By: Shazia Hasan
Al-Azhar Garden and surrounding residential buildings in Safoora Goth give a serene view. Almost all the residents there hail from the Ismaili community and to facilitate their travel within the city there are various shuttle services.
On Wednesday morning, one such shuttle bus of Al-Azhar Garden, carrying around 60 passengers, was attacked soon after it left the residential area when six armed assailants stopped it, got on it and opened fire killing the driver and dozens of others, while leaving many wounded.
“We were the first ones to reach the scene. We got there in less than five minutes. What we saw there cannot be described easily in words. Had we not heard the cries of pain, we would have thought that everyone was dead. We found Sultan, the bus conductor, too, hiding and playing dead under a seat. Realising that the killers had left he came out and we helped him remove the lifeless form of the driver from his seat as he got into his place and drove full speed into the nearest hospital,” said Nasruddin, a resident of the area.
One of the victims was also named Sultan. Full name: Sultan Nur Mohammad. “He was my uncle,” said Salman Abdul, another area resident who was also one of the young men who reached the bus before everyone else to help. “My cousin, Shameer, needed his CNIC made and was about to board the shuttle to get dropped near the Nadra office when his father got his documents to go there instead of him citing that being a senior citizen would help him in hurrying up the process. The gunmen’s bullets killed him instantly,” the nephew said.
The pink and brown Al-Azhar Garden bus parked at the Memon Memorial Institute Hospital was the centre of everyone’s attention. There was blood on its doors and only a couple of bullet holes where they fired to make the driver stop before getting on it themselves. Inside the hospital, the main hall was crowded with Ismaili community members trying to find out the names of the deceased and the wounded. The hospital authorities hadn’t put up any lists with their names. “They will be doing that as soon as the police are done with their initial report,” said a hospital employee. There was maximum security with police and Rangers personnel posted everywhere.
Asked if he had located his relatives in the hospital, Zahid Hashim, one gentleman there, said he didn’t have any immediate family member there. “But we Ismailis are also one community so it is like our family was attacked,” he said.
“We came here to offer our help as soon as we heard,” he added.
Most of the victims who couldn’t be moved easily were kept at the Memon Memorial Institute Hospital, while the Aga Khan University Hospital initially received six wounded of whom five were female and one male.
When approached for a few comments as to what happened, the mother of a wounded lady broke into sobs. “We have never even harboured ill feelings for anyone. Why would anyone do this to us?” she cried.
“It was so easy for them to have killed so many members of the Ismaili community as a shuttle service leaving an Ismaili community apartment building only had to have Ismaili people on board,” said a bystander at the hospital as he regrettably shook his head thinking about the grave incident.