Ayaz Khan’s joy knows no bounds. He got a brand new rickshaw where he was looking at a future filled with hunger and suffering.
His old rickshaw, also his sole source of income, was burnt by rioters in Peshawar during recent protests over a sacrilegious film.
While a humanitarian group got him a brand new rickshaw free of charge, Khan’s happy ending is marked with memories of his old rickshaw being reduced to a frame of soot.
Khan says he will never forget the day he parked the three-wheeler inside the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) building.
“My friend works as a security guard at the CCI, so I parked my rickshaw there as I could not afford to park it elsewhere or take it home daily,” he told The Express Tribune.
The next day he could not get to the office due to the riots. He went to the CCI building as soon as the protests calmed down. “To my utter shock, my rickshaw had turned to ashes. There was nothing left of it,” he said.
Khan, a heart patient and father of two, has been driving a rickshaw in Peshawar for the past five years. Money has always been short. “I lost my eldest daughter to typhoid. I had no money for her treatment,” he said.
And with his rickshaw gone, things could only get worse. He registered an FIR with the police. He tried to get attention of the authorities.
He also tried approaching Bashir Ahmad Bilour, member of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assembly, during his visit to the CCI building, but could not get through.
It was then when a group of retired Pakistan Air Force pilots came forth and bought a new rickshaw for Khan. Agha Saeed Anwar, part of the group that helped Khan said that on the day of the riots, many suffered damages but the ones affected the most were the poor as they were the most vulnerable.
Many lost their only source of income, with no one to compensate them for their losses — The K-P government said it does not have funds to pay people for their losses.
The impending tragedy in his life might have been averted, but Khan is all too well aware of the many people that failed to get help. “What is the fault of the poor, what have we done to have our properties destroyed?”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.