Five of my uncles were shot in the Nazimabad attacks

Published: November 8, 2016
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Naiyyar Mehdi Zaidi (left), 60, from London, was killed along with his brother Nasir Abbas Zaidi, 45, from Seattle, USA, in Karachi, Pakistan, on 29 October, 2016. PHOTO: QAISRA KHAN

You never think it’s going to happen to you… until it does.

Just over a week ago, I was in a queue with my four-year-old son. We were waiting for a train ride around the park near my parents’ house when I received a phone call from my mum. It was the phone call that nobody ever wants to receive; the phone call that informs you of tragedy at home.

Five of my maternal uncles had been shot in Nazimabad, Pakistan. We weren’t sure who was alive at that point, but as we took to Twitter, the true reality of the horror was emerging. A ladies majlis, commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (ra) was taking place in a private residence; gunmen on motorbikes had opened fire, and three of my uncles, Naiyer Mehdi Zaidi, Nasir Abbas, and Baqar Abbas Zaidi had been gunned down in targeted killings.

Three of my uncles, Naiyer Mehdi Zaidi, Nasir Abbas, and Baqar Abbas Zaidi had been gunned down in targeted killings.
Photo: Aliya Zaidi

My remaining two uncles, Tahir Abbas and Nadir Abbas, and my 15-year-old cousin, Murtaza Ali Zaidi were in critical condition in the hospital. By the mercy of Allah, they have now recovered well.

Let’s be clear here; the attacks were sectarian, specifically targeting the Shia community. Later, the militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, took responsibility for the attacks. A spokesman for the group said:

“There is no room for the enemies of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Pakistan”, a reference to Pakistan’s Shia minority.

It is important to note that whoever is behind these attacks, they are following a deviant interpretation of religion aligned to ISIS and al Qaeda. This intolerant ideology comes from Saudi’s Salafi-Takfiris; they are a violent offshoot of mainstream Islam, and this tiny minority group is giving Muslims around the world a bad name.

In Pakistan, Shias are a persecuted minority who are still not free to practice their religion without fear of being killed for their beliefs. These attacks used to take place in public places, such as mosques, schools and hospitals. Now the attacks are taking place in private residences, which means people are not even free to practice religion in their own homes.

You think that these kinds of attacks happen to other people, but there are so many Shias being targeted, the chances are that you will know someone in Pakistan affected by these acts of violence. At the beginning of October, these same hardline groups killed my friend’s cousin, Mansoor Sadiq Zaidi, in a targeted attack, as he stood with his son outside his house.

This is genocide, and it is specifically targeting the Shia community.

But this blog post is not an account of what happened that fateful day. You can read that yourself in the newspapers that have covered the event, including The IndependentThe Guardian and The Seattle Times. The news made the front page of The Evening Standard last Friday.

This blog post is intended to tell you what you might not know about my mum’s brothers. I want you to know about their magnanimous personalities, about their humanity, and their values.

My mum’s brothers were very open-minded, tolerant, loving people who touched the lives of every single person they met. As I write this post, I know that there are not enough words to express the depth of the grief I am feeling, nor are words enough to explain how incredible my uncles were.

The Nazimabad firing took place during the Holy month of Muharram, when Shias commemorate Imam Hussain’s (ra) martyrdom. Ultimately, Hussain’s struggle was about freedom from oppression; about sacrifice to protect universal human values. My uncles lived with the love of the family of the Prophet (pbuh) in their hearts, and they implemented these values in their everyday lives.

During the attacks, the gunmen attempted to gain access to the ladies majlis in the house. When they could not enter, they fired gunshots on the people who were sitting outside. As the gunmen came forward, Baqar Abbas Zaidi, my mum’s youngest brother, opened his arms to protect the door and to stop the killers from going inside the house. He was killed instantly as the gunmen opened fire on his chest.

I think about how many lives Baqar mamu has saved through this fearless act of self-sacrifice. By standing between the door and the gunmen, he prevented them from entering the house, thus stopping further bloodshed and carnage.

My mum’s eldest brother was Naiyer Zaidi, a British citizen who had resided in London for more than 30 years. He loved this country as he had spent most of his adult life here.

Every year, Naiyer mamu would come to Pakistan to commemorate the events of the tragedy of Karbala with his family. He loved to read poetry, books and literature. After retirement, he spent more and more of his time reading about Islam, and he loved to spend his time in the company of learned Islamic scholars.

It is my view that religious conviction manifests itself in the values of humanity, and Naiyer mamu’s personality is testament to this. He was kind, he was generous and he was incredibly humble. Moreover, he would view everything in his life as an example of God’s infinite mercy. His positive outlook on life and his ability to always see the best in people is incredibly inspiring.

The true essence of religion is about akhlaaq (good manners); it’s about how you treat your fellow human beings. When my paternal grandfather, Qaiser Hussain Zaidi passed away, Naiyer mamu truly was a rock for our family, giving us so much support and kindness in a period of great difficulty.

Another uncle who was killed on that horrible day was Nasir Abbas, a US citizen. Nasir mamu brought joy, happiness and laughter to every single person he met. In 2008, my sister and I visited him in the US. In only a few days, Nasir mamu had such an incredible effect on me. He had what can only be described as a magnetic personality. He was so full of life; not only was he absolutely hilarious, but we would spend hours conversing with him about many topics, including philosophy, poetry, politics. He was incredibly open-minded; he didn’t care about who you were or where you came from. He treated everyone with the same love, respect and dignity.

I have been reflecting on the personalities of my mamus and thinking about what I can learn from them. They were all so positive in their outlook, always seeing the best in every situation.

