“Thank you for visiting Quetta and hearing us out,” says slain police constable Dilawar Khan’s uncle, Maroof Khan, as we enter his home in Nawa Killi. The sentence, though said with the utmost politeness, could have stung if it were not true.
“There is no one here to listen to us with the ongoing sit-in in Islamabad,” he says, referring to the ‘lockdown’ planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for Nov 2 and called off on Tuesday.
“We have nothing more to share except the memories of our dead.”
Dilawar Khan is among the 62 cadets killed during the Oct 24 militant attack on the Police Training College, Quetta.
On the evening of last Saturday, scores of people gathered at his ancestral residence. The family is mourning the loss of two members. “A few days after Dilawar’s death, my father, Haji Khan Mohammad, died due to the shock of losing his youngest grandson,” says the cadet’s father, Haji Bahram.
Dilawar had just reached back home after having completed his one-year course when he received a phone call to report back to the college or lose his credentials.
As tragedy struck that night, the following morning, Bahram found himself at the Quetta’s Civil Hospital to identify his son’s body. “The entire ward was full of bodies,” he says.
He recognised his son’s blanket on one of the bodies. “I removed the blanket and tried to pick him up. He was still bleeding.”
Once the body was cleaned and covered in burial shroud, the family had to wait till Isha prayers to bury Dilawar as they had to first wait for the visiting ministers and other VIPs to complete their visit. “They [ministers] were not there for our children. They marked their presence for the photo session,” Bahram curtly says.
“We feel honoured that ministers and high officials came to our home. But I was saddened to realise that they could not arrange an ambulance for the dead to be sent respectfully back home,” Maroof adds.
The recruits had no weapon in their possession at the time of the attack.
A senior police officer at the PTC explains why: “Since the recruits are young and have less tolerance in case of provocation, weapons are not allowed in the vicinity of the 200-square-yard barracks.”
Maroof says that the city was still reeling from the shock of the deaths of 70 lawyers in an attack on Quetta’s Civil Hospital on Aug 8. Three of his young nephews had survived that attack unscathed.
“Quetta is frequently asked to sacrifice for the good of Pakistan, for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), etc. We love our country and we will sacrifice for it. But I need to know, as a father, a brother and an uncle, when will it stop?” he asks.
Hundreds of miles away in the south-west of the province, Abdul Ghani is asking the same questions and raising concerns regarding the untimely death of his son, Sartaj Ghani.
A resident of Turbat’s Aabsar town, Sartaj, too, had just returned home from Quetta on Oct 24, only to be called back in the evening.
One common thread between Sartaj Ghani, 26, and Dilawar Khan, 22, was that they were to be married in a month’s time.
“I’m proud of my son’s martyrdom. But I have a few questions,” says Abdul Ghani while speaking to Dawn. “I think [the attack] was properly planned and executed.
The PTC recruits were unarmed on reaching the barracks. An officer posted for the security of the barracks was stopped from defending the recruits and was asked not to fire,” he begins.
Continuing, Abdul Ghani says that around 35 homes lost their family members to the militant attack. “Why were they called back? And who ordered their return? It should be properly investigated. Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri said in a statement that they averted a bigger tragedy. What bigger tragedy could there be than losing one’s child?”
During their training, he adds, his son and those belonging to Makran were constantly asked if they belonged to a separatist group and whether they will join one after completion of their training.
“Such questions are alarming. And then an incident like this raises a lot of questions.”
Header: Bodies of slain cadets being brought to General Musa Stadium in Quetta for funeral prayers.— APP
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