PESHAWAR: The elections this year were supposed to be a contest which, if nothing else, were supposed to vanquish the memories of 2013 when terrorism cast a dark shadow on all political activities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
But Haji Muhammad Gul, affectionately known as Da Gul Haji by residents of the Azeemabad Beruni locality in Yakatoot, became an accidental host of an election rally that ended in disaster, least of all for himself and four members of his family as they perished alongside 20 people as the rally was targeted by a suicide bomber.
“Haji Muhammad Gul had travelled to Peshawar almost five decades ago from the Essa Khel area of Mohmand,” said a relative of Gul.
He added that Gul was a self-made man who built a successful business around money changing and made quite a bit of money.
Gul has five children with his eldest son operating a pharmacy while his youngest son still going to school.
Around 10 years ago he shifted to the Azeemabad area of Yakatoot in what was a move to a better house.
There, his neighbour Aurangzeb was an active supporter of the Awami National Party (ANP) and had close ties with the Bilour family.
When elections rolled around, their entire street was decked out in party flags and other paraphernalia. An election office was also established in the area for Haroon Bilour, who was contesting from the provincial assembly constituency of PK-78.
Gul opted to co-host the corner meeting for Bilour, arranging for the chairs and refreshment for what proved to be a warm evening. He even invited his close relatives to attend.
“There was an unusual enthusiasm amongst the party workers as well as Haroon Bilour,” Gul’s relative noted, adding that Bilour had lost his father, ANP stalwart Bashir Bilour, in the run-up to the 2013 elections in a narrow alleyway at the end of a corner meeting not unlike the one where Haroon had just arrived. Of course, Haroon had escaped an attack himself in the Yakatoot area along with his uncle former federal minister Ghulam Ahmed Billour during the 2013 general elections.
“There were fireworks and jubilation when Haroon reached the corner meeting. He left his vehicle to greet his party workers who were chanting slogans to greet him. When he reached the street where the corner meeting had been arranged, the suicide attacker hit, killing him and Haji Muhammad Gul on the spot along with others,” Gul’s relative narrated.
The attack injured dozens and left at least 20 people dead.
Once the dust settled, relatives could not locate Gul’s 10-year-old nephew Wahab Farid Gul. He was presumed missing until his remains were identified on Wednesday afternoon. He was buried with his other relatives.
“Muhammad Gul and his nephew Wahab lived in the same street where they were killed,” he said.
Other relatives of Gul who were in attendance included Hazarat Hussain, his brother Khalid Hussain and their 60-year-old uncle Musafar.
All the five were close relatives. Hailing from the same area in Mohmand.
Unlike Gul, who was a wealthy man, his relatives were not quite as well-off.
“Hazrat Hussain was a naswar and cigarette seller and operated a small cabin at Chowk Yadgaar for the past 15 years. He was well-known amongst the residents since he worked mostly at night,” claimed a neighbour.
“Hazrat Hussain’s brother Khalid Hussain operated a small general store while their relative Musfar was living a retired life,” he added.
“They were friends and family members who had embraced martyrdom together too,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2018.