Abbas Town blasts: Will we wipe our tears, keep silent and carry on?

Published: March 4, 2013

Rescuers gather at the site of the bomb blast in Abbas Town. I can only imagine what they must be going through. PHOTO: AFP

It’s 1:20am on March 4, 2013. As I write this, at least 40 or so families are feeling a searing, soul-wrenching pain, which most of us can’t even imagine and some of us can perhaps relate to.

I am trying to imagine what they are going through. I don’t want to live it, but I want to somehow feel something other than anger.

When they have a moment of stillness, family members are probably painstakingly recreating and reliving the last moments of their loved ones. When you lose someone you love, you think of how their last few minutes were.

Was it peaceful? Did they know what was happening? Did they lose consciousness before the ball bearings ripped loose…a daughter, a sister, a grandfather’s heart must be questioning right now: did my love feel death claw at him?

(Debris at the blast site. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS)

These 41 families (probably more by the time I am done writing and even more when this gets published) are in agony which words cannot impart. Some probably can recognise the remains of their mother, brother, nephew and weep senselessly, breathlessly, to the point where oxygen becomes a necessary nuisance their body interrupts them for.

Others look closely at the charred remains, silently begging not to see the distinct gold ring, the familiar talisman which would make their nightmare an excruciatingly real loss.

There are 135 victims who are injured, in various shades of hurt. Those whose nervous systems have been deadened by morphine out of necessity; those finding it hard to breathe through crushed ribs, and some who cannot swallow because smoke inhalation burnt a raw jaggedness inside. Many must find the hospital sheets sharp as razor blades as their third-degree burns rip open thousands of nerve endings, amplifying the touch of a fly to the shock of a naked wire inserted into naked skin.

(PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS)

With their heart beating in their mouth, loved ones of the injured react in various ways inside hospitals. Under the garish light and the smell of fear and disinfectant, a range of motions take place – repeatedly monitor vital signs; silently praying and bartering with god; fighting with nurses to pay attention; and running to find ‘the expert’ who can answer: ‘Will he live?’

There must be a tortured parent or friend or two, filled with self-hatred as they pray for their patient’s agony to end, because as she flatlines, her suffering comes to an end and their life-long heartbreak begins.

It doesn’t end with the injured and the dead. There’s also the missing. The numb father, uncle, lover, grandmother – all frantically searching for any clue of life.

This image haunted many of us when more than 84 died in a 800-kilogrammes explosion in Quetta – the pink school bag:

(Schoolbags and a shoe of children killed in the Kirani road bomb blast are seen at a hospital in Quetta. PHOTO: REUTERS)

The debris of the apartment building must have littered the entire neighbourhood with such reminders of life that could have been if he, she, them had been anywhere but ‘there’ – Abbas Town.

I dread what I will wake to in the morrow, the death toll, the reactions, and no one I know was in Abbas Town. I dread more what the residents will face.

(Residents gather after the bomb blast in Abbas Town. PHOTO: AFP)

I know for a fact, even a minute of sleep haunts you when your beloved dies. It taunts you as you slip in and out of happy dreams where they are still alive, it pierces the reprieve to remind you of the sharp stab that follows waking.

I can only imagine (limited and more kind than reality) this could be what the survivors are experiencing. This unrelenting suffering is beyond the colour of the skin, the ethnicity, the party and faith.

And I don’t believe it is over. More will die. More will be unburied from the rubble by frantic naked fingers and make-shift spades as floodlights melt into the biting sunlight.

This isn’t over. More will die because no one will stop this. Those responsible – ASWJ, LeJ, Taliban, the loons, the goons, the shadows – are celebrating tonight. They achieved their religious/political/material aims by destroying the lives of hundreds tonight. Hundreds we won’t know the names of, hundreds whose names we couldn’t remember even if we tried.

Unfortunately, there was another celebration going on at the other side of town. Sharmila Farooqi’s engagement dinner apparently siphoned off the city’s security apparatus to the extent police response to Abbas Town was delayed by two hours, according to reports. And let’s not feign surprise over the now expected lack of ‘dignitaries’ at the scene. Even 12 hours later.

I don’t know if the premier was attending or God himself, but henna isn’t the only thing staining the bride’s hands for stealing Karachi’s police for personal security, because this is about the incalculable human loss, let me not get into the legalities of weaning official resources for an engagement party.

