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Life after the attacks
by GUEST on 06 14th, 2010 |
Life in the neighbourhood, where two Ahmedi places of worship in Lahore were attacked by terrorists on May 28, goes on but under a shadow of fear.
The presence of gun-toting policemen and other community members (including the Ahmedis) guarding the gates of the places of worship in Garhi Shahu and Model Town’s C Block, indicates the level of fear in the neighbourhood. The Jamaat-i-Ahmedi centre, Darul Zikr is located on one end of Garhi Shahu and although bunkers have been placed in front of the main entrance, people are still terrified to enter.
The observance of the death anniversary of Dr. Sarfaraz Naeemi on Saturday (June 12) was a grim reminder of the terrorist attacks the area has witnessed in the past one year. Dr. Nameei, the principal of Jamia Naeemia madressah was killed on June 12, 2009 in a suicide attack at the seminary’s office. A section of the road leading to the madressah was cordoned off as police and volunteers frisked each person before allowing them to enter to pay their respects.
“We are sitting on gunpowder,” said Shahzad, the supervisor of Faizan Filling Station located near the main entrance of Darul Zikr. Shahzad said the filling station remained safe during the attack because of pure luck. “But I shudder to think the extent of damage the fuel station could cause if it came directly under attack,” he said.
Sales have declined considerably as people avoid coming near the vicinity of Darul Zikr, mindful of another potential attack. “We have no choice because this is our source of livelihood.”
Malik Mehmood owns a rent-a-car business in a plaza across from Darul Zikr. Mehmood was witness to the attacks and claims how apprehensive everyone in the community has become. Usman lives in the street adjacent to where the attacks took place. According to him, people are now using alternate routes to avoid going near Darul Zikr. He said fear escalated particularly on Friday June 11, as the Ahmedi community gathered for prayers. “The street remained deserted almost the entire day,” he said.
Those living within the barricaded streets are subjected to scrutiny by armed guards at the street entrance. Faqir Mohammad, a chowkidar at a house adjacent to the place of worship, talked from behind a small window in the huge gate but before doing so, he carefully scrutinised this reporter. “We are safe here,” he said. “Our children do not go out.” he snapped. In the background, a few guards with guns could be seen.
An employee (wishing to remain anonymous} of an office set up in a house at the corner of the street said that the police allowed entries to the company vehicles whose registration numbers they knew. He wondered whether life was safe anywhere else in the city – Lahore has been subjected to at least four terrorist attacks (safe houses of security agencies were the earlier targets) in the past year.
The place of worship in Garhi Shahu is located next to huge parks (between blocks C and D). But the attacks have not deterred the children from playing; matches were being held on the two cricket grounds and preparations were underway for a football game in the third ground when this reporter visited the area.
“Yes, these are hard times. But life must go on, we cannot continue living in fear,” said the gardener of the football field.
Intikhab Hanif contributed for Dawn.com