought it would be the last Azaan of my life.” He was shot in the legs, right hand and chest. His friend Umer never made it.
After ten days in hospital, Iqbal finally went home. His health has since recovered but he is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. “After May 12, I forget things, sometimes I even forget the names of my two children. That hurts the most.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.