Terrorism takes a toll on survivors, too

Young widow wants to send her daughter to school but cannot afford it

Abdul Nasir Khan

2009-12-17

LAHORE – Almost daily, a 5-year-old girl reminds her mother of a promise that has yet to be fulfilled: the promise of an education.

It’s not that her mother, Nazia, isn’t trying; it’s that the family is facing hardships after the family’s husband and father was killed.

“I can’t afford to admit her even to a governmental school”, Nazia, 32, said of her daughter Tayyaba.

“I am already striving hard to continue the schooling of my two sons Ali Raza (9) and Bilal (7)”, Nazia said in an interview with Central Asia Online.

Nazia is facing all this after her husband Muhammad Basheer fell victim to terrorism. He was one of those who died in a suicide bombing of the Police Emergency and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) buildings in Lahore on May 27.

Basheer had applied for a job in the Civil Defense Department and he needed a character certificate from the police department.

Muhammad Nazeer, father of Basheer, recalled the tragic day.

“On May 27, Basheer, on his bicycle, went to Chief Capital City Police Officer’s office to get the certificate and died in the bombing”, Nazeer said.

“We looked for him for several days; at last we got his bicycle from the debris (and) that proved a reason to us to believe that Basheer is no more in this world”, Nazeer said.

Basheer was the only child of his father, who – now old and ill – cannot work to feed his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

Nazia said the government had announced a deal to pay Rs 300,000 (US $3,588) compensation to the families of every civilian who died in that incident, but she is still waiting for the money.

Her father-in-law got sick and tired of visiting government offices to get the compensation because nobody seemed to care.

The family did, however, get a little benefit from the leaders of Muthida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which is trying to spread its influence in Punjab. The MQM heard the news and visited the family, and donated Rs 10,000 (US $119) to them.

“Seeing the circumstances and the expected long journey of sufferings, instead of giving up, I decided to struggle and started tailoring clothes at home on order”, Nazia said. “Although we are hand-to-mouth now, I am running my family’s affairs”.

Basheer’s family is not the only one suffering from all this.

Dozens of other families face similar miseries. According to police, 13 incidents of terrorism have taken place in Lahore since January 2008, claiming 146 lives and maiming dozens of others.

Where one sees innocent people like Basheer dying, one also finds bereaved families, still in agony, trying to learn who killed their loved ones – terrorists or security officials.

For instance, terrorists attacked the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) regional headquarters in Lahore on October 15. Closed-circuit television footage of this attack has been aired by various private channels. A bank officer named Zaheer Afzal, 39, died in the incident.

“My brother-in-law, Zaheer, went to the FIA office for his official assignment, and his body was recovered from the stairs of the basement where the terrorist could not reach”, Bilal Bajwa said. He added that he believes snipers, sitting on the rooftop of the building, killed Zaheer.

Talking to Central Asia Online, Bilal said he is in constant search of Zaheer’s real killer. “Zaheer was shot at by any of the security guards present inside the FIA building” Bilal said.

Bilal has tried to get the authorities to tell him the facts about Zaheer’s death instead of giving compensation to his family, but officials have not answered his questions.

“Is 300,000 rupees the price of Zaheer? Will it compensate our sorrows, or will it fill the place of a father, a husband, a son”, Bilal asked. “We want to know who killed my Zaheer, and that’s all”.

Zaheer’s death is enigma. His 11-year-old son Rehan still holds out hope that his father will come and play cricket with him. He is too young to understand that his father has gone forever.

The Punjab government has announced compensatory packages – Rs 3 million (US $35,882), jobs and life-long salaries – for the bereaved families of security personnel who died in these incidents, but only Rs 300,000 (US $3,588) for the survivors of civilian victims of terrorism.

According to Lahore Police Chief Pervez Rathore, compensation to all police victims has been paid.

“Two or three cases of compensations are pending due to disputes among the family members of the victims”, he said.

“We have also paid compensation to families of (all) civilians killed in terrorist attack in Lahore”, Lahore Executive District Officer Tariq Zaman says.

“Basheer was not on the list of victims when it was prepared soon after the attack, as we could not find his body”, Tariq said. “It has been confirmed after many days of the attack that Basheer was also a victim of terrorism, and we have asked the provincial government for the compensation, but we’re still waiting for any response”.

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