There were whispers of another blast near Gora Qabristan around noon, where Christians were protesting. Panic ensued and all those present were asked to leave the premises.
However, journalists at the site assured people there had been no blast, trying to pacify them.
The scores of protesters stopped running. People felt a calming, yet chilling, relief.
“No one knows how long this fear will haunt us,” said Pastor Zia Pervez, adding that they will reopen the church after the three-day mourning period.
But, he is not so sure about the service.
In his office, Pervez recalled what he heard and saw at the time of the blast. It was around 11:15 am on Sunday when he concluded the service at church.
Pervez left the nave and went to his office, adjacent to northern transept of the church. He had just taken off his gown when he heard the two blasts in close succession, shaking the whole structure to its foundation.
When he made his way to the courtyard, he saw bodies everywhere and heard anguished cries of the injured.
He remembers two injured girls, who died before someone could fetch water for them. It took about 10 minutes for the rescue staff to arrive that moved the victims to the Lady Reading Hospital.
“The coffins started to arrive at around 4:00 pm and continued till 10:00 pm,” he said. “There seemed no end to it.”
Barbed wire and bloodstains
The All Saints’ Church, Peshawar, is located at the junction of Mohammad Ali Johar Road and Koochi Bazaar, inside Kohati Gate. Roads leading to the church have been closed with barbed wire, where a heavy contingent of police stands guard.
In Koochi Bazaar, the predominantly Muslim tailors’ union put up a banner illustrating its sympathy with the grieving Christians of the neighbourhood. “We strongly condemn this shameful act,” read a sign raised by the Sikh community.
Inside, a large number of people were sitting under a tent in the courtyard. Patches of dried blood still dotted the redbrick courtyard, the walls pockmarked with shrapnel. The carpet was littered with glass, debris and stains of blood. Women continued to weep in the nave, while offering prayers for the slain.
Five of the 83 killed were Anwar Ghauri’s relatives. He arrived in Peshawar from Lahore on Monday after he received the news of his relatives’ death.
He went inside the church and felt silent after what he witnessed. “Religion does not allow this kind of bloodshed,” he murmured.
Griffin Masih, a resident of Phandu Road, was ‘luckier’. His family members left the church a little before the blasts. Most of the poor had stayed behind for food, which was being distributed outside the church after Mass, he explained.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2013.