The day the Taliban attacked my father
Death is very different from finishing a novel; both symbolise the end of something, the emotional attachment to both is poles apart. One similarity, however, between the death of a good person and the end of a good novel is that both leave a mark on your life.
It’s hard to realise the importance of some people, until one day you wake up to find out that those people are no more in your life. I understood this reality on June 26, 2013.
It was a very strange, sad day for me and my family.
The day started like any other.
My father, a judge by profession, left for work at 8am while I was still sleeping. Almost 20 minutes later, my older brother began banging on my door. Surprised at hearing his voice – he was supposed to have left for work with my father - I got off my bed and ran to open the door. My family was huddled up around the TV, pale as death.
After this, my whole life changed.
My father had been attacked by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. It had been about five or ten minutes since the bulletin had been aired – the longest minutes of our lives. But Baba survived the attack. Glued to the TV screen, we saw the camera shift towards Baba; he was severely injured but alive.
My father, along with a few other injured people (mostly security personnel), were taken to the Civil Hospital. Those who survived were shifted to Agha Khan.
Among the shaheed are two people I will never forget.
One was Saleem bhai, our driver, who was so much more to us and the other was Khalid, my father’s guard.
Both of these men were like family to us and I remember getting into many meaningless arguments with them. They were there for everything; every occasion, good or bad, these two men were always by our side.
Clad in a white shalwar kameez, Khalid bhai looked nothing less than a senior police officer with his Beretta shining in his hands. Saleem bhai, on the other hand, was a brave, selfless person. Long journeys never felt like a burden with him around; he would tell me tales of his childhood and I was so engrossed in the stories that the memory of time would just slip away.
Many a times, on different occasions, both of them told me that if a dangerous situation were to ever arise, they would be the first ones to sacrifice their lives for my father. That is exactly what they did.
It’s strange isn’t it, that you remember the tiniest of details about a person when they have gone? I remember Saleem bhai was never fond of mangoes. While everyone else would fight over the shred of pulp, Saleem bhai would not even touch them. A few days before the incident though, while having lunch, he asked for a bowl of mangoes. He said he had started liking the fruit.
He didn’t even make it to the coming mango season.
Every single day since the attack, I struggle to sleep at night. There are days when all I can think of is them and their faces. I had grown up in front of them and now all I have of them are countless memories.
Both of these men were Muslims and, above all, both were humans.
They were not involved in any sort of activism nor were they corrupt politicians or bureaucrats. And yet, they suffered. They suffered because they were honest brave men doing their jobs.
It is so sad and disturbing that there are still people among us who support the peace talks with the Taliban. It is a known fact that the Taliban is responsible for the killing of numerous Pakistanis, mostly Muslims. It is because of barbarians like them, who slaughter our army men and bomb our police officers, that today the youth of Pakistan is fleeing.
They are responsible for leaving thousands of women widowed, children orphaned, parents childless and families broken.
Just close your eyes and imagine for one second.
Do it earnestly!
Imagine losing your father, husband, brother, wife, sister, daughter, friend or even an acquaintance. Imagine them having been slaughtered or being blown up into pieces. Imagine the fear in their hearts and minds before the brutal killing takes place. All you have left are pieces of flesh and bone to signify their existence.
Open your eyes and tell me now, would you want to negotiate with these people?
I, for one, do not want any other Saleem or Khalid to die for no reason; I do not want anyone to go through multiple strings of surgeries, like my father did, and I do not want anyone to be confined to the four walls of their homes, like my family is now, out of fear.
It is high time we realise that the Taliban are extremists, they do not represent Islam, they cannot be trusted and we should not negotiate.