Musings: On being a Niqabi and being discriminated…

Such a ridiculous thought occupies the minds of our most Managers. Why can’t you just respect a lady?

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The reply of a Mother to the letter of 8 year old Bilal

Orignally Written by: Hunniya Waseem

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Dear Bilal Khan,

I read your letter somewhere yesterday. My dear child,

Since yesterday I have not stopped crying. Yes! I have tried to get through my day, doing my chores, cooking, washing, cleaning, paying bills but not for a moment have I been able to put the tragedy of today aside. It is because Bilal, darling, its true adults do cry too, we also gets our hearts broken, we get hurt and then we cry bucket loads. And the 16th was one of the most tragic days in the history of our country and every adult I know has been crying , because our hearts have been broken beyond repair. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief and anguish your mother must be feeling right now. Will she ever recover from the trauma of losing you? Your clothes, your books, your toys which will even now be scattered in her living room and will probably remain like that for days as she will wait and wait , looking at the gate , hoping that by some miracle you will appear. She will be yearning to kiss you again, to hold your body against her in a hug, to never ever let you go away from her sight again, today is the first day of the rest of her life which she will  only spend in your memory, in a shell of a body whose heart has been plucked away prematurely. They say that if your child dies, you bury him in your heart and he only dies the day you die.

I first found out about the attack this yesterday as I checked my facebook while still in bed. I was still bleary eyed when I read the first post, and then it got worse and worse, waves of shock and terror followed each other.

I have read that you were herded along with your class fellows in the auditorium and then the attackers asked ,“ Who amongst you are the children of army men?”, and none of you even thought of lying. Proud to be the son of a solider you stepped forward and said “ I am, my father is a major in the army.” and that was the last thing you ever said, he killed you then with a single bullet in your head. And that is why I am crying so much today Bilal, because long, long ago, I was a little girl studying in the same school, wearing the same uniform and also the daughter of an army officer. The only difference is that I was born in a different time, two decades before you but in a totally different era. I still remember the excitement of getting into an army truck which used to pick us up from our neat house in the cantonment. The crisp chill of a winter morning and the way our mothers would bundle us up warmly on countless bygone December mornings. The pride we took in our white uniforms, green blazers and polished black shoes: today I saw children injured and dead in that same uniform, nay murdered in their uniforms, in their classes .It must have been the end of the school term and the vacation would just be a few days away and you must have  been  so excited thinking about your coming holidays. They were good schools, these Army Public schools and Colleges, they have made me what I am today.

You must be thinking that adults always have solutions and answers and perhaps I will have an idea what happened yesterday and why it happened. But dear Bilal, we are all baffled , confused today, our core values shattered, we stand more bug-eyed than our children. The only thing I can say that something is very rotten in the state of Pakistan, something has gone very wrong in our country but how to fix it, I don’t have a single idea. That things can go so wrong, so quickly, we as a nation never predicted it. It was only 16 years back in 1999 when I was freely roaming the bazaars of Peshawar, trying out woollen caps and traditional jewellery. However, 10 years later when I was invited to go to Lady Reading Hospital in 2009 (the same hospital in which you were pronounced dead) to visit their emergency department and suggest design changes, my mother threw a proper tantrum that it was too unsafe. In only ten years, Peshawar had turned into a violent city of bombings and terrorist attacks which was not safe to step in. I naively asked my dad , if a military vehicle or escort will be safer and he laughed gruffly, “ You will never come back alive if you go into a military vehicle “. I made other arrangements but the trip never happened due to other reasons.

I had started studying terrorism and the medical response to terrorist attacks for my masters degree by the time. I remember , the horror with which I analysed the data from the Parade Lane bombing and the name of people whom I had known in  better times I had known appeared again and again. I tired counting the total number of civilians who were killed, the pattern of targeted locations and nothing ever made sense.  I submitted my thesis  and armed with a master in Disaster Medicine I made every effort to get involved in the disaster and emergency response in Pakistan but no venue ever materialized.  I was met with nepotism, incompetence and a complete denial whichever way I turned.

