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Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 21:48 UK

Owner vows Marriott will rise again

By Damian Grammaticas
BBC News, Islamabad

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Damian Grammaticas at the scene of the bombing

Walking through the back gate of Islamabad's Marriott hotel, you are greeted by a surreal scene.

To the right is the banqueting hall. Its roof has collapsed. The huge room is piled with rubble and broken chairs. Hundreds were in here when the suicide attacker struck on Saturday.

Looming high above is the main hotel building. Every window has been smashed, their metal frames twisted by fire - huge swathes of soot streak the outside walls.

You can see inside the bedrooms. They are all gutted. I stayed in one of those rooms just a fortnight ago. I can see it is a charred shell now, nothing left inside.

Sooty masonry

But sitting right beneath this devastation, holding court next to the hotel's pool, is the Marriott's owner, Sadruddin Hashwani, one of Pakistan's richest men, smart in a spotless, brown suit.

Destroyed room at the Islamabad Marriott
I stayed in one of those rooms just a fortnight ago. I can see it is a charred shell now

His pool has chunks of sooty masonry floating in it, but Mr Hashwani is totally unruffled by what has happened to his hotel.

"I am not scared. I have seen death very closely, this doesn't bother me," he said. "If I had been here I would have run after the bombers and caught them."

Just as the sun was sinking over Islamabad's Margalla Hills he took me through the lobby to see the spot where the truck bomber struck, right in front of the Marriott.

"It is the worst thing that has ever happened, at least in this country," he said, standing on the edge of the 60ft-wide crater left by the blast.

"Unfortunately they have sent a message to Pakistan, this hotel being the most famous building in the capital, that they can reach the most prime location in Islamabad."

There used to be a wide, tarred drive leading to the lobby, guard posts, security barriers, trees and a thick wall.

Islamabad Marriott site
We will reopen the hotel by the 31st December. There will be a celebration then
Sadruddin Hashwani,
Marriott owner

Now there is just muddy earth, littered with chunks of stone the size of a man that have been tossed in the air and landed at crazy angles.

In the car park the vehicles look like they have been squashed by a giant hand, their innards shredded, their metal roofs peeled open like tin cans. Lying on the ground is a battered sign that warns: "Owners park their cars at their risk."

Still, even in the face of all this, and only two days since the attack, Mr Hashwani is defiantly upbeat.

"We will reopen the hotel," he told me, "by the 31st December. There will be a celebration then. That is why I am here, every day. Tomorrow the main work will start putting back every room."

Around him the hotel is a hive of activity. Teams of cleaners are carting away wheelbarrow-loads of rubble, wires and shattered glass. The lobby has been swept clean, even while the chandelier above the reception desk hangs at a crazy angle.

The last bodies were only removed from the building on Sunday, the investigators are still searching for clues, but everywhere workers are sweeping, cleaning, hammering.

Outside, leaning out of windows high up on the fourth floor are men wielding paint brushes. They are busy whitewashing over the charred walls.

Mr Hashwani told me he does not want his hotel to be a depressing eyesore in the middle of the capital.

"This is a message," he said, "Pakistan must awaken and fight these terrorists."




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