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Stop Blaming Pakistan- We're Victims Too
I was the one who sat by her hospital bed, as she bled and wailed and finally gave in to temporary unconsciousness. I was the one she looked at with those helpless and pitiful hazel eyes. I was the one her eyes landed on every time they swept the room, hoping for familiarity, something to cling on to. I was the stranger she turned to, whispering soft words of comfort as her mute cries echoed in my ears. I was the only one she had left in the whole world now.
After hours of sitting next to her, fulfilling a duty which was never mine, her first words of the night escaped her lips with uncertainty, in fluent yet shaky Urdu: “When is Mama coming to get me?”
I looked down. I could not face her; I could not look into her eyes and answer her. No, I did not have the strength to even let the words escape me. Instead, I let my head stay bowed down, my eyes on my knees, as they moved up and down nervously. ‘Tap, tap, tap’ The rhythmic pattern of my worn out shoes tapping against the hospital tiles distracted her, at least for a moment. Then, her eyes were on me again, as she spoke in a louder voice, struggling to sit in an upright position, yanking the hem of her stained gown from the foot of the bed.
“Mama! Where is Mama? I want to see her!”
Shakily, I pointed a finger upwards, as if to convey my message in sign language instead of words. She understood immediately, and it was my arms she staggered into, denial sweeping across her face, to be replaced by hopelessness in mere seconds. What I felt then, at that moment, I do not think any words could do justice to. The expression on her face- it can never be replicated.
This is just the story of one child out of the hundreds in this country suffering the same faith, every day, every moment. It started as a normal enough day… ended quite gruesomely, I must say.
I sell vegetables on a tiny stall in a rural area in the city Karachi, in Pakistan. I do not own a home- I did once, but when my father passed away from an unknown disease which we never had the money to get treatment for, it was snatched from me by a man in a suit who said he worked for the government. We poor people here are helpless against men in suits. It’s an unwritten rule. He may be lying, but I could not do anything- unless I wanted to be killed on the point, of course.
So I sat around on streets for days, begging, until finally I decided- what the hell. I would probably earn more if I actually did something. My vegetable stand did not bring me much money- but it was enough to barely survive. Also, at night, I covered it with a cloth, and slept under it, so I was thankful for that, at least.
This morning, I had to take a trip to the local bazaar to make a small deal on onions, which I was running short of. Counting the rupees I had saved up on, I decided it would be a good idea to take the local bus. Wiping sweat from my forehead, and smoothing my kameez, I stepped onto the smelly bus, handing the bus conductor money. He grabbed it, spit pan on the sidewalk, and ushered for everyone to get seated.
A young girl, of about six, got up when she saw me and let me take her seat. She went and stood next to her mother who was in the aisle seat next to where I sat. I smiled at the little girl- some people still do have respect for their elders- in contrast to a teenage boy who gave me a dirty look because I got to sit while he was still standing.
When they boarded the bus, they looked like any common poor Pakistani men- dressed in worn out shalwar kameez, sweaty and smelly, extremely tanned skin. No one noticed anything different- at least not until one of them yanked out a gun from behind him. Then the screams started.
I just sat rooted to the spot, unsure of what was going to happen, praying to Allah to save all of us. The gunman- along with his two wingmen – looked around the bus with demented eyes, the darkness of which will probably haunt me forever. Then he pointed the gun at the driver, who yelped, his hand flying to the brakes.
“Don’t!” The gunman shouted. “Keep driving, and you will not be hurt.”
I saw the bus driver’s trembling hand go back to the wheel. The bus jolted, bumping as it slowly moved forward.
He turned back to us, leering at everyone with an evil smile on his face. Behind me, a baby cried, and a frantic mother shushed him angrily.
“Now, everyone, silently hand over all your money, jewellery, cell phones.. put them into these bags.”
His two wingmen held up two black bags. I closed my eyes, scared for everyone, hoping these men would leave peacefully after taking everything. I had been a fearless man all my life- I had been through enough, but at this point I found myself praying frantically for all these innocent people I never knew, and probably never will. God, save us all.
Everyone hurriedly threw their belongings into the bag. When it came to me, I quickly yet reluctantly parted with my remaining thirty-seven rupees, which were supposed to buy me lunch and dinner for the day, and a cheap watch which was the only thing my father had left me.
It was when the bearded man reached the woman next to me that the calmness of the situation vanished.
“This is my wedding ring,” she said, tears in her eyes. “Take everything else- not this. Please.”
The gunman cursed. “HAND IT OVER.” He ordered, his voice dripping with vile.
The sound of the gunshots were deafening. I cowered, pulling the little girl with me, as the woman’s head exploded, and blood spluttered on all of us. My eyes wide, seeing but not seeing, I placed a firm hand on the eyes of the crying six-year old, as all hell broke loose around us. The woman fell to the ground in slow motion, and I did not stop to see what happened next. The men had fled the scene, and screams filled my ears. Everyone vigorously pushed each other to get out of the bus, and suddenly the little girl went flying to the ground as someone pushed her, followed by stepping on her. at this point, no one was worrying about anyone else- to each their own, everyone rushed to safety- if they could find any in a country like this.
The poor girl was bleeding now. I grimaced, then swiftly pulled her up into my arms, and waited until an ambulance had arrived. I went with her and stayed with her the whole time, as she and I both devoured the reality of the situation, and what had happened so suddenly.
Now as I sit besides her, both strangers left with no one but each other (a nurse checked her folder and greviously informed me that her mother was the only family she had), I wiped a tear from my cheek.
This is what the world is coming to. Actually, no, this is what my country is coming to. What our ansectors sacrificed their lives to achieve- it was being destroyed like this. No one was going to do anything about it. This case itself would lay around on a piece of paper at the police station, just another everyday incident of millions over here, unattended to. I read these stories in the newspaper every day, but today was the first time when I actually believed reality wasn’t all as great as we all expected it to be.
This girl, six years old, now an orphan, who stood next to her mother, staring, as her head was blown off, is a living proof of that.
And then the rest of the stereotypical world says we are the ones inflicting pain upon the rest of the world. We Pakistanis are disregarded as terrorists- when the majority of us are innocent. We are as much the victims as you all are.