Harrowing tale of a bleak Ramadan evening in Kandahar

Create: 01/31/2016 - 00:00

KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): It was the fourth day of Ramadan. After a long and hot day, people were having Iftar when a massive explosion shook Kandahar City, an old man narratesa harrowing six years old story.

On Aug 26, 2009, more than 40 civilians were killed and 65 others wounded in the powerful explosion, which devastated dozens of shops near the Spogmai wedding hall on the Ahmad Shahi Stadium road in the sixth police district.

“Minutes before the sundown, I purchased some food items and fruits before heading home. I was yet to enter home when the heavy explosion left me perplexed,” says the elderly man, who runs a food shop along with his six sons in the locality.

After the blast, the grey-haired man tried to call his sons, but their mobile numbers were switched off. Instead of going home, the anguished soul ran back to his shop to know about his sons’ fate.

“On reaching the main road, I remained nonplussed for some time. Everything had been devastated; there were hardly any sign of life and bustle. For a while, I thought a huge earthquake had rattled the neighbourhood.

“Theair was filled with columns of thick black smoke; shops and nearby houses were on fire, with people crying all around. The area was littered with body parts, cut to pieces,” he adds.

In a jiffy, so many people were searching the site for dead and injured relatives. Dozens had been mown down. Many had their limbs blown off while others trapped beneath the rubble.

“I found my five sonsinjured, but they were hard to recognise. I evacuated them to hospital with the help of locals. A day later, the body of my eldest son was found beneath the debris of a wall,” he snivels.

His eldest son leaves behind two boys and a widow. Unfortunately, his orphaned grandchildren are suffering from blood cancer.

Six years after the attack, his grandchildren and sons continue to battle a variety of ailments, including kidney intestines complications. Some of his sons have had their intestine replaced with plastic parts. Other members of the hapless family are also physically challenged, one way or another.

He has taken his children to hospitals in Pakistan, but despite recovery to some extent, they are unable to work as daily wagers. To make matters even worse for his household, the man’s suffered a financial loss of a million afghanis due to the destruction of his shop.

Like other victims of the tragedy, he was given 100,000 afs in solatium for the death of his son and 50,000 afs for each of his child injured, The government and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) promised him compensation, but they did not keep their promises.

He and other affected people have requested the governor’s office and provincial council several times for reparations. But each time, officials asked them to come another day -- a day that has not come yet.

Later on, the government pledged to take members of the affected families to Hajj. But the promise was honoured in breach, he alleges, urging the government to provide him sustained.

A member of provincial council and the president’s advisor on tribal affairs, Haji Aghali Lalai Dastagiriacknowledges the victims have not received as much assistance as they deserve.

“On the basis of my information, the Taliban fighters planned to detonate the explosives-laden fuel tanker inside the Kandahar Airport, but it went off before reaching there, inflicting casualties on civilians,” he explains.

Each familylosing an individual was given 100,000 afs in compensation. Every injured person received 50,000 afs. But his loss was too big and the recompense too small, he concludes.