For two hours, people unpicked their families, their lives apart from the rubble, fires erupted, congested lanes overflowed with panicked people, makeshift morgues – our party leaders nibbled on expensive edibles and clinked congratulatory glasses.

Are we going to silently wipe our tears, possibly go wipe a few of their tears and keep silent and carry on? Tell me this is the line we draw under the bloodbath and that everything after will be a fight to protect. Where’s the human chain to protect our brethren. Yes, that’s right — our brothers in arms.

Not our brothers in faith, not in nationalism, not in ethnicity, but in humanity — in survival.

With every coffin which will be lowered into the ground, someone will desperately, frantically question,

“I wonder if she can breathe six feet under, let me unwrap that white cloth, let me give her air.”

I can’t even imagine.

In death we all lose nationality, denominations. And it’s in death which we so desperately need to unite. For without that, we will have nothing left to live for.

Read more by Halima here or follow her on Twitter @Hmansoor

Halima Mansoor

Halima Mansoor

A sub-editor at the Peshawar desk at The Express Tribune who is interested in politics, art and neuroscience. She tweets @Hmansoor twitter.com/Hmansoor

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • saifychinoy

    This makes me weep like anything.
    The helplessness is killing.Recommend

  • Afflicted

    And here we are confined at our homes watching the unbearable yet predictable.
    Someone please put an end to it. Someone?Recommend

  • Jarrar

    Humaray Baad bhi Ronaq Rhay Gi Maqtal Main
    Hum Ahl-e-Dil ko Baray Hoslon mai Chor Aye Recommend

  • Shobhna

    I can feel the pain you are feeling Halima. I just wish the killers in this world had a fragment of empathy left in their souls. What are the leaders doing for Goodness’ sake, what are they waiting for!! Recommend

  • Syed

    You write “Will we wipe our tears, keep silent and carry on?” I disagree. Silent majority in Pakistan does not weep for the victims. They do know how to keep silent and carry on. There is a shia genocide going on and 80% of the population either doesn’t care or are involved in this genocide. You can choose to delete this post but this is the truth.Recommend

  • rafi

    A heartfelt piece, however there are no tears left to wipe.

    We have lost our humanity otherwise we would never allow such tragedies to be repeated, time and time again.Recommend

  • http://na sandy

    Please – enough tears – ask hard questions – trace the explosives – who owned the vehicle etc etc -= only if you find the perpetrators will you reduce the chance of this happening again.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Syed:

    Agree with you. In USA Sunni Muslim always ask me whether I am Shia or not, why. I don’t bother to ask them what school,of thoughts they belong to. There is an inherent dislike towards Shia Muslim by majority Sunnis. 100% of terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam are by Sunnis. They need to do some introspection. Why Shias are fleeing in flock to non Muslim countries. Reason being is that western and non Muslim Countries hold human life in high respect. Irony is Islam preaches peace and brotherhood. Hope this message get posted.Recommend

  • Stranger

    Poor Shamila why blame her for this tragedy. People need to cling on to something , they just need a reason to finger point all their misdeeds and tragedies on to something. A pretty girl enjoying / celebrating with her money – how does this become a wrong thing .Recommend

  • Ali S

    If anyone in the ‘silent majority’ had any tears to shed there won’t be the kind of deafening silence that you’re witnessing in response to such tragediesRecommend

  • Tamoor R
  • Quettain

    Hello Halima,

    Its really good knowing, that at least there is someone havning a soft corner to actually pay a little attention of the reality the actual karachiite are going through. I must say its the very first to step towards a positive thinking and whinch eventually would lead towards making a healthier decision for the affected and overall society.

    We really admire your earnest digging into the details and letting the people know what the humanity is going through.

    Keep writing.

    (Hoping they arent the talibans this time) :)Recommend

  • gp65

    “This isn’t over. More will die because no one will stop this. Those responsible – ASWJ, LeJ, Taliban, the loons, the goons, the shadows – are celebrating tonight.”

