Islamabad: I was very close to Marriott Hotel and reached the spot within a few minutes of the terrible blast. By that time only a few police constables from the nearby Frontier House and Balochistan House were trying to rescue the drivers who got killed sitting in their cars parked outside the hotel on Aga Khan Road. The road was in complete darkness since the intensity of the blast had destroyed all the street lights. Hearing some cries coming from the rubble of the Marriott entrance, I rushed there with another journalist colleague.
A badly injured security guard of a private company was lying in the rubble and was weakly shouting in Punjabi: “Stop the truck, stop the truck.” He was still holding his pistol in his right hand. It took at least 10 minutes to shift him from the blast site to an ambulance. He was an eyewitness but at that time he was shell-shocked. The initial rescue work was started by some police constables and journalists who were helping those who were still alive. We ignored the bodies because we were short of hands. In the next 15 minutes a lot of hotel occupants rushed out from the back door. Most of them were injured by broken glass. I realised that most of those killed in the blast had been the ones standing outside the hotel building – poor people who were working for the security and comfort of those who were inside the hotel.
I helped Maqsood, a driver, who was lying injured in his Corolla parked outside the hotel. Blood was pouring from his head but he requested to make a phone call. I gave him my mobile phone. He called someone and said that “I am Maqsood. I am badly injured in the bomb blast, I don’t think I will come back to Sargodha alive on this Eid. Please take care of my daughter Mariam, please don’t inform my mother what happened to me because she will die, I cannot speak more, Goodbye.” Maqsood was shifted to an ambulance in a very precarious condition.
A journalist colleague, watching the immense human suffering, was getting mad. He was abusing the terrorists, saying: the “Americans are killing us in the tribal areas, these Taliban are killing us in Islamabad; they will not go to paradise they will go to hell.”
I don’t have words to express the pain and agony of the women and children who were injured in the hotel. One woman, holding her little daughter, was not ready to leave the Nadia Coffee Shop where the body of her husband was lying on a table. The little girl was crying, “Papa I am sorry, I forced you to come to this hotel, I am sorry Papa, please wake up Papa.”
The whole country watched the destruction of the five-star hotel live on their TV screens. It was a big security lapse. Well informed journalists and politicians in Islamabad already feared a blast on Saturday. There were extraordinary security measures in the capital. Security forces were vigilant for the whole day. They were checking all the big vehicles entering the city because there were reports that at least three vehicles filled with explosives had entered the city. Ministry of Interior had informed Islamabad police in writing many weeks ago that terrorists from the tribal areas will try to hit parliament soon through some truck or oil tanker filled with explosives.
It was not possible for any private car to enter the Constitution Avenue on Saturday. Due to the extra security around the parliament house, terrorists decided to hit a comparatively soft target in the evening. Terrorists hit innocent Muslims at a time when they were breaking their fast. Terrorists kill only innocent civilians: most of the killed were poor security guards and drivers.