KARACHI: Every year on the day after Eid, Muhammad Hanif takes his family to the beach. This year, they had a change of plans and headed to Bin Qasim Park instead as the provincial government had restricted access.
Since the drowning incidents at the beach, many people and the city administration have become wary and have asked people to avoid it. The day took a tragic turn for Hanif and his family as his son fell into an open manhole at the park and died.
Two-year-old Shehzad lived with his parents in Old Kalri, Lyari, and was crawling around in the park when he fell in an open water line on Thursday evening.
His mother said that she was watching his movements but she did not notice the open manhole since it was covered in grass.
His body was recovered after six hours without any help from the park administration.
According to Shehzad's mother Lubna, the child fell into the gutter in front of her eyes. "He was crawling," she said. "I did not check if there was a ditch or hole in the area where he was crawling." She added that she ran to her child when she saw something was wrong. The other family members also ran. Everyone was confused as they could not find the boy.
Her relative, Ghulam Mustafa told The Express Tribune that no one was sure if the boy could crawl into the gutter. "We were crying," he said. "We ran around asking for help but there was no one.
The administration and guards were nowhere to be found." He added that the police got there after several phone calls were made but did not help the family find the boy.
The family finally got the help they needed by asking other visitors. It took six hours but they managed to get the body out after digging a hole around the gutter. Mustafa claimed that they had to arrange for a suction machine and managed to get the body out by 11:45pm. The body was taken to Ziauddin Hospital where the doctors confirmed the death.
"The staff was not available," said parks and horticultural department director-general of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Abdul Haseeb Siddiqui. "Our staff has not been paid yet," he said, adding that the park's administration had not informed him about the incident.
Siddiqui, who has just taken charge of the department two days ago, was not sure whether there was any park in the city that had arrangements for such incidents.
The park's administration did not inform any higher authorities about the incident. KMC Administrator Rauf Akhtar Farooqui was unable to comment as he did not know the incident.
"Let me confirm this," said Farooqui, when asked by The Express Tribune. "I am trying to find out what happened that day."
The family is still in shock and is considering legal action against the officials. "The whole city is like an open manhole," said Mustafa. "The government should at least make sure that these ditches, manholes and gutters are covered in public places."
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th,2014.