The day I lost my father in a terrorist attack

Published: March 5, 2015
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Security personnel inspect a mosque inside Imamia Imambargah after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on February 13, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

February 13, 2015 was like any other ordinary Friday. My father had left for Friday prayers at the Imamia Masjid, my mother was busy in the kitchen, while I was sitting in my room with my younger sister. My elder sister came in and asked me to make an appointment for our mother with the ophthalmologist.

So I took my phone, left the room and dialled the ophthalmologist’s number, but it was engaged. I tried calling on the number a few more times before giving up. Returning to my room, I found it to be empty and for some unexplainable, mysterious reason, my heart suddenly began to beat abnormally fast. I immediately ran upstairs loudly chanting,

Allah khairAllah khair!”

Upstair,s a horrendous sight met my eyes: everyone was running and screaming in panic. I had to shout and ask what the matter was and all I heard were the words:

Terrorists have attacked the mosque.”

And that was the first time I died. As my mother and sister left for the mosque, I ran barefoot after them towards the car, crying and begging them to take me along too.

On the way, my mother told me to call my cousin who had rung up his mother while he was at the mosque during the attack to let her know of the tragedy that was unfolding. But panic had overtaken me and my shivering hands were unable to make any calls. Those moments haunt me all the time now.

After many panicked attempts, we finally managed to connect to one of our cousins, who had been at the mosque. All my mother could hear him say amid tears rolling down her cheeks was,

“Khyber Teaching Hospital.”

Words that still haunt me and chill me to the bones.

At the hospital, we ran helplessly from one emergency room to the next, trying to look for our family members, asking the staff about blast casualties. I literally felt as if there was no ground under my feet. After looking for our father everywhere in the hospital and not finding him, we assumed he might have been taken to the Hayatabad Medical Complex instead since that was closer to the blast site. But just as we were about to leave, I heard my sister’s anguished cry,

“Baba!”

I ran towards my father screaming, crying.

He was lying on a stretcher, conscious, his face turned away from us. I patted him on the cheeks and turned his face towards myself, asking him if he was all right. He smiled and replied in the affirmative. It was then that his stretcher was wheeled away from us towards the emergency room with the hospital staff trying to comfort me, telling me not to cry and that my Baba was all right.

The fact that my father was able to talk to us and tell us that he was all right comforted us to some extent. But the sight of my beloved Baba lying injured and helpless on a stretcher was mind-numbing. I don’t remember how and when he was moved to the operation theatre.

All through this ordeal, I couldn’t stop shivering or praying. I was restless and kept on running back and forth. One of the staff, seeing my restless state, left his chair and asked me to sit there and not to worry. But how could I just sit as if nothing had happened? How could I? I could hear snippets of the conversation that was taking place among the doctors and the mention of words like “critical” was piercing my heart. Unable to bear this, I ran towards the doctors like some aged, infirm woman with no life in my legs and asked if my father was well. The doctor, seeing that I was possibly about to faint, comforted me with a big smile, patted me on the shoulder and said that they were all taking care of my father and that he was fine.

After a while, surgeons came out of the operation theatre and told us that he was doing well. He had been operated upon and that there was nothing to worry about. It was only then that I finally sat down, relieved, and thanked God. We were asked to get some clothes for our father as those he was wearing were all splattered with blood. I rushed home to get his clothes and smiled at my crying younger sister and told her that Baba was all right. I never realised this was the last time I would smile.

Upon returning to the hospital, I saw the operation theatre packed with my relatives. By this time, we had already received the shock of my cousins DSP Naveed Abbas Bangash and Farhan Ali Bangash embracing martyrdom in the terror attack, which had only added to our heartbreak and agony. Now as I entered the operation theatre, I heard my sister asking our brother settled abroad to reach home by the first available flight in a fading voice. Hearing this, I completely lost the use of all my senses.

I could not hear, I could not see. I was lost.

