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Friday, July 5, 2013

Sadness in excess


By Kamran Shafi
Published: July 4, 2013


The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhuttokamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

I was to give you “far sadder stuff” from my trip to Quetta with the HRCP, in continuation of my piece of last week, wasn’t I? Well, a most sad event, yet another killing of yet more innocent Hazaras took place mid-week just as I was marshalling my thoughts and feelings.

So, the dark glasses and the burqas and the helmets didn’t help, did they? For when we met Hazara political leaders just 12 days ago, they said that whilst they were generally a liberal, educated, outgoing people, even their women and girls had begun to wear burqas to hide their Hazara features.

The men and boys wore dark glasses all the time for the same reason, and those who owned motorcycles wore helmets even while buying/delivering stuff in the marketplaces, even in the intense heat for the same reason.

But none of that helped did it? For the murdering, heartless sectarian terrorists hit them while they were at prayer at an imambargah, where you would only find Shias. What would the Hazara do now? Which cave will they now cower in? Sitting ducks poor things, who gave us our second Commander-in-Chief; courageous fighter pilots; and excellent soldiers with a sense of duty par excellence.

WHEN will the mayhem end? And why not sooner rather than later when the perpetrators are known by their OWN admission of guilt? Punjab is the largest, most powerful province in the country which professes that it will look after the other smaller, more challenged ones, Balochistan leading. Well then, why not straightaway; why not today, when one of the heads of the hydra-headed monster stares us in the eye?

But back to our mission; the first stop of which was a call on the new chief minister of Balochistan, Dr Abdul Malik. I liked him instantly: light and quick of step; straight backed; bright eyes that looked directly at you; a quick wit and an earthiness that only comes with years of very middle-class political activism. May God and nature be kind to him, and may he be able to (or is “allowed to” the word I want?) do the good work he is surely cut out to do.

The recent visit of the prime minister’s to Balochistan and his reiterating that all the agencies of the State must help the new government by following its instructions, is a step in just the right direction. Indeed, I was most heartened to see that possibly the most important person in this whole blessed tamasha, the only English equivalent being “shemozzle”, of Balochistan, the DG ISI was also asked to be there by the PM.

The man who holds all the strings of all the puppets, the IG Frontier Corps (who refused to interact with us, BTW! Indeed, who didn’t even return our telephone calls for a meeting!) had to be there willy-nilly too, which can only spell good for poor old Balochistan.

Our next visit was to the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) where the dead, dying and injured girls from the Women’s University (ages 16 to 23, shame on you gentlemen and women terrorists), just down the road, were taken after the blast in their bus. You have to see the site of a suicide bombing to believe it, which is all I will say.

Immediately after, we went to the Women’s University where the tragedy took place and met Vice Chancellor Mrs Sultana Baloch who, strong woman though she is, was still in tears talking about her girls. One was in tears oneself hearing her recount the ordeal they all went through: the complete panic that even the university for young Balochistani girls from all over, even Zhob, was not safe in the monstrous place we have made our country.

It was great to see the HRCP volunteer the services of trauma counsellors from Lahore and Karachi at its own expense if the University thought it would be helpful for those most affected by the mental anguish that such an event surely generates. The thing that stood out most was the spirit with which the young girls wanted the University to reopen and classes to restart. Maybe this generation that has seen the worst of it will, in the end, defeat the monsters?

We then visited the CMH to see the three girls being cared for there and were impressed by the quality of care and of the equipment, second to none in the country, that was being used. All three were in great spirits and wanting to return to their university like their other fellow-students. We also saw a police DSP and a Havildar of the FC, also gravely injured in the attack at the BMC and were told by the smart Lt Col, who was taking us around that, the police officer had barely survived.

The next day at 7.30 in the morning saw us on our way to Ziarat to visit the blown-up Residency in which the Quaid-e-Azam spent some few days when he was mortally ill. It is a hulk of what it was, burnt to ashes, even parts of the two great chinars in the front lawn, charred. Brought back memories when two friends. Lts Sabir Ali and Abdul Haque, and I of the same rank, actually stayed in rooms right adjacent to the Residency itself in August 1967.

It hurt to see part of our national heritage burnt down; but it hurt infinitely more to see the distraught VC of the Women’s University; the injured girls and jawans, and the grieving relatives of the dead. Buildings can be rebuilt; the dead cannot be brought back and the lives of their loved ones cannot be put together again.

P S: Might one suggest to the PkMAP gentleman who said buildings such as the Quetta Residency brought back memories of the Raj (which is why it was destroyed) to burn down the Quetta Governor’s House and destroy the rail line to Quetta too? Listening, Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2013.

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