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

Published: March 4, 2013
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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

The author is a senior subeditor at the Peshawar desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets as @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.