I know that they would have seen even the way they left this world as an example of God’s blessings. They lived their life through the love of the values of the Prophet (pbuh) and his holy household, and they left this world in the same way. As I watch their funeral, I know the cries of ‘Labaik Ya Hussain!’ would have comforted their souls. They have become shaheed.

I feel so honoured and privileged to have known them, and I feel so sad that they are no longer with us. But to have left this world in the way they did is no doubt a great blessing. They have given me a lifetime of beautiful memories, and to know that so many people around the world are remembering them so fondly is a source of great comfort.

Please pray for the departed souls of Naiyer Mehdi Zaidi, Nasir Abbas and Baqar Abbas Zaidi.

Please pray for Muhammad Zaki Khan and Nadeem Lodhi, who were also martyred in this brutal attack and for the families of the injured and the deceased.

Please also pray for the soul of Mansoor Sadiq Zaidi.

This post originally appeared here.

Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi

The author is a contributing editor for SheSpeakWeHear, an online platform that explores women's experiences and stories, and aims to give them a voice. Prior to this, she worked for over five years in online marketing. She tweets @aliyazaidi (twitter.com/aliyazaidi)

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

  • vinsin

    Shias are minority in Pakistan, wow. If such a logic ever applied in Hinduism then everyone would be a minority. 22% of Hindu population is down to 1%- that is called genocide. What your mum’s brothers and uncle did to save those minorities, to save abduction of non-Muslims women every day, during genocide of 1971, support of ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, etc?
    Recommend

  • Aamir

    All sympathies with you. Indeed, this state of affairs is because of the security agencies are siding with the killers. May God bless you.Recommend

  • Patwari

    True. There is a ongoing Shia Genocide. With the help of the Pak. govt.
    The govt. looks the other way. And does nothing.
    And it has been so,… for years now.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    The objective resolution of the 50s sowed the seeds of Islamization and Zia cemented it with the Saudi version.

    A u-turn on sectarianism is not possible when their Godfathers are sharing space with the GHQ.

    Militancy has become a multi-billion dollar industry in Pakistan and the board members of this massive corporation are sitting in Rawalpindi.

    The world is not stupid when it points its fingers at the nefarious policies of the GHQ.Recommend

  • Jugnu

    I am a Sunni muslim and i am really sorry to hear about your tragedy. These terrorists have no humanity and they have no regard for human blood. I want to let you know that majority of Sunni muslims stand with you in your hour of pain. We are ” one”. Please let us mourn the deaths of your uncles.Recommend

  • IBN E ASHFAQUE

    May Allah protect us MUSLIMS from the venom of hatred that hidden hands want to sow between us.Recommend

  • A sunni neighbor

    I want to extend my deepest condolence to you and your family. I did not personally know your uncles but have once lived in the neighborhood. I can’t explain in words how often I thought of your family and grieved on the details of what I read. Even if I did not know the details of your uncles’ lives, I still feel that they did not deserve to die this way. The people who did this heinous crime shold be brought to justice and the government should safeguard the lives of the common people and allow freedom of practising whatever faith people want to follow. Hoping and prayering for all this to end and for peace to prevail.Recommend

  • shoaib

    You are talking of these two. In this so called war on terror, Pakistan sacrificed people after we announced that we will fight to the last by taking side with USA against Afghanistan. USA left and told Pakistan to fight till doomsday.Recommend

  • Sheraz

    I didn’t know them personally but they were related to someone in our community. Its really tragic how often we find out one of our loved one is gone by the acts of these fanatics. May Allah give sabr to you and your family!Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Natives of India went through millions of Karbala at the hands of Muslim Bedouins, Turks, Iranians and native converts who wanted to be more Bedouin than Bedouin themselves and more Turk than Turk themselves. No tear is shed in the memory of those 100 Million Indian natives, 10s of million women who were abducted, raped and sold as sex slaves. Islam even its milder form Shia has been a bad dream for natives, just as Christianity has been for natives all over the world, especially of Goa, Americas, Africa, Australia. Now that there is no HinduSikh left to loot, rape and kill, Muslims are doing those activities on its different sects calling them kufr.Recommend

  • Sane

    Take care of your home, specially Kashmir. Recommend

  • Sane

    In Pakistan, Shias are a persecuted minority who are still not free to practice their religion without fear of being killed for their beliefs.

    Shias are free to practice their religion and belief everywhere in Pakistan. Plz do not distort the facts. There are more killings of Sunnis than Shias in Pakistan. First, see the statistics and then give conclusion. These acts are terrorism to make divide between Shias and Sunni and Indian agencies are behind such incidents under Modi doctrine. Try to understand this conspiracy.Recommend

  • Juan

    Its getting harder to practice with the threat of violence hanging in the air. While more Sunnis maybe killed in overall terrorist attacks over the recent years, the statistics show that religious or sectarian minorities are targeted at a higher rate disproportionately, which has been ongoing for decades, and make up a large portion of victims of terrorism.

    The fact that you can’t admit that the culprits are extremists and disingenuously propagate a foreign conspiracy to deflect is part of the problem and the reason of why there’s a divide and repetition of terrorist crimes in the nation.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    You just can’t resist spewing hate can you? By this logic should we hold you accountable for every wrong that has happened in India?Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    It’s funny how that a man who hates muslims so much uses a muslim name.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    All so called Muslim names are Semitic Jewish names, albeit in my case corrupted Bedouin name. Jewish Shalom , first became militarialistic Salute of Xianityand then morphed into slavish Salam of cannon fodder Muslim converts. Yes, I partly lost my ancestral roots but thanks to parents and the small town I grew up – I did not lose my roots ie native language, native culture and deep attachment to the soil and the heroes it produced.Recommend