And then , something else happened, I became a mother myself and that changed me, for you see Bilal, not every mother is as brave as yours. It is indeed a brave woman who follows her husband into a war torn city like Peshawar, it’s a brave wife who sends her husband to fight in Operation Zarb-e-Azab every day and it was a very brave mother who send you to school that morning. I lost my nerve when I got pregnant. My years of dealing with bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, gun shots as an emergency physician and then writing up my thesis for my masters left me in no doubt of what we were dealing with.  The day I felt my son’s first kick in my belly was the same day, a seven year old boy was killed along with his mother in a suicide attack on a policeman’s house in Karachi. I had lived near that house just a year back. I then decided that I will take my child away. I am very sorry and very guilty but I could not live there any more. I know it’s our belief that whatever is written will happen and I still believe it, but I also believed that we had turned into a nation of monsters, selfish, short-sighted, trigger happy people who failed to see the actual problems. When I was your age, Bilal, we did not know the difference between shias and sunnis, we were never told to dislike ahmadis or call them non-muslims and to be honest to this day I am not sure what’s the difference between Deobandis and Barelvis. We are now so happy calling each other kafirs or non-muslims, that we have stopped being muslims ourselves, nay we have become inhuman ourselves and that is why beasts are coming and killing us and our children. It was not always like that, when I was your age , we were all Pakistanis and we were all muslims and we all thought we would live happily ever after. Who knows who the the first stone ? Who knows who created Taliban ?  There are no answers, just a lot of soul-searching questions.

Sorry Bilal ! I have tried to save my child by fleeing but not everyone can leave. I got tired and I left. I got tired of false promises of men, yes even men with big guns who promised to protect us and failed again and again. I got tired of people never issuing fatwas against Taliban and openly condemning them for their acts. I got tired of sitting in meetings in which “ no lessons were ever learnt”, where no operational debrief could ever take place because everyone was so busy lauding themselves and their agencies that they lost insight of what happened. I got tired of ambulance crews fighting with each other and ambulances of different agencies openly threatening each other. I got tired of what Pakistan and Pakistanis had become.

  And even though I have left, I still sit abroad and cry for what has become of my country. For you see, I carry Pakistan in my heart today, a very special part of my heart and I like to remember Pakistan as it was in my idyllic childhood. A green , green land with fruit trees, rushing streams, flowing rivers and stark mountains, the land which is now tainted in blood.

I cry today because dear Bilal, my generation has failed yours, we could not even give our children a childhood. And therefore, we will keep on crying till eternity. We lost our tomorrow for our today and therefore we must cry.

Love and Prayers for all the children and parents of Peshawar

Mother of Sher Khan.

Peshawar attack 16 dec

A cover photo of a student, found on facebook, who got killed in the terrible school attack.

Peshawar Attack: A Letter from 8-year old Bilal to his Mother

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It was a bright and a very beautiful morning in the city of Peshawar. The mid-december brought with it really cold weather. The usual morning rush hour had started. Little kids carrying school bags which were bigger and heavier than themselves were coming out of their houses. They looked funny but cute. All the kids were wearing those warm woollen hats, gloves and warm jackets.  Some were waiting for their vans alongside their parents and crying too. The mothers were , as always, persuading their kids to go to school. Their usual comforting line would be,” Beta, it’s gonna be fun, you’ll enjoy with your friends at your school, and while returning I shall prepare for you a delicious meal.” Some kids were comforted by this, while others were not. Everything seemed completely calm. The Warsak Street was filled with little and big feets making there way to their school, the ill-fated Army Public School. The kids were happily socializing and making plans for the soon-to-happen event which was supposed to be held at their school’s auditorium. Amongst the crowd was a young female, dragging her 8 year old son who did not want to go to school at all. Her mother approached the gate with her screaming little boy. He was wearing a green blazer, green pants along with a cute tie on the white shirt underneath his fine coat. His hairs were quite messy. Still yelling. His mother told him that he needs to be a good boy and go to school so that he can become an educated doctor and save lots of lives. Well, this comforted him… a bit. She bade him farewell and watched him disappear into the thick crowd of 500 students into his well-guarded school. Little did she know, this was the last time she saw her only son alive….

