Most of today is a wait in anticipation of what is to come. Karachi streets are empty, young kids play cricket instead, on roads that are usually crammed with traffic and people. Rows and rows of shops and businesses are shuttered shut. I visit a protest rally near Mehfil e Khorasaan where women and men sit under the sky and listen to fiery speeches by speakers and ulemaas.
We keep tabs on events unfolding in Quetta. The death toll has now climbed to eighty seven with apprehension more are still under the building rubble that the powerful one thousand kilogram bomb brought down. Ghastly scenes of the mayhem are played out on TV screens accompanied by mournful music that simply adds to the sense of helplessness I feel. And scenes of protests in major cities; Quetta, Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabaad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Hangu, Parichinaar...
Are we going or not, is my repeated question to Hassanbhai who consults with Shaheed Foundation medical head Sarwar; we decide to go, the flight is at seven next morning. There are underlying doubts however, with everybody involved. Our sources in Quetta say the city is paralyzed, movement virtually impossible. Most worrying is our trip back to Karachi on Wednesday. What if flights are cancelled, very possible with only PIA flying to Quetta. What if the airport closes down, a distinct possibility if the Hazaras demand for military intervention is not met; they have refused to bury the dead.
After Zohr salaat, over lunch at Hassanbhai's house, the straw that breaks the camel's back is via a cellphone call. Roads leading to Karachi airport are now closed, there is an attack in Peshawar that kills five soldiers and others, more dreading, a real possibility cell phones are to be cut beginning tomorrow; a precautionary move by authorities, a move that has been effectively used previously. The trip is dead; Hassanbhai decides the risks are unacceptably high. Bitter disappointment is an understatement.
As my return trip is back to Mumbai three day later, I cancel the ticket and plan to return to Mumbai via Dubai tomorrow, insha'Allah. What a bummer, but I bow to Allah's will in this matter. My visit to the shaheeds and their families is simply not to be. I pray my intent suffices for these tragically affected mazlooms and CAI donor's generosity in helping the wounded get treatment goes some way in mitigating this aborted trip.
I am sitting in my hotel room; it is nine thirty after magreeb. Naushad, who treats me to a super Chinese dinner, has just dropped me off. As I settle to check my emails, there is boom of an explosion; close, very close, my room's windows shake. My heart leaps to my mouth. A bomb? I hear sirens screaming. I peek out to see people running. I call Hassanbhai who advises me to stay put and watch the news; he will call if a need arises to evacuate the hotel. The screaming sirens are incessant, deepening my jumpy disposition. Indeed, there is breaking news of a massive explosion at two separate areas of Karachi, one very, very close to my hotel. What now? Pray I can get to the airport and depart Pakistan safely. I may return to this country insha'Allah, when the proposed tallest building in the world is completed.
You may want to help CAI assist the wounded get treatment outside Quetta, in Karachi. Please contribute if you can at www.comfortaid.org, choose Pakistan Violence Relief option after clicking 'Donate' button.
The principal sacrifices in this line of service to humanity are not mine, but that from family. They are ones who live with uncertainties of my whereabouts and safety, my absence from home, remotely monitored school / madressa / homework or routine domestic issues. I publicly acknowledge these selfless forgoes and pray they are abundantly rewarded, in this and afterlives.
I also want to publicly thank all at Husseini Foundation / Shaheed Foundation of Pakistan, in Karachi and Islamabad who arranged everything that made CAI services possible. I want to especially thank and acknowledge the services of Hassanbhai Aboolo, who made things happen and selflessly ran around receiving and dropping me at the airport. Especially the risks he took for my evacuation to Dubai on the trip to the airport, which at times seemed virtually impossible.