How many of us have been to bomb blast site? It’s surprisingly high if you live in Pakistan, particularly if you are in Karachi, Quetta or Peshawar. If you live in one of these cities, you’re living on the forefront of one of many disjointed wars being waged in Pakistan.
Carnage sites in these cities – those created by huge explosions, great accidents – are as devastating as you see on TV shows. And there are powerful stories that emerge.
Like the hundreds of people who mourned the deaths of their daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, siblings and spouses in the Abbas Town blast there is the story of Jaffer Rizvi*. Jaffer’s house was bombed and his 5-year-old daughter lay among the ruins. He managed to get her out of the rubble and shifted her into an Edhi ambulance.
People say grief comes in stages. What Jaffer felt, was anger first. When he saw one of the new, high-tech ambulances arrive, he immediately pulled out a gun. He was enraged. His mind was telling him every second wasted was making his 5-year-old lose her life. “I want my daughter to go into their ambulance!” he shouted, holding the gun to the head of the Edhi paramedics. They of course agreed.
Remember, this is a carnage site – as many dead you will find, double as many alive you will find panicking. Jaffer was panicking. He didn’t want his daughter to be taken out of the Edhi stretcher onto the other’s, he didn’t want to move her. The Edhi stretcher was not fitting in the other ambulance. Again, in anger, and Jaffer pointed his gun.
Somehow, they managed to move his daughter into the other ambulance. Jaffer was still panicking. His daughter wasn’t better yet. “I am going to drive the ambulance to the hospital myself!” he shouted. The paramedics calmly explained that he couldn’t, for many obvious reasons. But Jaffer thought he would be able to get there quicker. The paramedics calmed him at this stage and Jaffer went in the back with his daughter. “I’ll shoot anyone who tries to stop us!” Jaffer said, and he wasn’t joking. The paramedics say he fired shots in the air on his way to the hospital to clear the area. Jaffer wanted to take his daughter to the best private medical hospital in the city, which he did.
The day of the blast, even this hospital was overrun with patients. This is your Grey’s Anatomy. No need to be entertained by the fake ERs on TV, just catch a seat in a hospital in one of the most violent cities in the world. The ER was overrun. The radiology department was packed. The operation theatres were at full capacity. Security was unable to keep up with the huge influx of panicking, mourning people.
Jaffer managed his way into the hospital with his daughter. They found a doctor. Jaffer was still armed, and this time he pointed a gun at the doctors head. “Treat her now,” he said. The doctor knew as soon as he saw her.
Jaffer’s daughter had died even before she was put in the ambulance.
But the doctor had a gun to his head. He massaged her chest cavity and tried to calm Jaffer. Some time into the ‘treatment’, Jaffer’s gun disappeared and this poor, cheated father passed through to the next stage of grief.
His story of grief and pure horror is lost in how inhumanely we portray deaths in Pakistan. We are used to bombs we say, it happens all the time in Pakistan. Don’t worry about feeling guilty about it though, even newspapers do it. Only 12 dead? Don’t include that in infographic on sectarian violence. Only 20 people injured? Forget their names, whether they lost limbs, were blinded, are in comas, or whether they were the sole provider for their families. Perhaps we can print that on the second page instead. These stories aren’t of the ‘greats’ – remember the Marriot? Wow, what a blast. You lived in Beirut? Hah, visit us in Karachi and we’ll show you real terror.
Constant horror is making us unforgivingly apathetic. We must try to overcome apathy with humanity before we become victims of this apathetic disease as well.
*name has been changed