Posts Tagged ‘Peshawar’
I have thought quite a bit about whether to post this story. Its possibly one of the most heartrending reports about the impact of suicide bombings on Pakistan, where a suicide bomber seems to blow himself up on an almost daily basis. But in the midst of the inane debates and Denialistan and the general sense of ‘how the hell do we get out of this situation?!’, does anyone realize what is happening to the children of this beleaguered country?
Eight-year-old Abid Mehmood was sifting through the debris of the bombed market in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar for metal and plastic pieces when he found something unusual – a human eyeball. The remains of a body that the powerful blast might have burnt or even dissolved a day earlier had enough shine and colour to attract the child, who immediately collected it in a plastic bag.
Hours later, he found a plastic jar and dipped the eyeball in the water and started to pick through the rubble to find more.
“I have collected seven eyes but there should be one more. After all, every person has two eyes,” said Mehmood as he showed the jar to a reporter.
“They look beautiful, don’t they?” he said in the Meena Bazaar, the once-busy market where a suicide bomber killed 119 people and injured over 200 on October 28.
Indifference to death is increasingly becoming a defence mechanism for psychologically tormented children in Peshawar, where Taliban have killed several hundred people in dozens of suicide bombings over the last two years.
“We are seeing more and more children who show little reaction to death and the dead ones,” Peshawar-based psychiatrist and social worker Dr Khalid Mufti said.
“The other day an 11-year-old child whose father died and brother lost his legs in a recent blast told me that he was waiting for his turn like everyone else in the town,” added Mufti.
“The kid was smiling. You know, this is what the war does to children: it robs them of their innocence.”
I can’t recall a single day – for weeks and months now – that wasn’t accompanied with news of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But today – even by the terribly low expectations one has of a day free of news that makes you want to kill yourself – has been a horrible, horrible, horrible day.
Kabul saw two attacks this morning: One, on a UN guesthouse in Kabul, that was a deadly raid that saw six UN staff members being killed amongst the 12 casualties (three of which include the attackers) as the attackers stormed the house after being embroiled in a gunbattle with UN guards. The second, was rockets being fired at the Serena Hotel, which houses press personnel and is close to Karzai’s residence. The Taliban took responsibility for both attacks, citing that it was an ‘assault on the presidential election’.
The third attack took place in Pakistan in Peshawar – a city that has seen a number of attacks in the past few weeks alone, a number of which have happened during / before Friday prayers. A car bomb exploded in Meena Bazar – said to be around 120 KGs of explosives – and killed 87 people, injuring over a 150.The visuals from the scene are horrifying: shops set on fire and a building collapsed, trapping people under the rubble. The death toll literally rose within hours – from 3 to 10 to 14 to 40 and above – and women and children are reported to form the major part of casualties.
UPDATED: The death toll has reached 104. Meanwhile Al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have denied any responsibility for the attack.
On a side note, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her first visit (as Secretary) to Pakistan today.
On a personal note, I don’t think I have ever been so scared to live in Pakistan. I have lived through the best and the worst of times in this country but the cloud of fear has never loomed so heavily. And I have thought several times before that we had reached the bottom of the pit and it couldn’t get any worse – but every day we seem to fall a little deeper in. It has gotten to the point where when I imagine the country’s map, I see a big sign that says ‘CLOSED FOR LIFE’ hanging on it. And I cannot seem to get this song to stop playing constantly in my head.
Peshawar has seen yet another bomb blast this Friday at the Central Investigation Agency building. There are reports of 4 people dead (though the number is also being quoted as 6) with 10 injured.
While Friday has been a deadly day for Pakistan for several months now, the most disturbing facet of this suicide attack is that it is rumoured to have been carried out by a woman. Geo News is reporting that a burqa clad woman drove up with a man on a motorcycle. They attempted to enter the building and when stopped, the man began to firing and the woman removed her burqa and detonated her suicide jacket. There was a car with them as well, and that appears to have been rigged with a car bomb.
Update: This account isn’t verified – will wait for more news sources since right now the reports coming in say that the car bomb was the major source of the explosion and not the suicide bomber.
Update: Here’s an account from Times Online:
A car filled with explosives drove to the main gate of the CIA building as a motorcycle carrying a man and a woman pulled up behind it, Liaquat Ali Khan, the Peshawar police chief, told reporters.
The woman jumped off and ran towards a nearby housing complex where army officers live, while the man smashed the motorcycle into the car, which exploded into a huge fireball, he said.
Police shot at the woman, who detonated explosives she was wearing, destroying part of the CIA building and the mosque next to it, he said.
“If that woman suicide bomber had not been killed, she might have caused more damage,” he said.
It was only the second confirmed case of a woman carrying out a suicide attack in Pakistan: the first blew herself up near a Christian school in Peshawar in December 2007, while apparently aiming for a nearby military post.
We blogged yesterday about the rumours of female attackers being involved in one of the attacks in Lahore, which was later denied by army officials. This does not bode well; and will have severe consequences on the upcoming battle in South Waziristan, because if women are involved in the TTP’s struggle, then the battle will take on an even deadlier form.
Mr Writer, Why Don’t You Tell It Like It Is?
On another note, the TTP has decided to target media organizations next. Daily Times reported that security officials have intercepted a phone call where a TTP commander was giving directives to attack security agencies and media organizations. Their complain:
A Taliban group also sent two letters to the Lahore Press Club – one on October 12 and the other on October 14 – warning that if the media “does not stop portraying us as terrorists … we will blow up offices of journalists and media organisations”.
I know, I know. Its hard to think of anything else while the ‘WTF!?’ feeling of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win settles in. But try we must.
There’s always this sense of doom I associate with Fridays. Perhaps it started with that horrific blast at a mosque on I.I.Chundrigar Road in Karachi in 2004, an incident that caused people to think twice before they knelt in prayer, wondering if they would live to sit up. But as I sat at work this morning thinking of how it had been a quiet Friday, word filtered in of the horrific bomb blast in Peshawar which killed 49 people.
And then I thought of all the time spent on debating the Kerry-Lugar bill: the war of words, the protests, the statements, the furious fist shaking and nose thumbing. From the army to the opposition to everyone and their uncle, the opposition to the bill seems to be mounting. But here’s a thought: will the reaction to the bomb blast be as anger-laden as the reaction to this piece of legislation? Could the Pakistani government and the political parties not have spent this time and effort focusing their energy on working towards strengthening the security situation? Could the MNAs and MPAs busy issuing statement after statement not have spent this time working for the interests of their constituency? I’m all for a healthy national debate. But given the problems Pakistan does have (not the ones that appear to be collective hallucinations – ‘They’re out to GET US!‘ seems to be the mood in the air), isn’t it laughable that politicians are so misdirected and paranoid?
Seriously, can we not forget about the paranoia, and focus on Pakistanis instead?
That does seem like too much to ask for.