It was a couple of minutes before 7:30AM I was awoken by a severe shock wave that shook my bed. I had returned from the office some 45 minutes earlier and initially thought the blast to be an earthquake.
Just then I received a call informing me off visible smoke rising from the opposite end of saba avenue and Khayban-e-Itehad.
Automatically my first call was to the assignment desk at work. A minute later I was speeding down Saba Avenue which is two streets behind my own house. The road ahead was blocked; from the Khayban-e-Itehad intersection, onwards.
This road serves as the main artery for the hundreds of cars dropping off children to the near dozen high schools, colleges, and primary schools in the area.
The Explosion had taken place on 32nd Street, next to the corner house on 32nd and Khayban-e-Roomi.
The closest to the site, is CAS, a private school on the corner of Saba Avenue and Khayan-e-Roomi. Occupiying the entire block, its back wall faces 31st Street; which houses Darakshan Police Station. There are 2 more schools in a 500 meter Radius from the epicenter of the explosion; Washington International and Beaconhouse.
I could see that almost all visible glass on the exterior windows of the school building was broken. I parked my car between 31st and 32nd Street on Khayaban-e-Roomi, and rushed closer to the blast site.
Cars had been strewn about like match boxes. The remains of a double cabin Toyota Hilux Vigo was lying turtle, blocking the road leading back to Saba Avenue. Itself destroyed beyond recognition, it was partly crushing a Toyota Corolla. It seemed this Vigo had flipped from the blast site on 32nd St to land smack in the middle of the road on Khayban-e-Roomi. Twisted remains of motorcycles lay scattered on the street.
A Hilux Police Mobile, which had been posted outside the targeted house, was partially destroyed from the explosion.
SSP CID Chaudhry Aslam’s house occupies the corner plot on 32nd Street and Khayban-e-Roomi. Its Exterior wall had vanished. The entire outer wall of the first floor, facing 32nd Street had collapsed. Any furniture that might have been present in the rooms was no where to be seen. It had all turned to rubble.
The explosion had left a large crater approximately 12 feet in diameter and atleast 6-8 feet deep at its lowest point.
The road had cracks leading up the pavement lining the empty plots. My first assessment was that an explosive laden vehicle had rammed into the side of Chaudhry Aslam’s residence.
The house right next door to Chaudhry Aslam’s had been severly damaged as well. Crushed remains of a Honda Civic and and a Toyota Corolla could been seen in the carpark. I could not see grills on any windows of either house, which is a norm in almost all houses in the area. I learned later, the shockwave ripped them out and they too had blown inwards like cotton wool.
The targeted house on one side has Kh-e-Roomi – a two lane main road – and on 32nd street it faces empty plots. The first house, an under construction site helped guage the intensity. Its boundry wall, at a distance of 150-200 feet from the epicenter, had collapsed. I could see two pillars that would have been support beams for the boundary wall lying against the main buildings exterior walls.
The rubble of another Toyota Hilux lay in the empty plot between the uncerconstuction house and 32nd Street. It seems this vehicle had flown from the epicenter of the explosion approximately 150-175 ft to its present location where it too lay, with tyres facing the sky.
Bodies lay strewn all over the place. One on Khayban-e-Roomi, two on the corner of Roomi and 32nd. I could see disfigured remains of another body infront of the house next to Chaudhry Aslam’s on 32nd Street.
Back on Khayaban-e-Roomi, a Toyota Corolla (indus model) lay badly damaged, on the opposite side of the road, on the lane leading away from Saba Avenue. Its drivers side facing the empty plots on the opposite side of the road, in front of the SSP CID’s residence. If anyone had been in the driving seat, survival would be a miracle.
There stood a small Suzuki hatchback, that seemingly had been damaged by the shockwave. Its drivers side showing signs of a sonic blow. Further down Khayaban-e-Roomi stood a Honda City, that too had serious damage. Upon closer inspection there were visible signs of projectiles having pierced the doors on the drivers side.
The houses diagonally opposite Chaudhry Aslam’s residence had visible exterior damage. The gate of one house had been ripped from one side, its steel twisting outwards. Inside, the cars had been wrecked by the shockwave, broken glass, and body damage. The broken glass could be seen on all surrounding buildings.
The first Ambulance finally arrived. Probably having to navigate from the side lanes and residential streets, as the main artery; Saba Avenue had been blocked by the hundreds of cars part of the morning school rush.
This part of defence phase 8 houses three educational institutions, CAS (centre for advanced studies) Beaconhouse and WIS (Washington School). Further down towards the sea there are another 8-10 school, colleges and primary schools. I thought to myself, how many more would have been injured or killed, had the explosion happened a few minutes later, when Khayban-e-Roomi would have been packed with cars returning home after dropping of students.
Police teams had started arriving. I could see senior officials of Clifton Town walking through observing the crime scene. The first responders to the site had been DHA’s security patrol and the Policemen from Darakshan Police Station which is no more than a few hundred yards from the blast site.
I found Rizwan, one of the guards of Chaudhry Aslam who was saved only because he had gone to the washroom. All other Security Personnel part of the Contingent guarding the CID SSP’s residence were no more.
By now the police had started setting up a cordon around Chaudhry Aslam’s residence. At the moment the only thing confirmed was the death toll. 8 dead including a mother who was a teacher at Washington International one of the 3 schools in the immediate vicinity, and her son who was a student there.
Among the 6 others that perished this fateful morning are a Driver, Anwar and his Son, both employed by Chaudhry Aslam’s neighbor. As well as the security personnel on duty at the SSP CID Chaudhry Aslam’s residence.
Now, 12:00AM : I have visited the blast site again – now closed for media personnel – I managed to see that the vehicles damaged in the explosion have remained untouched. The TTP has already claimed responsibility for the attack. The IG Sindh has announced compensation for the martyred law enforcers. Chaudhry Aslam has reaffirmed his resolve on a late night talk show. About an hour ago, I met with the DIG South, who informed me that remains of the Vehicle used in the explosion will be collected from the rooftops of the houses in close proximity in the morning. It has also stated that 4 of the vehicles (2 hilux vigo’s, one toyota corolla (indus) and one current model toyota corolla were Chaudhry Aslam’s, while the white suzuki belonged to the deceased school teacher.
This incident, might have strengthened Chaudhry Aslam’s resolve that he so bravely stated on all channels after the incident, but some residents living within 500 meters of the 32nd street and Khayban-e-roomi intersection, are now considering moving away, to safer pastures.