Dr Fatima Ali Haider, Co-founder of The Grief Directory a group that tries to bring together victims of violence and those that may help them in their recovery, explained to a gathering how she deals with her pain after the loss of her son and husband in sectarian violence. “My pain begins every morning at 6am. when I see my son’s empty room. I do my daily chores, look after my children and in-laws but the loss lingers on. My mother-in-law, despite being a strong lady, visits her son’s grave every day. That’s how our life has changed with this act of violence.”
Dr Fatima said: “The moment I got a call from the police informing me about my husband and son’s death a part of me died. There was a time when I used to think we are the majority and the non-Muslims are the minority but that day I realized we – the Shias, are a minority too. For forty days people visited us but the real pain begins after that when we step into the daily routine.”
Speaking about The Grief Directory she said, “Last year I realized I have to move on and do something for those who have suffered due to this violence. A friend Dr. Narmeen and I formed TGD with a group of close friends, we aim at providing financial or any other kind of help that the victims of terrorism require. By the grace of God and thanks to my family I am educated enough, but on the other hand there are many families who have lost their bread earner and have no one to feed them. We want to help them in every way possible.”
Shazia Khan who is from the Hazara’s of Quetta spoke of the hardships she and others of her clan have to face as a Hazara, and what they have gone through in all these years. She recounted the ordeal in which the Hazaras sat on the road with their dead to demand justice for the killing of their people.
She said hardly a week goes by without the Hazara Community having to bury two to four of their loved ones. No one listens to their plea and nor gives them any protection she said.
Speaking of the ordeal during which the community sat for a week with 120 dead bodies of their loved ones in rain but no one came forward to hear their pain, “but the provincial government sent tissue papers”. The media was not ready to cover the protest and even the foreign media were prevented from it. “The lawyer’s community which suffered an attack last year, were not willing to fight our case then.” She said in a choked voice, “If only people had stood up when the first Punjabi, Hazara, Baloch was killed in Quetta things would have been different.”
She also talked of the condition of the Hazara youth. “There was a time when my friends were seen playing football in the park and today they are all suffering and are on wheelchairs. Females beg their men and children not to go to markets unless absolutely necessary. Our women can’t hear the door bang loudly as they are living in constant fear of hearing another blast. We even have to pay extra money to buy vegetables.”
Dr Fatima and Shazia Khan were speaking at a Policy Dialogue session hosted by The Grief Directory and the Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) at Forman Christian College Universityon culmination of a 5-day workshop to “Deliberate and Device a Response for the Suffers and Survivors of Political Violence in Pakistan;’ during which a number of workshops and trainings were held to discuss ways of countering violent extremism.
After they shared their pain with the attendees, a Policy Dialogue was held to discuss ‘Envisioning a Compassionate Society, Responding to Sufferers & Survivors of Political Violence in Pakistan.’ Representatives of various political parties and Members of the Punjab Assembly, retired army officers, journalists, mental health professionals, researchers and survivors of terrorism were part of the dialogue. The political representatives assured of presenting the suggestions in the assembly and extending support to the victims of political violence.
The first three days of the workshop included health professionals and survivors of terrorism, who discussed the mental and physical trauma of Political Violence. Professor Marie Breen-Smyth from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, USA conducted the sessions and enlightened the group about ways of dealing with violence. Marie has witnessed 45 years conflict in Northern Ireland and created a database of names of people lost in the period.
The professor provided the attendees with material which they could apply in Pakistan’s situation. Definitions of victims and terrorism were discussed, and the needs of survivors of violence, language used in Pakistan in such cases, institutionalization of departments that deal with such issues and role ofmedia was discussed. Different suggestions were given by mental health professionals and survivors that formed part of the presentations in the policy dialogue.
On the fourth day, research and methodology session was held under the title of ‘Researching the Impact of Political Violence in Pakistan’. Various methods of conducting a research, collecting and storing data, including taking risks and considering your safety first was told by Marie Breen.
At the end of the last day session, the participants spoke of their desire to continue working in this area, and pledged to ensure working for the survivors of violence, collect data of the lost souls, and share the needs of the survivors of this war to enable a fair and just closure for the survivors and their return to main stream life sooner rather than later.