BALAKOT, PAKISTAN Mar 27, 2012 – In part 2 of this series of articles on post-quake Pakistan, the report cited the catastrophic death of 150 secondary school students and three teachers trapped beneath the rubbles of their classroom and then burnt alive when an adjoining science lab caught fire right after the October 8, 2005 earthquake. This sad episode was harrowing indeed.
HALUAN’s expedition team comprising Dr Suraiya Ibrahim, Pakistani doctor and former HALUAN quake guide Dr Adnan Khan, and this reporter visited the said Balakot High School, and were shocked to discover that many remains were buried within the school compound. It was a sad moment for us as local Jamaati Islami committee member Mohamed Shaukat guided us into the compound and showed us the graves of 21 boys between the ages of three to 10, and another mass grave of 63 more between 12 to 16 years old, and several teachers too.
At the far end of the courtyard, several boys were playing cricket as most Pakistani boys would do in their free time. A school teacher came out to see who were at the graveyard, located just behind the students’ assembly area each morning; a solemn reminder to them of the martyrs in education. He said his father who was also a teacher in the public school was fasting and not feeling well that fateful day. He went inside to lie down for awhile when the quake happened, causing a large cabinet to fall on him. He was also buried there amongst his students.
“Why were the students not buried at proper graveyards like normal?,” we chorused in curiosity. This was his sad reply: “You will only understand if you were here. No one was looking out for another; everyone is for himself. Parents were not looking for their children, probably they were either dead, injured or just can’t come as many roads were cut off. Or they were busy tending to other family members in dire need. So by evening, we decided that the best way is to bury them in a mass grave. Here they lie today to prove to our present 700-strong students that no matter what, education is important,” he said, pointing to the grass covered graves without tombstones.
As for the rebuilt school block now made of semi-cylindrical galvanised steel resembling an old British Army barrack and several standalone buildings, they were built by a Pakistani philanthropist who was a former minister together with some foreign NGOs. May Allah SWT bless them.
And let us recite Al Fatihah for all those who perished in this catastrophe to end this read.
Bro. Y writes from Balakot, Pakistan