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Page last updated at 00:42 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Pakistanis recount horror of suicide attacks

Two Pakistanis who have lost loved ones in recent suicide attacks share their stories and describe the impact terror has had on their lives.

ALI MUSTAFA, DOCTOR, ISLAMABAD

Ali Mustafa lost his best friend during the attack on a mosque in Rawalpindi on 4 December.

Me and Bilal have been together for the last 19 years. We were together in everything, we were like brothers.

He was studying electro-engineering in London and came back home to get married. The wedding was planned for 15 December.

Ali Mustafa (left) with Bilal Riaz
Bilal (right) returned to Pakistan to marry

You can imagine the grief of his parents and his fiancee. I visit them every day. I think it's been a particularly difficult time for his father, who witnessed his death.

Bilal was in the mosque during Friday prayers when it was attacked by gunmen.

He was there with his five-year-old nephew. He covered his nephew with his body in order to protect him from the gunfire. He was shot and died on the spot. The child escaped with a few minor injuries.

When the number of victims in such attacks gets reported in the news, it doesn't really reach your heart. But these people are real people, they are not just numbers. I lost someone I love, he is not here any more and it's unbearable at times.

It's such a loss, not just for the family, but for the country. He was an exceptional human being, a professional who had so much potential.

'Horrendous year'

The situation these days is horrifying. In the past, when we would hear about bomb attacks, it would be in remote places, far away from the big cities.

What we are experiencing is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder
Ali Mustafa
But when it hits home, that's when you really start to get worried.

What we are experiencing is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. You are wary every time you go out. There's so much fear around here, people have stopped going out in the evening for fun.

I work here in the government hospital and every time a bomb goes off, I am the first one to receive the injured. You can't not be affected, it hits you hard every time.

We are thinking about shifting the whole family to the UK. My father once worked as a doctor in Britain and we are all British nationals. But there are many people who don't have that option, who are stuck here.

Pakistani soldiers outside the mosque in Rawalpindi (4 December 2009)
At least 35 people died during the attack on the mosque in Rawalpindi

We are told that it is the Taliban doing this as a revenge for the army operation in Swat and Waziristan. Some people say it's the fault of America, others think that India is behind it. There are even those who blame the Israeli lobby. There are many conspiracy theories.

I am an educated person, but I fail to understand why this is happening. The Western media says that the Taliban are Islamic militants. That's wrong. They have nothing to do with Islam. There is no provision in Islam for killing innocent people.

The last couple of years have been horrendous and I have very little hope that things will get better. Our government is the worst kind of government you can imagine.

Our politicians are corrupt politicians. All they are concerned about is making money and enforcing the American agenda. The war on terror is not our war and it shouldn't be our war.


HAROON IQBAL, MANAGER, BAHRAIN

On 7 December two bomb blast set ablaze a market crammed with shoppers and traders in the centre of Lahore. About 50 people died, including Haroon's mother. He learned about what happened from his sister who survived with burns to her legs.

Blaze at Moon Market
Fire tore through the Lahore market

My mother was closest to the first bomb blast and she died instantly. She was in one piece, whereas many other victims weren't.

My sister who was with her at the time, managed to get up and escape from the fire. She told me that while she was running away, she saw bodies being torn apart when the second bomb exploded. This is the most terrible experience you can imagine.

My sister is a very strong person and she is doing well in recovering from the shock. I really feel for my youngest brother, who is 10 years old. He had to see his mum in a box. It's the most devastating thing - to lose a parent.

My mother was very much aware of what was going on in the country and because of that she wouldn't go out often. They were out for a quick trip to the market, which is only two minutes away from home, in order to buy necessary things.

The whole market is closed now. The basement, which houses workshops and shops, was closed until a few days ago. Many people, who were there, died of suffocation.

I went to the graveyard today. They've created a special area for victims of the bomb attacks. More bodies are being brought in every day for funerals.

'We feel helpless'

I know a couple of shop owners in the Moon Market, who are also good friends. They say they are not going to open their businesses for another six, seven months.

The situation is terrible in this country. The level of fear is very high. Many people I know are thinking of emigrating to foreign countries, and they are working on it.

The army is failing. The commitment of the killers is much stronger than the commitment of the army
Haroon Iqbal

I work as a regional manager for a German company based in Bahrain. I've spent so much time abroad planning to come back, but I think that's out of the question now.

When you watch it on TV, you are thinking it's far away from you. But you are wrong - it's very close to you.

We have friends and family members in the police and the army - they tell us they haven't got a clue how to deal with the problem. They can't say how, when and where it might happen again.

The army is failing. The commitment of the killers is much stronger than the commitment of the army. I don't care about their operation in Waziristan, I don't care about political issues. I want innocent people - women and babies to be safe.

We feel helpless, we can't do anything. We can only hope that the terror will go away.




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