My innocent father, Muhammad Ishaq Bangash, remained on the ventilator for five days. No one can imagine how many times I died in those five days. I died every moment I looked at Baba, fighting for his life in the ICU. I did not sleep a single night fearing for my dearest Baba’s life.

The last night he was alive, I was with him in the ICU, not knowing that these were the last moments I was sharing with him. I talked to him all night, trying to tell him his daughter was with him, trying to get him to talk to me.

“Are you listening Baba? Please talk to me Baba. The barbarians have crossed all limits Baba.”

And my tears blinded me.

We miss you Baba with every breath.

This post originally appeared here.

Asma Bangash

Asma Bangash

The writer is a peace activist and a law graduate from Khyber Law College, Peshawar. She has been a fellow at Swedish Institute Stockholm Sweden and is also a Fellow at Social Justice Institute of Case western Reserve University Ohio USA.

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

  • Tuba Syed

    I can relate to every word Asma, I also lost my Abbi to a terrorist Attack too! Hugs!Recommend

  • Nandita.

    ET what is the logic of reposting opeds as blogs? Recommend

  • Prashant

    Let’s hope no child has to ever go through what you have gone through Asma. May your baba rest in peace.Recommend

  • Shainy

    Can’t stop my tears. Allah give u patience to bear this loss.Recommend

  • kiran

    I am so sorry for your loss.
    Words fail me, as nothing I say can ease your pain. You and your family are in my prayers, may your father rests in peace. AmeenRecommend

  • Sami

    Speechless, May Allah give patience to you and your family Recommend

  • Elysee

    May you smile again. Amen

    Recommend

  • Bilal

    very hearth breaking.Recommend

  • Armaghan Javaid

    Its quite heart breaking. May ALLAH give u courage to.bear this lossRecommend

  • US CENTCOM

    It is simply impossible to feel the pain of those who have been directly impacted by terrorism. But stories like these give us a glimpse of pain and suffering of those affected. I hope the menace of terrorism is fully negated and peace prevails throughout the country. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by terrorism.

    Ali Khan
    Digital Engagement Team, USCENTCOMRecommend

  • thinker

    heartwrenching.. may Allah give patience to all those who lost their love ones in terrorist attack.Recommend

  • Malveros

    Weep in Silence. That is all we can do.Recommend

  • Muzammil Shaikh

    lots of love for you, i can relate to this because my father was shot in the karachi airport attack. my father survived and fought through it. but this made me cry because i went through too. so sorry to hear about your fathee Asma. he is in a better place.Recommend

  • Naseem Ali

    I lost someone too….but what pains me more than that loss is how our society collectively repsonds to Shia Killings…Just look at the response of leaders like Imran Khan, Nawaz sharif and even General Raheel….On the day of Peshawar School attack, he cancelled all the meetings and left for kabul and his reaction was quite obvious…However, on the same day when Hayatabad shia mosque was attacked, he was in a hockey match that very same evening….Now if we come to media, tv channels are giving free air time to those who openly take pride in killing us….News anchors and analysts are openly right wing and try to mask the killings in every possible way…I am extremely sorry for your loss but this nation has morphed into a crowd with dead collective conscious.Recommend

  • Amit K

    Asma Bangash, this is Amit from India. Read your experience through this blog. I was silent for minutes. Actually seeing all those moments you experienced in front of my eyes. Came here to search for an article to see the similarities and differences in Indian and Pakistani English (way of writing) and what I found that not only way we write, but the circumstances we go through, the pain we go through, and tears we shade, all have similarities. I am an atheist but though, I will say, “May Allah Bless You!”.Recommend

  • sofia

    :'( don’t worry your father was a great person that’s why ALLAH called him to come first he must be happy in heaven …. I also lost my uncle in such attack but I know that he is happy there … he was a good person that’s why left first Recommend

  • Bilal Abbas

    Dear Sister, I am sorry for your loss…Recommend

  • Shujaat Ali Chand

    no words can comfort you and reduce your pain, Allah hi Sabr de ap ko :'( its very heard breaking postRecommend