RAWALPINDI - “The callous (suicide) bomber has snatched my son, the sole earner of my family. My son was the most obedient; the ruthless terrorist has destroyed my world.”
These are the words uttered chokingly by elderly Mir Muhammad, the father of Muhammad Rashid who lost his life in the deadly Monday attack in T-Chowk of Rawalpindi’s RA Bazaar.
At least 14 people, including six army officials, were killed and 33 others wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the busiest bazaar.
Rashid, 32, used to work for a café as a cook.
Mir Muhammad travelled from Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Palandri area to visit the site where his son lost his life to the disastrous event. Seeing bloodstains on the road, the 60-year-old Mir, who looked pale as if he had not taken anything since the death of his son, fell unconscious.
Muhammad Saleem, the owner of the café, took him to the drawing room located upstairs of the building which was damaged by splinters. Sitting on a sofa, Mir kept looking upwards as if complaining to the heavens….or searching for his lost son.
Saleem, the owner, said that Rashid started working at his café in 1998 but later switched over to a restaurant in Islamabad.
“Nike Gee (boss) my heart is not satisfied here, I want to rejoin your café,” Saleem quoted Rashid as saying on the phone in 2002. “I allowed him to come back. He was a noble man….honest and hard working.”
Saleem shared the last conversation of Rashid with him as: “Ustad, please don’t be angry with me as I opened café late today.”
The café owner said he had served Rashid with a cup of hot tea, and just when he was about to take a sip, the bomber struck, killing Rashid on the spot.
Hearing this, Mir started to cry. “Oh my God, my son left this world empty stomach. He had not taken breakfast. Oh God!”
The café owner again soothed him.
A young man, Muhammad Naseer, who introduced himself as Rashid’s brother, said they could not talk with Rashid for a long.
Rashid was fathering 4-year-old son Qadir and two daughters, Saqia, 6, and Kashaf, 4. He would earn Rs 450 a day to feed his family.
Telling about his children, Rashid’s brother said: “As I was leaving for Rawalpindi, Kashaf, not aware of the death of her father , rushed to me and requested: Chachu (Uncle) ask my papa to buy me a Dora (famous cartoon character doll) from Pindi.”
“I will buy Kashaf a Dora doll as I can’t tell her that her papa is no more in this world,” Naseer said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
Back at the crime scene, the local traders appeared reeling from the shock and were so sceptical that they would ask the mediamen to show them cards before agreeing to have any conversation.
They said that the third suicide hit at RA Bazaar in a couple of years and closure of roads by army destroyed their businesses. The asked what the government and the army were waiting for, urging the state to crush militancy at the earliest. They also expressed annoyance over increased presence of security officials and cordoning off of roads affecting their businesses.
Opening his damaged Pan Shop for the first time since the blast, cleaning and arranging items in shelves, Muhammad Rafique, 45, resident of RA Bazaar, said that the shop was his only source of income and the cruel terrorist has snatched it. Expressing annoyance at the inaction of government and law enforcement agencies, Rafique said this was not the first time such has happened to him. In 2007, a suicide attacker killed his elder brother Muhammad Saeed (50), who was running the very shop after retirement from GHQ. Compensation promises were made by the state but not a single penny was paid, Rafique said.
“The widow of Saeed and his children are living a very hard life. God will punish the bomber and the ruthless rulers and security men,” he said. “I have no idea what to do and from where I will get money to renovate my shop.”
Muhammad Ibrahim, 22, the worker at an oil change shop and Ismat Ullah, the owner of a wheel-balancing spot, said their businesses have taken a nosedive since the roads around the GHQ area have been closed for security. “Before the blast and road closures, I used to earn Rs 5000 a day, but my income has shrunk to a few hundreds,” Ismat said.
Other shopkeepers also complained of road closures. “Even the way to the mosque has been blocked,” traders and locals shouted hysterically.
They demanded the authorities to open the roads so that they could live a normal life.
The locals also talked of their women and children living in a constant fear and developing psychological problems as this was the third terrorist attack in recent years in RA Bazaar. Zahida Parvin, a local lady, said bombing campaigns have struck our area while security forces have remained in a slumber. “My son, Mehraj, a prep student, has refused to go to school.”
Similarly, another woman, Shehnaz Begum, said: “I am worried for my children’s lives. Education is under threat. I am scared of going to the bazaar.”