Shahid Batalvi Speaks

with apology to Black Elk for he speaks first

How do you run from a C-4 explosion ?

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You Don’t. You Can’t.
The shockwave of exploding C-4 travels at 26,000 feet per second.
At Peshawar Pearl Continental perhaps 1200+ lbs. was used.
At Islamabad Marriott maybe a similar amount.
At the FIA office in Lahore, I would guess it was close to 900 lbs.
At my home, I think it was about 150 lbs.
The back draft of a C-4 explosion will live with you forever.
I started writing the following piece on my plane journey, more than a year ago.
It hasn’t ended yet. You may ask what ?
The journey, the story, the explosion, the ending.
Tell the story before you forget the story or more likely the story forgets you.
Here I am traveling to the other side of the globe to provide solace to everyone affected by what transpired on the morning of March 11th, 2008 but I am looking for solace myself. I find it in my mother’s words which she has said to my grandmother, at her grave. She repeated the words to me over the phone in her very pragmatic way, which is the strength of her character that comes out at times of need. She told me that she stood at my grandmother’s grave and said “Ammi ji, SaNon mAaf kRnaN aSi TuHaDay gHr di hiVazat Naen kR sKay, SaNon apni dUaVan viCh sHamil rKhNan”. (Ammi ji, forgive us, for we could not protect your house; please keep us in your prayers.) This, for all practical purposes, is her closure. The rest are the logistical details that need to be, and will be, managed.



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I stood there and looked at what used to be our ancestral home for the last sixty years; my grandmother’s home, our parents’ home, Salman and Shahid’s home and of late SB&B Market Research and Advertising Office run by Salman and Batool. It was to become the legacy that carried forward to become Myra, Zara, Yasir and Kamil’s home. Now it was nothing more than ruins. It reminded me of the dead ruins of so many forts that I had seen in my wanderings around the world. But these were the ruins of my own home, not some Roman, Scottish, Greek or Mughal fort destroyed in a battle and lying in ruins for centuries for the wanderer to perpetually visualize the nature of mankind.

It was an early spring day twenty eight years ago when my father’s elder brother, Ashiq Batalvi and I were sitting outside in the front lawn of 83-F Model Town. Ashiq Batalvi had made his yearly trek to Lahore to avoid the harsh winter of London as he continued to live his self exile years in England since early 1950s. It was a Saturday and it had turned out to be a nice day. Abdullah Malik had just left after a three hour, extremely charged and enjoyable discussion in which everything past, present and future vis-à-vis Pakistan had been addressed. One of the then present issues talked about was how the US economic aid, initially provided in cash at twenty five USD per day per refugee, to support the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, had mostly been unaccounted for in the bowels of the Pakistani military and civilian support structure that was responsible for managing the entire program.

Ashiq Batalvi was still in his high excitation mode when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Shahid BeTa, Hun iK VaBa Afghanistan tOn Aae Ge”. (Shahid Son, an epidemic will now come from Afghanistan.) For the reader to understand this in context, he made the statement in 1980. People who are familiar with Ashiq Batalvi’s writings only know him as a historian but others who spent time in his company and paid attention to his layered words knew him to be a seer. He foretold many an event that over the years of Pakistan’s gradual socio-cultural and socio-political decline have come true.

That epidemic did come and over the last almost three decades has taken over the life and blood of the entire living organism that we used to know in somewhat better years as Pakistan. Nonetheless, what Ashiq Batalvi could not have imagined is that the epidemic that he predicted would reach pandemic proportions worldwide and would one day annihilate the very house that he sat in and foretold of this impending scourge.

83-F Model Town Lahore is hallowed ground for me and my atomic and extended family. The home that stood on that ground had been a living friend to multiple generations of our family as well as friends and their families. That home had molded personalities of many Batalvis and their friends. Now we have nothing to carry forth for our next generations.

On the morning of March 11th, 2008 that hallowed ground was desecrated and our home, our living friend was destroyed and felled to its knees in a battle that was not his doing nor his calling. In the process we suffered loss of life, loss of livelihood and loss of personal property. The staff gardener and his two innocent children were killed. What do you tell his wife who had gone to 84-F, just ten minutes prior to the incident. This is fate; deal with it?

I am not politically inclined, religiously influenced nor am I emotionally challenged. I am a very simple man who only believes in the mystical aspects of human life. The perpetrators of this incident, those dead and those still alive, have burned their own graves from the inside out for all lifetimes henceforth. Nothing worse can befall them, for this is now their fate in the synchronicity of mankind.

Whomever the perpetrators and whatever their intentions, they are without doubt responsible for this act. Nevertheless, the accountability for this act resides elsewhere. Investigative reports now substantiate that the intended target of this nefarious act was the safe house behind 83-F. A cell of the SIU which belongs to the Home Department had rented this house. The house itself was being used by the SIU to interrogate captured miltants. An entity of the Punjab Government, by placing an SIU safe house at this location knowingly jeopardized the lives of its citizens in a residential area. The act that caused the desecration of my hallowed ground and resulted in loss of life, loss of livelihood and loss of personal property could have been averted had this safe house not been placed in this location. The accountability and the liability, be it compensatory or punitive, of this action and its consequences, lies with the Home Department and consequently the Punjab Government.

All I can say is that history will teach us nothing if we choose to remain ignorant, if we choose to remain passive, if we as a nation choose not to question the establishment, whatever and whomever that maybe; if we as a nation choose not to hold accountable those who are our public servants and whose salaries are paid by our taxes; those who we either elect through a democratic process or those who come to power by usurping executive, legislative or judicial powers unconstitutionally.

As they say, accountability starts at home. Let it start from my home. Farewell 83-F Model Town.

The author is Vice President of Telecom and Technology Strategy at Nexius Inc., a telecommunications consulting company based in metropolitan Washington DC area. He can be reached at his personal email address at


Written by Shahid Batalvi

June 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Personal

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