The bomb blast that shattered my life

Maybe it was fate that I found myself standing on the other side of the table at the morgue, looking for my loved ones

Shahzeb Hasan January 15, 2013
“Bhai jaan, there’s been a blast here!”

These were the words uttered by my injured little brother as he managed to call me for a brief moment, before the line dropped.

What followed were perhaps some of the darkest moments in my life, characterised by feelings of intense hurt, hatred, helplessness and a river of tears, so overwhelming that it took me more than three years to muster the strength and courage to put those memories down on paper.

For the past 40 years my family (a mixture of Shias and Sunnis - if you must use those titles) has been gathering on the day of Ashura to provide those participating in the annual procession with refreshments as they make their way to their destination -refreshments that we would make and distribute with our own hands.

December 28, 2009, was not supposed to be any different.

I bid farewell to my family as they walked out the front door and headed towards MA Jinnah road. Little did I know that 2009 was to be the year in which the lives of each and every member of my family would be changed forever.

The bomb was an IED (improvised explosive device) placed inside an unsuspecting box meant for donations, right next to the boy scouts tent where my family would collect.

At around 4:15pm it was detonated as the procession reached the tent, launching shrapnel and ball bearings in all directions.

In the wake of the bomb 49 unfortunate souls (10 out of which were sunnis, for those who assume that the procession consists only of shias) including my taya (eldest paternal uncle) and tayee (eldest paternal uncle’s wife) lost their lives. Countless were left injured.

My brother suffered from a wound on his head which took 23 stitches to bind. My cousin, too suffered severe injuries on her leg and my phupho (paternal aunt) required reconstructive surgery on her face and back, such was the magnitude of her wounds.

Maybe it was fate in the form of a deadline that kept me home on that dreadful day. And maybe it was fate that I found myself standing on the other side of the table at the morgue looking for my loved ones; I really don’t know.

What I do know is that it was fate that brought my aunt and uncle together a second before the blast. They were inseparable in this life and the next.

Personally for me, the most gut wrenching part of this whole ordeal was watching my family in dire straits. I had to hide the truth from my cousin. I had to tell her that her parents were fine, when in fact they were lying in the morgue. The doctors had advised us that any distress that might cause her to use her leg at that moment would lead to it being amputated.

So, for a week I found myself wiping my tears and putting on a fake smile as I walked into her hospital room pretending like everything was just fine.

The point of narrating this incident is not to gain sympathy in terms of being a victim of sectarian and religious violence; my family finds solace in the fact that they were martyrs in the name of Islam and Pakistan.

I just want to highlight some of the deep rooted thoughts that this incident gave birth to and that have been plaguing my mind ever since.

As much as it pains me to see citizens of our country being subjugated, suppressed and killed by tyrants who seek to divide our nation on religious and sectarian grounds, It takes two to promote tyranny, the oppressor and the ones being oppressed. It is imperative that we resist this oppression and continue to stand united as a nation in these dark times.

We must continue to battle these tyrants in whatever capacity that we can; if we do not have the strength to oppose them with our actions we need to fight them with our words, and if we lack the courage to do so, we must fight them with our thoughts and prayers.

It overwhelms me to see the solidarity being shown by the citizens of Pakistan, whether that is through social media or in the form of a protest. Enough blood has been shed and its time we pay heed to the plight of those who have lost their loved ones at the hands of these animals.

Despite having gone through similar events, I cannot even imagine what the protesters in Quetta must be going through as they stage in their protest, braving the cold in the quest for justice.

I humbly request all those who come across this post, do recite a small prayer for those who have lost their lives as a result of sectarian and religious violence. I was once told, that in order to bring about a change around us “We must first and foremost bring a change within ourselves.”

Let’s stand united for the sake of Pakistan, Islam and above all humanity. The powers of unity and faith can surely trump the forces of evil.

I don’t claim to be a good human being, a pious Muslim, an agent of change or an articulate writer for that matter. In fact, what I am is a heartbroken yet optimistic Pakistani who would like to believe that there is still a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

Rest in peace Jugnoo Abu and Bhabhi.

You will always live on in our hearts and minds.

Shahzeb Hasan An impulsive writer and an avid reader, who seeks to see change around him.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.