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A Pakistani Widow's Plea To The Taliban


Pakistani volunteers search a bus after it was ripped apart in an explosion in Peshawar on September 27. Schoolteacher Haroon-ur-Rashid was one of the 19 who died on the bus.

Pakistani volunteers search a bus after it was ripped apart in an explosion in Peshawar on September 27. Schoolteacher Haroon-ur-Rashid was one of the 19 who died on the bus.

Four-year-old Sudhais is too young to understand the meaning of death. However, he easily realizes that his "Baba" (father) has not come home for the past several days.

Sudhais fastens his eyes on the house's main entrance as soon as the clock ticks five o'clock in the afternoon. Full of hope, he then forces his dejected mother to take him out to call for his father. His insistence soon turns into cries when he doesn't see his father standing behind the main gate with a few small gifts and a plastic bag full of seasonal fruit.

This is the story of the youngest son of an unfortunate schoolteacher, Haroon-ur-Rashid, who along with 18 other people lost his life in a bomb blast on September 27.

Haroon was on way home from his duty station in a bus carrying employees of the Civil Secretariat in Peshawar, a northern Pakistani city bordering Afghanistan, when a bomb ripped through the bus, killing 19 people and injuring more than 40.

And in June 2012, an identical attack was carried out on a bus carrying employees of the Civil Secretariat and Haroon was among those critically injured. He was lucky enough to dodge death that time, but not so lucky when "unidentified" attackers planted another bomb on a bus on which Haroon happened to be traveling.

It was sheer luck that he escaped the first attack and sheer misfortune that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on September 27. In Pakistan in general, and the northern areas in particular, many people believe they face the prospect of death at any time, mainly because of the increasing terrorist attacks in cities and the adjacent tribal areas.

Two days after Haroon's death, a powerful car bomb went off in Peshawar's historical Qissa Khwani Bazaar, or market of the storytellers, killing 42 people, including 15 belonging to the same family.

The family members of Malak Taj, including women, children, and two men, had gone to Peshawar from the Charsadda district to extend invitations to their relatives and family friends to attend a marriage ceremony on October 20.

Sitting in a van, the 15 family members were passing through the Qissa Khwani market when the huge explosion took place. Like Haroon-ur-Rashid, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Haroon's wife says they were extremely happy when he survived the first blast in June 2012. "I was in a state of shock when someone told me once again about a blast and my husband's death," she says. "I couldn't believe my ears.... I still can't believe that he is dead.... Everything seems like a nightmare to me."

Haroon left behind three sons and a widow. He was the sole breadwinner for the family. His elder son, 9-year-old Haris Khan, says his father "used to help us with our school homework in the evening. He used to bring gifts, sweets, and fruit for us."

In Pakistan, it has become the practice that the government announces compensation money for families of those killed and injured in terrorist attacks. The usual amount announced for a dead person is 500,000 rupees ($5,000) and 100,000 rupees ($1,000) for an injured person.

Haroon's younger brother Hammad says 100,000 rupees was promised by the government to Haroon's family when he was injured in the first bombing, but then they were offered a check for only 10,000 rupees.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has announced an amount of 500,000 rupees for those killed and 100,000 rupees for those injured this time. As Haroon was not lucky enough to survive the second blast, his family will be offered 500,000 rupees, although Haroon's wife says she does not need anything from the government.

"The only thing I want from the warring sides is don't snatch the shawls from our heads," she begs, using an expression referring to the killing of a family's breadwinner. Her voice chokes and tears roll down her cheeks.

"For God's sake, stop this war and let us live in peace."

-- Daud Khattak

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