Sunday, 2 March 2014

Revisiting Abbas Town - Karachi's Ground Zero

I visited Abbas town today on the eve of the first anniversary of the biggest day of destruction Karachi has ever seen. On 3rd March 2013, the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi blew up a bomb in the centre of two residential apartments Iqra City and Rabia Flower. More than 160 families fell victim losing their homes, savings and loved ones. Amongst the martyred were Shias and Sunni. The bomb did not discriminate between sects. Children were orphaned, men and women were widowed and parents lost infants. The bomb also did not discriminate between age and gender.

It was my visit to the site of the blast one year ago that changed me the most as a person because I realized that the bomb and the terrorist did not discriminate between its victims but it was us the civil society which discriminated when reaching out to victims.

 Abbas Town is popularly believed to be a Shia Majority area. The common view was that almost everyone killed or affected by the Abbas Town blast was a Shia. Hence it was not surprising to see that the NGO’s working on ground were majority Shia. The protestors on the streets were majority Shia. The politicians condemning the attack most vocally were majority Shia. Thus if not the victims then at least the tragedy was mostly Shia. When I along with fellow members of the Abbas Town Humanitarian Response, a youth initiative formed overnight to collect funds for the victims, reached out to the affectees we were greeted with confused faces and inquiries about our real motives as we were a majority Sunni group of youth activists.

I and a few others were allowed access to go and witness the devastation ourselves as we were taken through apartment after apartment. Amongst the debris on the floor, there were broken family photo frames, shoes, toys, ripped clothes and blood. On the third floor of Iqra city, I came across a broken baby cot with its sheet drenched in blood and stuffed fawn teddy bear lying nearby. To us that infant was just a statistic, a number which was reported in the news. To the people who lived in that apartment, that infant was perhaps made their family complete, their most cherished treasure.

3 days of Medical camp in Abbas Town dealing with people suffering from physical injuries and mental traumas it hit almost everyone who were part of the Abbas Town Humanitarian Response that we were living in a bubble. War was really upon us. It was just a few kilometers away from our streets and home. It was just a matter of time. As a Karachite this incident was our 9/11, our 26/11.

That day the only way forward for me was politics. Charity seemed damage control. We as people need to play our part to ensure that damage does not happen to begin with and for that we have to actively participate in policy making and government administration.

Today Iqra City and Rabia Flower are standing tall again. Karachi has fought back. Karachi has shown its resilience. I have arranged pictures taken from my phone a year ago with the pictures I took today to show the destruction and the subsequent development. I have photographed the exact same building and apartments to show how these buildings have risen again from the ashes.

 The families who were forced out of thess apartments are to return soon. But the fear has not gone away. Nothing has been done by the Government to make Abbas Town safer. I for one casually strolled in the area with my camera without anybody stopping me or asking me questions. It could very well have been a terrorist in my place carrying out another survey for another attack.

The nearby residents told me that through the course of last one year many construction workers ran away complaining they heard strange noises at night and can't sleep at the site.

Perhaps these buildings have become haunted. Perhaps those voices are there telling us to wake up to protect ourselves or be reduced to another haunted voice speaking out from another home destroyed by terrorists.

A memorial is being held tomorrow at the blast site at 3:00pm. Those who cannot attend in person are requested to remember the victims, our brothers and sisters, our fellow Karachites in their prayers. May God be pleased with them and may their family be blessed with the courage to carry on. Ameen!

#3MarchNeverForget #DownWithTTP #DownWithLEJ #AbbasTown #KarachiFightBack

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