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Of tough times and pain healing

I’m just done with my fourth professional medical exams which I’d like to refer to as one of the toughest phases of my life. I feel exhausted and at times mentally unsound. To make sure these hard times don’t take their toll on me; I am struggling to wear it off on a daily basis, trying to close the final chapter of my recent memory by running as fast as I possibly can, a few kilometers away from my house every evening, listening to music, breathing heavily, sweating profusely, feeling the emptiness and sensing the essence of education unlike my routine in the past six months, where I burnt the midnight oil under the lamp of my study table hopeful to get through my annual exam with flying colors.

I still fail to understand what I went through in the past two weeks. I feel discombobulated. Running seems to be my only idiosyncratic tool that I plug into these days to do away with the dark cloud above my head. For better or worse, I feel alone. In your deepest blues, you’re always alone.

Sometimes, I limp into this dark cloud, staring it accusingly around the corner of my subconscious where I think to myself; It’s kind of strange, doing something for six consecutive months and looking at a wall-clock to see you only have twenty-four more hours of doing it. I cannot describe the intensity of cold sweats I had to experience after three of my dearest uncles including late Col. (R) Shuja Khanzada embraced martyrdom in a suicide blast at a Hujra in Shadi Khan, Attock. It was one bloody Sunday. I was home alone, fighting the brain-cells out of my inevitably unfocused mind to concentrate on the book for my otorhinolaryngology paper the next day. To say the least, it was horrifying!

Shuja Khanzada

There were multiple deaths in my family. I had lost my loved ones during my annual exam. I was devastated. I missed their voices. I missed their faces. My mind formed a very strong emotional connection with the moments I had with them in the past. I grew up playing in the very same Hujra with my cousins where the blast took place. My closest maternal relatives were critically injured, admitted in burn centers and ICU’s following the blast.

No body picked my call that day. No body wanted me to know what had happened. I had exams. I was not informed of the deaths until a cousin called me from abroad to confirm if his father is alive. To confirm the news, I called another cousin who found both their fathers dead under the rubble. I went into a state of shock and panicked. I couldn’t attend their funerals yet managed to attempt the exam. This theoretical exam was not just an ordinary MBBS exam for me. It was a real test from Almighty Allah.

After my exams, I went to see my cousins who stayed strong and felt proud of their martyred fathers. I spent two days and a sleepless night with them in a village with no electricity. According to one of my cousins who’s in critical condition with burnt limbs following the blast; a middle-aged man with a young boy were stopped at the Hujra entrance the day the blast took place. The boy managed to escape and rushed towards late Col. (R) Shuja Khanzada with a document in his hands. When he handed over the document, Mr. Khanzada opened it and shouted with a great sense of shock, “WHAT IS THIS?” and the boy blew himself up.

The three days of mourning in which I couldn’t participate due to exams were so exhausting that no body had time to mourn over the loss of their loved ones. Everybody was so busy receiving guests. On the fourth day, I heard the villagers complaining about Punjab Police restricting them from the crime scene who were desperate to help the victims of the blast shouting from under the rubble. Punjab Police was standing still like statues with loaded guns till the voices beneath the debris faded away. They couldn’t offer much help. Not sure if they wanted to. They didn’t have the equipment to move the debris on time. People strongly held Punjab Police responsible for the deaths of those under the rubble who were shouting at the top of their lungs and could have possibly been rescued.

Following the blast, when Punjab Government offered compensation (Five Lakh Rupees) for the families of blast victims, people went to see the commissioner and concerned authorities in Hazro Tehsil, Attock District later on when all the dust had settled and all the smoke had finally cleared. They were given a cheque of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand. I was stunned by the response of my cousins and those poor villagers. They didn’t argue. The didn’t get angry. They politely refused to take the cheques and went back to their homes.

People of Shadi Khan, Attock are so peace-loving; not a single person carries a weapon in this village. But what’s done cannot be undone. The demography of this beautiful village has drastically changed. It is all very unfortunate and painful. I shook and raised my hands with every ordinary person I knew and didn’t know and a long list of high-profilers coming and leaving the Hujra. They left behind deep emotional imprints of worldliness.

Often referred to as Gregory Peck by CM Punjab Mr. Shehbaz Sharif; I stood next to the grave of late Col. (R) Shuja Khanzada for ten sharp minutes under the heat of the sun and there wasn’t a single person found anywhere near his final resting place. All I can say is, there is very little value of life in Pakistan. I don’t know how else to explain an unnatural death of such magnitude. Words fail me. But I keep praying for a peaceful transition through these painful times. I run otherwise to improve the spirit of my brain cells. After all, this too shall pass away.

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