Ansar Abbas: The blast tore his arms but not his spirit

Published: August 25, 2013

Ansar Abbas uses his computer with his feet after losing his arms in a tragic suicide attack. PHOTO: SHIRAZ HASSAN

Pakistan has been a hotbed of terrorism and militancy for almost a decade now. In this period of time, more than 50,000 people have become victims of terrorism with the north western areas being especially vulnerable to militancy and bloodshed. Many Pakistanis see the country’s future as dark and hopeless, however, Ansar Abbas is not one of them.

Syed Ansar Abbas, aged 30, is one of the many victims of terrorism that has plagued Pakistan. He lost both his arms in a suicide attack in Dera Ismail Khan. However, despite such a grave and life-altering tragedy, he is still hopeful and passionate about the days to come. With an indomitable spirit he says,

“I don’t like to be labelled as disabled or a victim”.

Currently working as a news editor with a news agency in Pakistan, Ansar is pursuing his career confidently and hopes to make Pakistan a better country. He also worked as a field monitor in DI Khan for PakVotes for the recently concluded by-elections.

The life of Ansar Abbas is a true story of hope and resilience.

He hails from the north western city of Dera Ismail Khan. Son of lawyer Syed Muzaffar Shah and youngest among his ten siblings, he belongs to a noble family in his district.

Ansar drew inspiration from his father, as he was well connected to literary circles. This also encouraged Ansar to take up Mass Communication as a subject for his Masters’ degree at the Gomal University, DI Khan. Having completed his Masters’ in 2006, he began his career as a journalist with a national daily.

Looking back in time, he recalls,

“I was passionate about writing since my childhood; my father was my inspiration, and hence I chose to be a journalist.”

However, as fate would have it, around five years ago his life changed forever.

On August 19, 2008, while in Dera Ismail Khan, Ansar came to know about a target killing incident in the city. He reached the district hospital along with other reporters where he learnt that the victim belonged to his family. Soon, many of his family members and others gathered at the hospital. There was a crowd of some 200 people there when tragedy struck; a suicide bomber blew himself up, resulting in a death toll of 32 people. More than 50 people were injured, and Ansar was one of them. He narrates how around 20 of his relatives and friends died on that tragic day.

Recalling the incident he says,

“I guess I was in my senses after the blast, or maybe I wasn’t, but I saw my arm cut off from my body laying in front of me.”

If this trauma was not enough, both his legs were also fractured in the blast. He was sent to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital, Islamabad the next day for treatment, where he was operated on almost 50 times in six months. He recovered physically with the passage of time but lost his arms.

Ansar’s real arms were replaced by artificial ones which he cannot even move – such is the sorry state of prosthesis in Pakistan.

Yet, Ansar did not lose hope. He did not give up, and he moved on.

He says it, in a matter-of-fact tone,

“What had happened cannot be undone; it’s time to move forward, to live my own life”

And that is what he has successfully done.

He restarted his career in journalism with a renewed vigour. Though it took almost two years to fully recover, he started using the computer while sitting on a wheelchair at home, and he learned to use his toes as his fingers till he mastered the skill of typing with his feet.

Ansar started using social media and connecting with people from different parts of the world. He wrote blogs and articles narrating various incidents of terrorism in his home town, criticising the militancy and addressing terrorism related issues. Last year, he completed another Masters’ degree in Political Science.

He says,

“The internet gave me a new lease to life. I was not used to the internet earlier, but after this incident, it has opened new gateways to the world for me. Now I read news, write and edit articles. This is how I keep myself busy.”

An activist, Ansar Abbas is keen on working for social welfare. He, along with other people of his area, organises sports and other events for the welfare of Dera Ismail Khan. He is also helping an organisation working for disabled individuals, which once helped him too.

In Pakistan, sectarian killings are on the rise and the people of the north western areas of Pakistan, especially Dera Ismail Khan, still remain the main victims of sectarian killings.

Incidentally, Ansar thinks otherwise; according to him, DI Khan was once known as the city of flowers. There were no sectarian killings among Sunnis and Shias in the past. He also believes that sectarian harmony among the local people still exists. He says that right after the the suicide bombing incident, the first person to donate blood to him did not even belong to his sect.