    This is the part that is most hearbreaking. That there is no will to take care of these heartless murderers. Instead there is an attempt to justify the murders of these civilians by somehow linking it up with drones as though these civilians were responsible for the drones.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Syed: What you say maybe true. Have you considered the role of Shias though when it came to perescuting Ahmadis – they were part of it were they not? And Ahmadis and Shias prior to 1974 had joined to oppress Hindus and Sikhs.

    As long as Pakistan sees itself as a country only for true Muslims these heartbreaking things will continue as the definition of a true Muslim continues to narrow. After Shias, it is going to be BArelvis who also worship at mazaars and after that Sufis for singing.

    Unless Pakistais are taught (and the constitution needs to reflect that) that all Pakistanis are qual citizens regardless of their faith and that their faith was a personal matter not in public domain and not something that the state should get involved in – these tragedies will very unfortunately contnue. Recommend

  • nexus

    oh its heart wrenching… i’m very disappointed on being a Pakistani today. :(Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have a powerful style of writing.
    A responsible senior lady TV anchor stated that the Karachi police chief had taken this family to Canada to ensure their safety and so was unavailable……………….if this is true then what more is there to say, how can one one shame the shameless.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    syed, don’t blame 80% of the population. Only a very small number of extremists cause all the trouble. My best friend is a shia and I know a few shias who have not been attacked. So please don’t lose a sense of proportion.Recommend

  • Something Clever

    That was a brutally accurate description of how things play out. Enough to make a person that wasn’t involved cringe.
    That’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf
  • http://www.stopextremism.wordpress.com Sohaib Ahmed

    The criminal silence of the past is haunting the nation today. If this hell of hate is made hot for one sect, a time is bound to come when this fire of hate inhales other people too. My take on these killings. http://stopextremism.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/hate-is-the-reason-english/Recommend

  • shoeb

    I have lived in karachi my entire life… I have become acustomed to this bloodshed you can call me BEHIS if you will… but this incident brought tears in my eyes, this is too much to take.. this cant go on this has to stop some how.

    Sincerly

    Hopeless PakistaniRecommend

  • Baba Ji

    yes !Recommend

  • sars

    We lose we mourn some move on some dont. Then the next event happens. The majority of humans (regardless of religion sect or political leaning) needs to offer support (material and moral) for those affected. This is the only way we will combat the inhumanity in our midst.

    It sad to see the more outwardly religious we aspire to be as a nation, the worse human beings we are turning into. Maybe we need to have religion as something we keep in our hearts and minds and homes not on our sleeves.Recommend

  • Halima Mansoor

    @Quettain:

    Hi, thanks for commenting. I really hope whoever it is gets caught. Because that’s what we really need — terrorists and murders and those responsible for our safety to be taken to task.

    And hope you are all thinking of ways to contribute to the survivors rehabilitation!

    Stay safe.

    Halima MansoorRecommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk/story/515979/afghan-president-censures-pakistan/ Jat

    @Afflicted: Someone please put an end to it. Someone?

    Why someone, why not you ? Why not you, your family and your friends ? Why not your whole neighborhood, and the neighborhood next to that ? Why not your town/city and all the towns nearby ?

    All this can end in one day if you all come out on the streets and take back the ownership of your country. But you are happy to have outsourced it to the Generals, to Saudis, to Turks, to Chinese and to the Americans.

    Therefore go back to your TV set and watch the death of your country live, as it happens. The ultimate reality show…Recommend

  • Riaz Ahmad

    Pakistanis are reaping the rewards for the type and nature of people they voted in to office. A corrupt society with corrupt rulers, one cannot expect results other than what has happened.Recommend

  • basit

    @Mehdi: Recommend

  • basit
  • afza siddiqui

    this is a tragedy for all shias and the sunnis .please dont let it divide us .a common man be it suni or shia has no hatred towards the other sect .we love to live with peace and respect believes.by debating it like a shia sunni issue is fullfilling the ulterior motives of the culprits. we as a nation condemn this carnage but would only sit in’s and vigils do us any good? it is the system failure that we have to address.
    it is the third consecutive show of security lapse.okay we cannot stop suicide bombing.they are inevitable but what of this new trend of vehicles stuffed with explosives blowing away residential areas every now and then.
    may ALLAH TAALA bless all.may humanity survive.may peace prevail.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @afza siddiqui:

    Why should suicide bombing be enevitable. Your thinking is completely wrong. Madam / Sir Sunnis don’t shias in high regard. In current situation unity is a distant dream. Please convey your thanks to SA. Hatred breeds terrorist. Isn’t committing suicide against Islam ? Many Sunni jurists think it is ok. Here is the difference between Shia theology, which promotes peace.Recommend

  • Syed

    @kaalchakra. I had said that either the 80% majority doesn’t care or are involved. I am sure few Shias have not been attacked so would you want every shia to be attacked? I am sure there are few Sunnis who joined the dharnas with shias and sincerely do a lot to stop this bloodshed. I want more and more Sunnis to become active in resolving this grim issue.

