“If it had been the prime minister’s son instead of mine, would he have spared the owners?” asked Mohammad Sharif as tears gushed down his face.
Sharif’s eldest son, Hanif, who had a speech and hearing impairment, was among the hundreds of victims who died muted deaths as flames licked the top floor of the factory.
Hanif, 21, worked as a machine operator at Ali Enterprises and despite the disability, was working to contribute to his household with aims to build a roof over his almost mud-plastered house in Ittehad Town.
“My son had small wishes. He wanted to construct rooms and get married,” said the white-bearded Sharif as he choked back his grief on a charpoy (bed) borrowed from a neighbour. The family of nine had been cramming into a single room for the past 25 years. But, Hanif was going to change that; his savings were dedicated to changing the conditions his family lived in.
As the family deals with the loss of Hanif, the news of the murder charges being dropped only adds to their woes. “If the owners are set free, we will lodge murder cases individually. Then we will see how they escape,” said Bashir, Hanif’s uncle.
Shahida Parveen, who dwells with her three children in front of Sharif’s house, was left a widow by the Baldia Town fire.
“I spend every night cursing the owners and weeping. Why didn’t the owners die in the fire? Why was it only the poor?” she said.
Shahida’s husband, Akmal worked as a supervisor at the stitching floor. The family lost their sole breadwinner with Akmal’s death.
“Only God knows how I am living. I don’t have money to buy milk for my children.”
“My father is alive because when people die they go to the graveyard, and my father is not in the graveyard,” said Akmal’s eldest son as Shahida’s eyes well up with tears. The family has yet to receive Akmal’s body, despite providing DNA samples on three different occasions, Shahida explained.
Behind the burnt factory, Imran, who lost his brother Javed and sister-in-law Samina, has taken up to two jobs to look after three children left behind by the deceased. Like Sharif and Shahida’s family, he has yet to receive his brother’s and Samina’s body.
“Every day there is an atmosphere of mourning in the house. And if those responsible for locking the doors, and keeping the people behind grilled windows escape, then how will we face our loved ones on the day of judgement,”he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2013.