He goes on to narrate that DI Khan is home to the famous graveyard of Chah Syed Munawar Shah where not only the Sunni and the Shias bury their loved ones, but several Christians are even buried in the same grounds. Moreover, the mosque next to the burial ground is open for all sects and both the Shias and Sunnis offer their prayers in same mosque. He adds,

“That is an excellent example of sectarian harmony and I doubt you would find such an example anywhere else.”

Given from where he is coming, Ansar is not in favour of negotiating with the militants and also critical of the role of government and security forces to counter terrorism.

“If incidents like Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan jail breaks continue then how will we eradicate terrorism?” he asks.

Confident and hopeful that someday in the near future Pakistan will see peace again, Ansar pays a rich tribute to the people of Pakistan, who, in spite of countless acts of terrorism that devastate their lives, are still moving forward.

“Pakistanis are brave people and they will never let militants to takeover this country,” says Ansar, a proud, hard working Pakistani himself.


Shiraz Hassan

A Rawalpindi based journalist, blogger and photographer who tweets @ShirazHassan

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

  • Insaan

    Ansar’s real arms were replaced by artificial ones which he cannot even move – such is the sorry state of prosthesis in Pakistan.

    Please check prosthesis companies in India. A quick search got me this website.


    I am pleased to see Ansar in spite of his personal loss in a suicide attack has a very positive attitude about life. Wish him the best.Recommend

  • p

    Ansar Abbas an inspiration for all of us…proud of u Recommend

  • lalagee

    may allah/bhagwan/jesus……… him a will and way to life….Recommend

  • http://Islamabad A. Khan

    Now that gives inspiration. If this gentleman is reading, perhaps you should also start giving motivational talks to other people. It can be another career as lots of people simply lament their lot rather than making the best of it.Recommend

  • Queen

    Salute to mr Abbas. May Allah bless him Ameen Recommend

  • M. Emad

    Many people including children in Bangladesh lost their arms or/and legs during 1971 liberation war and post-1971 years by the mines planted by Pakistan Army. Recommend

  • Parvez

    If only we had more people with the spirit and determination of Ansar Abbas this country would be a better place.

  • tahira

    This is truly inspiring! Such individuals are worthy to emulate.Recommend

  • kanwal

    What an honorable man! Bravo! You give hope to all of us in times like these.Recommend

  • Abdul Rafay

    Ansar brother i salute you for your such a beautiful thougth and bravery attitude
    May Allah decrease your and our country problems
    Brother now you become an ideal for me….Recommend

  • naila

    Salute to him.Recommend

  • Fiz

    The remarkable thing is that he is not even bitter about anyone. I salute to your good sense and good upbringing. Carry on the good work!Recommend

  • Sajjad

    Alas, the demon of terrorism is capturing our country tightly day by day. Not a day passes, when a wife looses her husband, son and daughter loose their father, and sister looses her brother. Just take the incident of yesterday, one of my cusion Qamar Sajjad became victim of this unending wave of terrorism. An extremely affable and friendly person. A successful professional leading a well settled life, he was going to his office as per his daily routine, without having the remotest idea that what is store in fate for him. He was ambushed near Aziz Bhatti Park, quite a busy area in the late morning hours in the presence of several spectators. His crime was none other than he was shia, and therefore the evidence indicates that master minds who ordered his killing might be feeling completly justified in taking his life, as a reprisal of equally unfortunate killing of AWSJ leader, in order to boost the morale of their workers. There is no hope that if ever, the real perpetrators of these crimes as well as target killers would ever be brought to justice. Such is the sorry state of affairs that we are simply witnessing these killings in our midst without uttering a word of protest. Though there are proteste when politically active workers are killed, but for the common man like Sajjad, there was only pressure on the heirs by administration and police to bury thedead at the earliest. I don’t know, when as a nation we would rise against terrorism.Recommend

  • akhtar shaheen rind

    this is an example of bravery. hats off to ansar abbas and the writer as well as he have well described the event.Recommend


    These acts of terror have destroyed the lives of many in Pakistan. I wish to see peace prevail throughout the country. Ansar’s story serves as an inspiration to others. I wish him best of luck in all of his future endeavors.

    Ali KhanRecommend

  • Ahsan Abdullah

    May Allah curse these bloodthirsty terrorists (TTP, Sipah Sahaba, Lashkar e Janghvi).Recommend