Assalam-u-walikum Ammi,

By now you must have heard the news of me getting killed in the attack at our school. I know Ammi, you are crying a lot and so is Papa. I can see everything from up here. Please don’t cry. I cannot see you both cry. It hurts me. I can see you both wailing and shaking my body violently and pleading me to come back. Ammi, stay strong please. Didn’t I tell you that I didn’t want to go to school today?

The function in the auditorium was going quite good. I was seated right in the middle from where I could see the stage clearly. Everything was calm and pleasant when suddenly a couple of Army men entered into the dimly lit auditorium. I thought they were here to watch the show, but they were all armed. They did not wear masks. Ammi, they looked very scary! And all of a sudden one of them shot down our Chief guest. We all screamed. And then they started firing on us. Many of my school-mates were hurt, some of them died on the spot. We started running here and there desperately searching for an escape. Ammi, I couldn’t find an escape route, I was so small. My friends from higher classes blocked my view. All I could hear were gunshots that almost made me deaf. I felt scared. I was lonely. I needed you Ammi. Where were you? I wanted to hide in your arms…

I also cried a lot and I was frantically shouting out to you and Papa, but I wasn’t sure if you were hearing me. Were you hearing me Ammi Jan? Didn’t Papa hear too? You used to say that you were always with me. Then where were you today? By then, my school’s auditorium was in complete chaos. Ammi! There was blood everywhere. I ran for the door and tripped over my English teacher’s body. I saw her, she was lying down in a pool of blood. I tried to wake her up too, Ammi. She did not respond. I knew something was terribly wrong. They even burned one of our teachers in front of us and forced us too see her die. She was a very good teacher. Why did they burn her? Why were these uncles killing us? I ran out of the auditorium and towards the sports field. I knew I could escape.

But as soon as I reached for the field there was another Army uncle who was in the field firing at us. He saw me too. I ran back inside but it was too late. Ammi, he fired me straight into my chest, twice. It started paining Ammi, my blood started to pour out and I fell down. The big monstrous man came over to me, stepped on my hand and pressed it against the ground, I managed to let out a short cry of pain, and then he shouted at me ‘Say the Kalma!’ He wasn’t human at all ammi. He shouted again in his somewhat Arabic accent. I couldn’t even manage a word out of my mouth. Seconds felt like days. The terrorists were worst than monsters in human disguise. It was very painful. I was facing difficulty in breathing. I did not want to move because it increased my pain. My body started to go numb soon. All I wanted was your lap to rest my head on. I thought I was sick, and you would come over and carry me with you, give me some syrup and sing me a lullaby until I sleep. It was all I needed, one last time, I could hold you, I could kiss you on your forehead and your voice, I wanted to hear it call my name. Slowly, my vision got blurred, the pain increased, I tried to cry out loud, but couldn’t. I always wanted to be a doctor, if I had been one, maybe I could have cured myself, right Ammi? And then I coughed a mouthful of blood and that was it. Yes, I was in my school uniform in the morning and now I sleep in my little coffin.

Papa always told me that Dadi went to Allah Pak and Allah made her a star. I think he was right. I am a star high above that world, it’s so beautiful up here. It’s also very peaceful here unlike our country. And I have met many angels here. They are so beautiful. And we all kids are living in a grand palace where we play all day. We have been told to wait until the Day of Judgement, when that uncle who killed me will be thrown in Hell. And I will wait for you both, I will hold yours and Papa’s index fingers and we will go to Paradise together, Ammi. Everything is beautiful here. But I miss you both. Don’t grieve over my death, it was Allah’s plan. Keep your faith in Allah strong. He is indeed the best Judge. He will make the wrong-doers pay for their sins. In the end, dear mother, just convey my message to the world that we Muslims are not terrorists, if we had been terrorists, today I wouldn’t have died. We want peace. Our religion wants peace. I don’t want any more kids of my age to suffer the same fate as I did, nor their parents Please tell the world to achieve peace ‘together’. It’s the only way to make this world a better place to live. That’s all. I love you, Ammi.

I know it’s very hard but please be Patient.

Yours Lovingly,

Bilal Khan
Blood-Wallpapers-19 (darkwallz.blogspot.com)