This is part of our annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things.
The number of lives lost as a result of terrorism in Pakistan over the past decade has been more than 70,000. Our television screens announcing yet another bomb blast has become a common occurrence. Many have lost their loved ones due to the war on terror, and many have witnessed death from up close. All of this appears to have made any numb and desensitized to the tragedy and wrath of war.
Tahir Wadood Malik is a retired army major who never imagined that a bomb blast would wreak havoc on his life
Tahir was settled in Islamabad at that time and his wife worked at the UN office in the city. On October 5, 2009, he woke up and began his day as per his schedule, like many others. He followed his routine and dropped his wife at her office. He wasn’t expecting anything unusual to happen. The couple had even planned out their evening – they were supposed to visit Jinnah Super. However, what changed that day was that a suicide bomber entered into the premises of the UN office and blew himself up.
His wife along with four other members of the team lost their lives
Tahir’s day was uncalled for and a day not many would be able to make it through. He dropped his wife to the office at 02:30 pm, picked up her dead body and bathed it by 05:00 pm, and she was finally laid to rest at 10:00 pm. All in one day!
“The pain, agony, and anger were taking me down to an abyss from where coming back seemed impossible”, Tahir said in an interview for Humans of Pakistan.
He was informed that the suicide bomber was between the age of 18 to 20 years and had a beard. The image stuck in his head and whenever he would see someone who would fit the criteria, he wanted to run him over. He was boiling inside, boiling with rage and anger because innocent people lost their lives in a fight that wasn’t theirs and for a cause that was made up to fit an agenda.
Tahir went over the incident in his head again and again and felt nothing but rage and despair
He soon realized that this was not going to help him or anyone out. This would only isolate him further and fill him with more rage.
“I thought about it for a long time and eventually found that it wasn’t the answer. They say that it is always an eye for an eye, but if that remains the case, the world would go blind one day.”
He thought about his options and at that point, there were only two. The first was to become like the suicide bomber and attack the places where they come from, whereas, the second was to forgive him because that is a trait most liked by God. Eventually, Tahir forgave the guy who blew himself up because he realized that he was young and did not understand what was taught to him and he believed it blindly.
He then came up with the idea of helping those who had lost their loved ones due to terrorism or survived such attacks and set up the Pakistan Terrorism Survivors Network
The idea was to give them space where their grief is understood, where they can talk and feel like they are not alone because it is very difficult to understand what people go through when they encounter something like this. The forum was set up in 2009 and is functional till date. It is the safe haven for many and provides support. The co-founder talks to those who have experienced such trauma, records their stories to sensitize people around.
“Sharing grief is a powerful tool, it gives the survivor an opportunity to vent their feelings, and get the security of knowing they are not alone in this but there are others who share their feelings, grief, and trauma. For howsoever small a duration the survivor feels heard and has a sense of belonging in knowing that the person talking to them empathizes and feels the pain!”
If you look at it, in the larger scheme of things – a country which is not able to provide the mental support needed after such trauma; if individuals are doing something on their own, it is nothing but inspiring. More power to you, sir!
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories”.
Cover image via: Humans of Pakistan / Facebook