    I also want to tell you that in our Shia community we were discussing the problems and suffering of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and we were all together that in our center we will not have any speaker that will disrespect the Sahabas and the Wives of Prophet (pbuh&p). I know some might try this route as they might not have any substance and still wants to make a living. I know for sure all of our Mujtahid dislike this practice and want Shia and Sunnis to get along and live like brothers. We might disagree on things but must respect everyone as that is what our religion teaches. We must defeat the common enemy together. Recommend

  • Sameer

    Pakistan society has to become more western. It has to soften its views on religion. Western traits will make it more tolerant and have a live and let live attitude.

    The folks who do not kill each other in Pakistan are the educated ones (west style education). They have room for debate and accommodation of views. They do not use guns and bombs to make their point. They do not swayed by conspiracies and can judge a situation with their free minds.

    Even if a quarter of Pakistan regresses into 7th century idealism, and if they close their minds and block foreign views, it will destroy itself. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    For some reason my full comment was not posted, retrying here.
    @Mehdi:
    @Syed:

    I’ve pretty much come to share the same sentiments, if not conclusions, as well. I think it was after Taseer’s assassination, and the public opinion that followed, that I realized that it wasn’t just a ‘few extremists’ and the moderates were a minority.

    After an honest assessment, Canada, of all govts and states, didn’t mince words nor spout any insane deluded conspiracy, and clearly stated the number one violent threat to it was foreign and domestic Sunni Islamist extremism mostly of the Salafi, Wahhabi persuasion. I would hope that would be a huge incentive to introspect for many Pakistanis on how bad its gotten. It would take a huge effort to address the ideology and sectarian bigotry.

    Here’s a semi-hopeful blog on how one Sunni author actually did introspect and actually became a positive agent of change.

    http://theindusripple.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-dharna-is-not-shia.htmlRecommend

  • Fahad Raza

    I use to visit the place some time dropping my family to visit family friends and sometime jus taking the shortcut to super highway. The happy and bustling street in my memory has been torn by the traitors/terrorist. May Allah help them rebuild it for the better. May the find solace and Peace. Aaameen.Recommend

  • Halima Mansoor

    @afza siddiqui:

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting. I just wanted to say, I agree, we as a nation or as a people have to respond, not we as Sunnis or Shias or Ahmadis. If you note, I did not say Shias suffer like this, Sunnis feel this, it is about loss. About blood letting, and excruciating pain which people are still suffering from.

    It’s time to just feel as humans, as part of a collective.

    You are right, we need to address the systemic failure.

    However, I disagree when you say suicide bombings are inevitable. If that were the case, all our leadership would be dead. They are alive because they take precautions, which they should take for the nation they are elected to serve.

    So no. These blasts are not inevitable. They are preventable. And our security apparatus, our establishment, those dictating from shadows, our useless MNAs and MPAs can all actually prevent the bloodshed, the rape of this country.

    And so can we. Someone up there in the comments said it’s time to take to the streets. I agree. We should have never reached the point where over 200 people die in the first three months of 2013, and there are still just a few on the roads. And there is still more focus on political parties’ swapping candidates, seats, AND there are still silly scared politicians wanting to “negotiate” with terrorists.

    Many thanks for your comments. And thanks for reading.

    Halima MansoorRecommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @basit:

    You only confirm what Mehdi has claimed about inherent prejudice with such bigoted, divisive and false propaganda.

