Friday, March 12, 2010

Eyewitness account from Lahore Blast

Courtesy of Teeth Maestro

I was waiting at the school lounge for uncle Allah Ditta to pick me up after the school time was over. We heard the first blast and it was not very powerful but frightening. Our teacher said that it is army that is firing in the area; there is no need to worry about. Then, came the real one. The earth under our feet was moving away from us, it was like an earthquake. I started crying so were many more children. The teachers asked us to move away from the walls and come in the ground in an open place. I saw my teachers in tears as well. The uncle Allah Ditta arrived and I went with him.”

This was what my 10 year old son A. Farooq told me when I called him after the blast today. He is class three student at Lahore Grammar School Landmark project at Arif Jan Road Lahore Cantonment.

The blast today at RA Bazaar was only few hundred meters away from the school building. It seems that over 50 have been killed and many more injured in the deadly suicidal attack today at an army vehicle by some religious fanatics.

My daughter M. Farooq (16) School was also nearby and there were similar scene there with children crying and glass broken of several cars. She told me that she started crying as the first thought I had was that the blast has blown my brother school and my mother was also supposed to pick us up today. So were many more fear-provoking thoughts coming to my mind. We had wait for some time before uncle Allah Ditta came to pick me.

Our driver Allah Ditta was an eye witness to the blast. He was outside the school to pick A Farooq when the blast occurred. “I saw several cars glasses broken because of the intensity of the blast next to ours. Fortunately there was no damage to our car. I rushed to the scene after the second blast. Many were running to our side with a lot of blood coming out of their bodies. There were body parts everywhere. I had not seen such a terrifying scene in my life. Several drivers were injured as well. I was little late to pick A Farooq. If I would have picked A Farooq in time, I would have gone to area where there blast happened because I had to take a U turn from that corner to go to M Farooq School. So it was luck by chance. There Ambulances in few minutes and I saw several bodies been carried away on military truck with blood still soaking on the road. At one time, there were injured people waiting for ambulances but it was shortage of them” he told me.

I was also at the scene of the blast at 11am around two hours before the incident. I had to deposit the school fee of A Farooq and M Farooq at Habib Bank RA Bazaar. The Bank is located next to the scene of the blast. There were ordinary security measures at the place. Anyhow, all the cars had to stop at a barricades eructed by the police some 800 meters away from the scene.

This was the second blast in four days on police and army instillations and conveys. The one on 8th March had also been one of the worst in Lahore with a massive 600 kilograms of explosive used to destroy the building of the Special Investigation Unit. Today’s attack on an army truck is first of its kind. It seems that the religious fanatics have changes their strategy of attacking the ordinary markets that was the practices during last year.

The two attacks have also blown the claim of the government that it has controlled the religious fanatics by occupying their areas. Aided with American drone attacks, Pakistan Army is carrying out a military operation since June 2009. Many ordinary people have been victims of the barbarism of the both sides. There is no end of this madness on both sides. The Americans Imperialism and Pakistani government are convinced that only a military solution is the only one. So are the religious fanatics who believe that they will teach a lesson to the military and police against the attacks on their homes.
Lahore is once again becoming a dangerous place to live. The two attacks in a week time have shaken the confidence of every one and many feel insecure all the time. I had to rush home after the blast from the office to calm my children who were still terrified

Farooq Tariq of Labor Party Pakistan

Heroes? I don't think so

In a recent (and rather snarky) article in the NYT, a group of Pakistani legislators on their way to meetings with Obama's top policy administrators in the United States refused to submit to a full body scan during security screenings before boarding a flight to New Orleans. Instead they returned to Pakistan and are being hailed as heroes.

Appearing on Capital Talk (hosted by the odious Hamid Mir), one of the legislators spoke about his decision to refuse a body scan stating, “Going through a body scan makes you naked, and in making you naked, they make the whole country naked.”

For me this incident is a bit of a Catch-22. One the one hand, asking publicly elected officials from a country to submit to body scanners is a diplomatic insult. Additionally, there is an inherent double standard. If the legislators in question were from any of the G-8 countries, would they be asked to submit to such screening? What about Pakistan's efforts against Terrorism such as the recent offensive on South Waziristan, or the capture of the members of the Quetta Shura? On the other hand, it is important to point out that the majority, if not all of our publicly elected figures have participated in a variety of criminal acts ranging from bribery and extortion (all of MNA) to extra judicial killings (MQM, PPP and ANP, as shown recently in Karachi). It would also be remiss to ignore that fact that several of our publicly elected officials have ties to and support extremists and militant organizations (see Rana Sanaullah), many of which are listed on US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. And given that Pakistan is terrorism central, should our public officials be treated in the same manner as those from nations that are not used to support terrorist activities both at home and abroad?

The worst part is that these officials are being hailed as Pakistani heroes. How is refusing to undergo body scanning at an airport an act of heroism?  In this incident, these legislators had the option of refusing to undergo scans without severe repercussion to themselves, their family and their property. Not exactly what I would call heroism! And let's not even get started with the subsequent media frenzy. From what I can see, this whole incident seems staged for popularity.

If Hamid Mir is going to highlight Pakistani heroes, I would prefer he invite individuals like Ansar Burney, Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani, Mukhtar Mai, Edhi, Ruth Pfau and Mai Jori; people who are actually working to improve the condition of the Pakistani people. 

P.S  I'm posting the entire Capital Talk episode below.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5