In his Friday sermon, the prayer leader at a mosque in Gulberg, Peshawar asked the congregation to offer Fatiha for the departed soul of a child who was killed in a terrorist bombing four days ago.
“God’s wrath be upon those committing such dastardly acts in our country, irrespective of their caste and creed,” wailed the prayer leader, followed by a loud, impassioned Ameen from the people in attendance.
Across the street, in front of the boy’s home, people sat on cots and chairs, consoling his family.
When six-year-old Shazeb woke up to go to school on Wednesday, it was just another day for him. Shahzeb, who normally took the bus to school, had to walk today because of roadwork near his house. With his father by his side, he started on his trek.
En route to Mothercare Montessori Gulberg, where Shazeb was a senior student, the pair had to cross Shah Faisal Model School, only a couple of streets away from their home.
There was nothing unusual there – cars, rickshaws, carts. Shazeb had no idea that these would be his last moments on earth. His father, Jamshed Khan, was clueless to the fact that he would be childless in a few hours.
As the explosive-laden horse-cart went off outside the school, Shazeb and Jamshed were blown off their feet. Jamshed, who had received shrapnel wounds to his leg, momentarily lost consciousness. But his paternal instinct drove him on. Moving through the thick smoke, Jamshed searched for Shazeb, but could not find him.
“I searched for him frantically in the confusion and saw him in a drain with two other kids, I took them all out,” he said.
Someone stopped their car, and the four were quickly bundled into the back and rushed to Lady Reading Hospital.
While Jamshed’s injuries were not life threatening, Shazeb reached the hospital clinging for dear life.
“He had received injuries on his head and face and was operated upon in the hospital,” Jamshed recalled.
The boy died later that night.
“It was the will of God,” Jamshed said, his voice trembling.
“What can I say? God saved me and others who were present on the scene, but my son died.”
Shah Faisal Model School, which was targeted in the attack, is still closed. Passers-by pause every time they cross, staring at the charred walls of the school. A notice on the wall reads that the school will be closed for repairs till January 23. But life will not be the same.
I usually offer my Friday prayers at the same mosque; however, I have never heard the cleric cursing the militants in the past three years despite the city being attacked on countless occasions.
A thought ran through my head as I left the mosque: How long will we tolerate the menace of militancy – must each and every one of us lose a loved one to renounce and condemn this senseless violence going on in our streets?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.