    Those are still considered mostly Shia residential areas despite the mixed population, and the overall area is indeed loosely called Abbas town. Many Sunnis do live and work in the area, and were sadly also victims, due to the usual targeting motives by Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremist suspects, who confirmed their presence by shooting at the funerals passing by Sohrab Goth.Recommend

  • Aziz

    I used to say that we were on the edge of precipice. Now I think Pakistan has fallen off the precipice. We have too many ethic groups. Our population is too big. Our people are too brainwashed. Our people believe only their interpretation of Islam is correct. Our people follows no laws but the law of the jungle. I see no solution. We will only wake up until we are swimming in the blood of the dead. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @basit:

    This small Facebook postings don’t reflect the true nature of love being showered by Sunni brethren. When Salafis and hard line Sunni sects will be banned from practicing their warped interpretation of Islam, then I will believe shias will get their true justice. This ban should be done worldwide.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Syed:

    If few individual shias do criticize the Santana’s, that doesn’t give any Muslim the right to kill shias and justify shia kiillings. Prophet Mohammed was stoned, did he retaliate back. No.

    Today if shias stop this practice, do you think, they will stop killing us. you are dreaming, they will come with another justification to kill us.Recommend

  • mind control

    @kaalchakra:

    I know a few shias who have not been attacked.

    Thank You. You are most merciful.Recommend

  • Siddiqui

    where is my comment ET. this is not fair! i have freedom of speech and i can say anything. i am the voice of the nation.
    the blast is not in abbas town premises yet near to it. it effected public in general and not only shias. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Mehdi:

    Well said. There really is no need to pander on such narrative. There is always one intolerant excuse or another that justifies bigotry and violence which is what must be addressed.Recommend

  • Kashmiri

    Yes, my heart goes out to the shia. But was it not a shia who called for the division of the people based on religion in the name of Islam? As they wisely say a snake charmer dies from a Snake bite. The genocide of Hindus and sikhs will eventually spell doom for all but the purest Muslims from the Arab holy lands.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Siddiqui:

    What do you want to say ? Please you seem to have inherent bias towards ShiaRecommend

  • Siddiqui

    @Mehdi
    bro, trust me you took it wrong and in biased way.
    if you have seen that area you will know.
    this hype is created just to make differences b/w Pakistanis.
    don’t highlight it as it is highlighted in media.
    this media brain washing system should stop now or else we will be divided.
    this is a loss of society and not only for shias or sunnis.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Kashmiri:

    Let me clear up some facts. Yes many well do Shias wanted Pakistan as a separate country. Only 15 to 20 % migrated from India, rest stayed back and my family is one of them. I have family in three countries spread out India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. atrocities were commited by Sikhs on Muslims and vice versa. Yes Muslims also committed atrocities. Sir you are going of tangent from the main topic. Actually Hindus in India, they like Shia Muslims because of their mutual love for Imam Hussain. Please keep in mind two wrongs never make things right. I condemn Muslims who use derogative words to describe non Muslims such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christian. There is no room for hatred in 21st century based on religious, ethnic differences.

    Request to Indian friends who are blogging here, you want to take a higher morale road and show your neighbors lot of good things your founding father did for India ” mahatma Gandhi”Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Siddiqui:

    My heart goes out to even one Sunni Muslim who lost their life in this attack.Trust me its not outside forces who is dividing us. It’s us muslim who are dividing us because we don’t respect the differences we have. Please tell me where in India one Hindu sect is killing another Hindu section the name of Hinduism. You cannot give one example. shamefully we Muslims continue to justify these killings and the whole world continues to laugh at us and in the same time scared of us that they might be the victims of our perceived or non perceived hatred. Accept diversity, it will enrich your life and soul. respect the differences you see, from those differences you will learn good things in life.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Siddiqui:

    ET usually has moderation rules that can trump freedom of speech and the privilege of being the voice of the nation. However, see my reply to Basit above, who is peddling a propaganda memo thats popular among those who want to downplay it as a sectarian attack, to appeal to those who have anti-Shia prejudice or Sunni supremacist views.

    Regardless of this attack, there have been numerous sectarian massacres and bombings before that have already created a division. Its dishonest to call it ‘hype’. Its not the media’s fault its happening by correctly reporting the numerous accounts. It is mostly the extremists, and partially the leaderships’ and society’s bigoted and ideological attitudes. Recommend

  • ayesha

    the most effective article so far on the tragedy. draws a picture we all should see and feel. Recommend